March 08, 2022
Did you start off 2022 vowing to eat “perfectly” but already feel like you need to wipe the slate clean yet again? Oftentimes, we start off the new year feeling hopeful and excited to blossom into our “best” and thinnest selves. Surely this is THE year where the diet finally sticks and everything falls into place. Then a few weeks go by and already the new changes we vowed were going to stick to this year are already falling by the wayside. Not only that, but our confidence and self-trust are slowly being stripped away with every “failed” diet attempt. That hopeful feeling is gone and we’re left feeling like we failed yet again.
If this sounds familiar, maybe it’s time to start recognizing that it’s not your fault, it’s the diet. No matter how much the dieting process seems to fail us, we typically blame our apparent lack of “willpower” rather than the diet itself. Why is that? Well, dieting is sold to us as a very individual problem. If we can’t stick to it, it’s our fault: we lack the willpower, the motivation, the self-control. After all, all we need is a little more discipline to succeed the next time around, right? The truth is, diets are designed to fail. Not only that, but there’s an entire industry that profits off of your repeated dieting attempts and making you feel like it’s your fault it’s not working.
Lurking behind most diets is the goal to lose weight through some sort of food restriction, and whether it’s rebranded as “wellness”, “clean eating”, or a “healthy lifestyle”, the result is always the same. When you place any kind of limitation on food for the purpose of losing weight, whether this be restricting certain foods, food groups, or limiting portion sizes, your body senses a famine and kicks into survival mode, setting off a series of pathways designed to make you eat.
You’re bombarded with so many cravings that you eventually “give in”, and suddenly, one cookie turns into the whole box, not because you lack self-control, but because this is your body’s normal response to dieting. When you restrict foods, your body drives you to overeat to compensate for being deprived. If you want to learn more about the diet cycle, you’re welcome to check out one of my previous blog posts here.
While most people diet to lose weight, research shows that dieting is actually associated with increased weight over time. In other words, the more diets someone has tried, the more they weigh. When you look at your dieting history, does any of this ring true to you? Despite what diet culture tells us, it’s not about willpower, it’s just biology. In your body, there are powerful biological and psychological mechanisms that have been fine-tuned over millions of years of evolution to protect you from starvation. The reality is, your body just isn’t meant to live in a perpetual state of restriction. Every attempt to get “back on track” is a fight against biology, and ultimately, biology always wins.
Not only do diets fail at making us thinner, they wreak havoc on our mental and physical health. This is largely due to the impact that dieting has on weight. When you under eat, your metabolism slows and your body increases the number of enzymes it has to make and store fat in the body, making it much easier to regain weight after you’ve lost it. While weight gain itself isn’t bad, repeatedly losing and gaining weight (known as weight cycling) is associated with a number of adverse health outcomes, including death. According to research, weight cycling and yo-yo dieting have a higher overall death rate and double the risk of dying from heart disease, regardless of other risk factors.
So where do we go from here? If achieving better health was your focus for 2022, there are still many (and better) things you can do to achieve this. Practicing health-promoting behaviours like drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, getting more sleep, and moving more go a long way in helping your health, and are actually a far better predictor of your health than your weight.
There's still a lot of 2022 left to live, why not ditch the diet and find a way of eating that meets your unique needs. Not sure how? Let’s chat! Book a FREE discovery call with me to find out.
Written by Alexandra Rooney, 4th Year Dietetics Student
Edited by Jennifer Neale, MSc. RD
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