Diets are the Fool’s Gold of the Fitness World, designed to fail again and again.
Your body is a temple. It is a miracle, an expression of your spirit and potential; it is the vehicle through which you traverse the world and the tool through which you leave your indelible mark. The food you consume to fuel your body should:
- Nourish it
- Fuel it
- Restore it
- Heal it
And, for this reason, diets are inherently detrimental to your health and long term wellness.
Note: we are defining “diet” not as the food choices and cuisine of a particular group or culture but rather as a temporary and highly restrictive eating program often characterized by a drastic reduction of calories or whole food groups in order to lose weight quickly.
In the short term, diets do work – which is why they remain so compelling. They are the obvious “quick fix” for many health and wellness issues. Cutting calories drastically or food groups (thus cutting calories) will result in almost immediate weight loss. The key words here are temporary and immediate.
Nearly all diets will fail eventually. But don’t take my word for it. The statistics speak for themselves.
Most diets involve some form of self-induced starvation which is detrimental to long term weight loss. Your body is designed to react violently against starvation and will fight to preserve itself through any and all means necessary. This means that, after a short while, a starving body will revolt, slowing its metabolism while increasing hunger cues. Not only will a dieter feel more hungry more often, food itself will begin to appear more appetizing and appealing. Foods that are “forbidden” by a diet will also appear ever more tempting and desirable. With mind and body working together against a dieter’s best laid plans, it is only a matter of time before the diet ultimately fails, resulting in a diet-binge-guilt-diet cycle.
And, if that wasn’t bad enough, you pay a large price for that quick, temporary fix. Evidence suggests that the consequences of dieting are far more severe than simply a perpetuating cycle. Dieting can actual increase your chances of being overweight and can foster a fundamentally unhealthy relationship with food and fitness.
Yes, that’s right. Dieting is fundamentally unhealthy – and starving yourself can actually increase your chances of being obese.
A study in 2012 followed 4,000 twins between 16 and 25 years of age. At the end of the study, those individuals who had gone on a single diet increased their odds of being overweight (2x in men and 3x in women).
This trend has also been observed in elite athletes. Athletes who routinely used diets to cut weight quickly (boxing, wrestling, etc.) were nearly 3x more likely to be obese by the age of 60 than athletes who participated in other sports that did not rely on extreme dieting or weight loss.
Why diets are inherently designed and destined to fail (and can actually sabotage your journey)
- Most diets will not teach you to recognize your body’s natural hungry/full cues. They, instead, teach you to rely on external rules and signals. This fosters an inherently negative and dysfunctional relationship with food, making the mere process of eating a stressful obsession. It can also make you even more susceptible to external cues once the diet ends (consider how “all you can eat” buffets manipulate you to encourage overeating or how an individual suffering from an eating disorder relies on increasing rigid rules and rituals to justify consumption). If you can’t tell when you are full or hungry, you will constantly look outside of yourself, which will inevitably result in either overeating or starvation, perpetuating the diet-binge cycle.
- Many diets (particularly those that omit whole food groups) result in nutrient deficiencies which make them difficult, if not downright dangerous, to maintain in the long term.
- Most diets to nothing to resolve the underlying emotional issues or traumas that may contribute to overeating, undereating, emotional eating, eating disorders, and obesity.
- Most diets do nothing to educate individuals about healthy eating habits or a healthy lifestyle.
- Most diets foster an abusive, self-destructive, and unhealthy relationship with food in which food is viewed as a reward or guilty pleasure, exercise as “punishment,” and the consumption of ‘forbidden foods’ as a sign of weakness.
- Dieting places the body under extreme stress which can contribute to a starve-binge cycle.
- Diets can isolate individuals, leading to negative body perspective while fostering feelings of inadequacy and failure when the diet inevitably fails.
- Diets remove the joy from eating. Eating food is pleasurable and necessary for our survival. It is also a critical part of our social lives and our culture. We must learn how to enjoy and celebrate food (and consumption) responsibly with our long term health and wellness at the forefront of our actions.
Diets fail, not because of a lack of will power, not because of laziness or inadequacies. Diets fail because they are designed to.
Rather than quick fix diets, we MUST break the diet-binge cycle, and that is only possible by fostering healthy lifestyles which can be sustained throughout our lives. Healthy lifestyles are rooted in mindfulness – a deep awareness of and responsibility to our bodies, our consumption, and our actions.
Contrary to diets, a healthy lifestyle:
- Teaches you to recognize your body’s natural hunger/full cues.
- Cultivates a healthy and positive relationship with both nutrition and physical exercise.
- Focuses, not on a number on a scale, but on total wellness (body, mind, heart, and spirit).
- Leads with compassion as opposed to ridicule.
- Enables you to build strength and stamina – not just cut weight.
- Builds self esteem and establishes a strong sense of community.
You CAN realize and maintain a healthy weight with a healthy lifestyle. In fact, it is the only way.
Learn more about fostering a positive relationship with food, building a healthy lifestyle, and nurturing your body by clicking here.