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Diets DO Work?

May 8, 2018

Okay let's clear the air, I've been lying...Sort of.  I've been saying "diets don't work" for years, mainly as a way to show people the light. A quick soundbite that summarizes why I do what I do (as a non-diet dietitian) in 3 little words. But it's not entirely accurate.  Here's the actual truth: diets DO work. Basically all of them WORK. It doesn't actually matter AT ALL which one you choose- lately the big things are keto and intermittent fasting. Last year it was Whole30 and paleo. Next year it will be something else popular and not based on any actual science, but somehow that will work too.  

 

But only for a little while.

 

Cut out a bunch of calories from your daily intake and you WILL lose weight. If you put less energy into your body, your body has to start burning up your muscle and fat stores to make its own fuel. 

 

And then, since you are forcing your body to cannibalize itself (okay, its not that simplistic, but sorta)... it does what it needs to do in order to protect you from starvation (because it doesn't know that you are intentionally restricting your intake, rather than facing famine). So your metabolism slows down, along with internal functions like digestion and respiration to preserve energy. You feel cold all the time basically because your body can't be bothered to regulate your temperature if you can't be bothered to feed it enough.  And the most annoying* thing of all? You become OBSESSED with food. Starvation and dieting actually cause food preoccupation in order to drive you to eat more. (*By "annoying", I actually mean "amazing" because this is how we survive as a species.) 

 

You might be able to cope with these side effects of dieting for a few days, or maybe even weeks, but probably not months...  Eventually you're gonna give in and eat. 

 

And that's when you start making grand plans of all the food you are going to stuff yourself with, because the diet's over, or you "failed", or it's a "cheat day", or a Friday, or a Sunday and you'll start again tomorrow.. Whatever reason you made to justify EATING FOOD, it probably has a good amount of guilt attached to it.  Which can lead to the binge/restrict cycle after you vow to "be good" again.  Which can lead to planning to go back on your diet, or onto a new one. Which leads to spending tons of time and money and effort on dieting. Which leads to people in the diet industry getting rich, and you continuing to base your worth on getting thinner, all the while life is passing you by because you keep putting things off until you hit that goal weight. 

 

Diets do work. For a little while. Until they don't. (And they REALLY don't- studies generally don't follow participants past a year or so, and those that do show weight regain.) 

 

I invite you to take a look at how dieting has impacted your life, and start learning a better, less exhausting, less harmful way to look at food and weight. By embracing the non-diet approach, you might not be able to partake in the guilt-laden bonding conversations in the break-room at work about how "bad" you're being for eating the cookies someone brought in, but you WILL be able to be the one bringing in the cookies that you spent time enjoying baking, and savor eating a couple because they are delicious, and knowing you can have more WHENEVER THE HELL YOU WANT because you don't have to restrict yourself. By doing this, you'll reconnect with your hunger and fullness cues and learn how to best fuel your own body, instead of listening to the latest diet guru who prescribes broad recommendations to eager consumers awaiting a quick fix. (Oh and, here's a radical thought, maybe it's time to stop thinking your weight needs to be "fixed.")

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