From childhood on, women, and even young girls, are encouraged to diet. To eat less and exercise more. To eat these fruits, but not those. To avoid fat, sugar, carbs, processed food, meat, wheat, eggs, and diary . . . until the list of what we shouldn’t eat surpasses the list of what we can. Limit this, avoid that. Every week it’s a different scheme.
From women’s magazines to our doctor’s office, we’re told how to restrict what we eat, trick our bodies, and deprive ourselves in pursuit of a thin ideal. Whether it’s for looks, health, or sports we must maintain control. We’re urged to keep dieting and depriving ourselves.
No wonder we start to feel guilt and shame about eating, which leads to eating in private. No wonder our attempts at restriction backfire into overeating and binging, ending with us gaining back everything we lose the minute we let up on the strict deprivation. Eventually we wear out from controlling our urges . . . and that’s when we realize dieting isn’t working.
We can’t face another diet, yet we can’t face not dieting either. The chorus of shame, whether it’s comes from inside or outside ourselves, impels us to not give up. We shouldn’t let ourselves go. We should try again and try harder. You can do it. Don’t be a willpower weakling. No wonder we start to feel like there’s something wrong with us.
This is what it means when we say diets don’t work.
How many diets have you been on? Are you either on a diet or off one (and thinking about when you’ll go back on one)? If diets worked, then you wouldn’t need another one, would you?
When we say “diets don’t work,” we don’t mean that they don’t ever work for anyone. I should know; I’ve been on many “successful” diets that resulted in big weight loss (before I gained it back, of course).
We mean dieting as a long-term weight or health strategy backfires. It creates a no-win cycle and an obsession with food that leads to binging and overeating. It creates rebellion and wrecks your hormones. It depresses metabolism, making it easier to gain weight than it was before the diet. It leads to equating the foods you’re allowed to eat with punishment, while your craving increases for what’s forbidden. It makes you focus on what to eat rather than why you’re eating. It relies on outside rules, incomplete science, and control. It’s an outdated strategy.
And there are even worse effects from dieting. It creates a chronic sense of powerlessness and failure. It disconnects you from your inner wisdom and causes you to distrust yourself and hate your body.
Maybe it’s time you tried something different.
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