TV, magazines and online news streams bombard us with messages telling us that we can easily lose weight if we cut out gluten or eat this one magical food. Celebrities and health ‘gurus’ are telling us to ‘quit sugar!’, ‘do a juice cleanse’ or swear off carbs for good with the promise that we will shed fat fast and feel so much better.
As enticing as these messages may sound, these diets are not the answer to long-term health or weight loss. Here’s why:
They don’t lead to rapid fat loss.
The initial weight loss that may be experienced on weight loss diets is often not fat, but rather water and carbohydrates that are stored in our muscle. As soon as we stop the diet, the muscle re-gains those stores and we put this weight back on. There’s no such thing as rapid fat loss- this takes time.
They discourage us from listening to our bodies.
Dieting teaches us to ignore our natural hunger and fullness signals. These signals are important because they tell us how much food we need and prevent us from overeating. So when we stop dieting, we’re more likely to overeat and gain excess weight because we aren’t in tune with these signals.
They can be dangerous to follow for long periods.
Eliminating certain foods or food groups or eating large amounts of certain foods can stop us from getting all of the nutrients our bodies need to function well. Over time, this puts us at risk of developing certain diseases such as bowel cancer (from a lack of fibre) or kidney disease (from excessive protein).
They set us up for failure.
Fact: most diets will lead to weight loss eventually. They work by reducing our energy (kilojoule/calorie) intake, which does cause weight loss if this is done for enough time. However, because they are so restrictive, diets are notoriously hard to stick to. If you’ve ever been on one, you’re probably familiar with this pattern: the diet begins and you’re feeling good, until feelings of deprivation start to kick in (along with irritability and obsessive thoughts about food). At some point, you make a mistake or give in to cravings, which leads to bingeing on ‘forbidden foods’ that you’ve been depriving yourself of. Hunger is the body’s response to deprivation and it will work relentlessly hard to seek out enough food to survive.
They can actually lead to weight gain.
Depriving the body of the food it needs can slow down the metabolism as it goes into ‘starvation mode’ and conserves energy (this is a survival mechanism). Studies show that those who go on energy-restricting diets can actually end up putting on more weight when they go off a diet than their pre-dieting weight, even if they are eating the same amount of food (energy) they were beforehand.
They encourage us to develop a negative relationship with food and our bodies.
Labeling certain foods as ‘bad’ or demonising them can promote restrictive habits and make us feel terribly guilty if we eventually give in to cravings and eat them. This can cause immense shame and worsen the way we feel about our bodies when we can’t stick to a diet. For most dieters, the issue is about their relationship with food rather than their body or lack of willpower.
Fixing the Main Issue
It’s important to understand that failure to stick to a diet does not mean we are the problem- it’s the diet that’s the failure! Our body won’t function properly if we deprive it. We crave food because our body needs nourishment. Once we are able to let go of the dieting mentality and repair our relationship with food, we are able to truly enjoy food and feed and treat ourselves well by adopting healthy habits that will allow the body to be at it’s most healthy weight. This means giving ourselves time to implement manageable changes, learn to eat with more awareness, tune into hunger and fullness signals and let go of rules around food- these steps are key to embracing a more healthy way of eating and living.
If you are sick of being stuck in a dieting cycle, struggle with food cravings or think you have a negative relationship with food, I am here to help you. Together we can work through your individual issues and work on improving your relationship with food and eating. By doing so, you will be able to free yourself from restriction and truly embrace and enjoy the eating experience, all while eating in a way that nourishes your body and keeps you at a healthy weight (no nasty protein shakes or carb-quitting needed!).
So give the clinic a call and let’s start a journey to a healthier and happier you today!