A collaboration post between Pure + Radiant and Healthfully Hannah
Whether it's for weight loss, more energy, or improved overall health, most of us have gone on a 'diet' at some point in our lives. Some 'diets' appear to be successful when we see the short-term results we're hoping for, but most are not when we realize the harm they can cause. Here are the top 5 reasons 'dieting' (in the typical sense of the word) simply doesn't work and effective approaches to achieving improved health, more energy, and permanent ideal body weight.
1. DIETING DOES NOT HELP YOU MAINTAIN LONG-TERM WEIGHT LOSS
One of the primary issues with 'dieting' is that a 'diet' only lasts a short period of time (whether it's weeks or months). Even if you successfully follow the 'rules' of the diet while you're on it and achieve results from the diet, what happens 100% of the time when the diet is over? You fall back into the way you ate before the diet, which results in weight gain (and unfortunately studies show you are likely to gain even more weight back than you lost).
This is one reason I do not advocate going on 'diets'. Not only does this slow your metabolism in the long run (which you can read more about below), it also does not teach a lasting, successful relationship with food. It trains your mind to have a restriction-based perception of food, creates guilt, and doesn't support the truth that food, which is meant to nourish and heal the body, should be enjoyed.
What to do instead:
Instead of focusing on weight, focus on leading a healthy lifestyle more consistent with how our ancestors lived with plenty of activity and a real food lifestyle. Don't adopt any 'diets' that you can't see yourself maintaining a lifetime! Weight loss will come as you improve your health.
2. DIETING CAN PERPETUATE BAD BODY IMAGE
By desiring to be "something" different, you have formed a mental criteria of what you should be, and subconsciously reject yourself the way you are. Diet culture (specifically as it pertains to weight loss and "ideal beauty" ideologies) and body positivism never go hand in hand. Diet culture is built and rooted in the perpetuation of fat-phobia. The diet industry still largely thrives off of the belief that one body type is always inherently superior to another.
Dieting and diet culture are intrinsically tied to notions of aesthetic superiority. "Bikini body" or "beach body" season is perfect proof of that, as are tag lines that suggest that to feel great, one must lose weight, and best-selling diet books flooded with fat-phobic language that prioritize achieving aspirational beauty while offering very little in the way of health rhetoric. Body positivity is a movement founded by individuals fighting to prove that there is no superior body type in order to break down the socially ingrained fat-phobia and body shame prevalent in our culture (and diet culture) at large. It's a movement that wants us to think about health outside of the BMI alone.
We need to make something very clear... Thin is definitely not equivalent to healthy. Many weight loss methods being marketed in our society actually increases mortality through the use of unsafe methods such as severe calorie restriction.
What to do instead:
Shift the goal of weight loss to adopting more healthful habits. Learn to love the way you look. Ditch fad 'dieting' once and for all and adopt a real, whole food lifestyle that nourishes your body and heals it from the inside out.
For even more practical ways to achieve your health and weight management goals long-term, download the eBook "The Resolution List You Should Be Making" by clicking the button below.
3. DIETING SLOWS YOUR METABOLISM
Restrictive diets that reduce your calories consumption can often result in weight loss. But they don't always just result in FAT loss, which is obviously what we want. They also result in loss of lean muscle mass which is why dieting isn't even recommended for a majority of people over the age of 60.
This ultimately leads to a slowed metabolism. This is a result of your body's natural response to 'hunger'. When your body thinks you're hungry, it slows down your metabolism in order to conserve energy.
What to do instead:
Forget about restrictive diets that leave you feeling hungry and undernourished. Instead, eat plenty of nutrient-rich foods that nourish your body and leave you feeling satiated. You'll feel healthier and weight loss will simply be a side effect of your healthy lifestyle!
4. COUNTING CALORIES IS THE WRONG APPROACH — FOCUS ON NUTRIENTS INSTEAD
How many times have you heard someone say, "This only has 100 calories, so it's fine!" Or, if you've thought this in the past, I have great news for you...
When you eat nutrient-dense real food that nourishes your body, you don't have to worry about calories. (Yes, that's right!) Feel relieved? I sure hope so!
When thinking of nutrient-dense, think of foods that are high in essential vitamins and minerals. The easiest way to do this is to determine the appropriate servings per day of macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and healthful fats.
Counting calories is just plain stressful and it completely takes the joy out of food! This is also how we start to see food obsessions manifest themselves, from a sense of over-restricting and controlling. Plus, we were never meant to "count calories" in the first place.
This is where the joy of eating well comes in. Eating well is a form of self-respect You acknowledge and admit to yourself that your body relies on nutrients to thrive and eating well becomes a joy. Once you experience this shift in mindset, your entire perspective about eating changes and eating healthfully becomes a joy and a privilege, rather than a chore and a burden.
What to do instead:
Instead of focusing on the number of calories or carbs in your food, think about the nutrients it contains. Ask yourself: Is it packed with nutrients that will nourish my body? Or is it nutritionally bankrupt — full of empty calories and void of nutrients?
Remember, not all calories are created equal and there is a vast distinction between calories and nutrients.
5. RESTRICTIVE DIETING IS NOT SUSTAINABLE, ENJOYABLE OR HEALTHY
The term "diet" has become a term that we associate with restriction and deprivation, and rightly so — as many 'diets' out there consist of depriving ourselves of everything we enjoy eating in order to achieve some 'goal'. Sound familiar?
These restrictive and often drastic 'diets' typically do more harm than good as they limit the variety of nutrients consumed and leave your body deficient in essential nutrients.
When you shift your focus from short-term 'diets' of restriction to gradual lifestyle changes of eating to nourish your body well, eating becomes enjoyable again as you start to realize that you are not limited by lists of 'can't' but open to a limitless variety of healthful foods that actually benefit you.
Thank about it... food, which provides you with the energy you need to survive and thrive, should not be a subject of stress or overwhelm. Rather, it should be enjoyable and exciting, as you understand that you are providing your body with exactly what it needs.
What to do instead:
Ultimately, your diet (not in the typical sense of the word) should be what you eat to fuel an nourish your body. Each person responds to different foods differently, so learn to listen to your body and understand which foods make you feel your best and which you don't response well to.
Courtney is a wife, dog mom, chiropractic student (specializing in pediatric and prenatal care) and founder of Pure + Radiant. Her passion is inspiring people to feel empowered and healthy within their bodies. Her mission is to educate people of all ages to take action steps towards owning and managing a life of vitalism.