What’s the worst that could happen if you quit dieting? Would it be the fear of weight gain? Or feeling out of control around food? Would you feel like you were giving up on yourself? Keep reading to learn how dieting negatively impacts your health. How you can start taking control of what, when and how much you eat. And why a non-diet approach is scientifically proven to improve your overall wellness.
Defining Diets & Lifestyles
First we need to define what a “diet” actually is. Because we live in an age of really smart content marketers who know how to simultaneously appear anti-diet while selling a restrictive diet.
A diet is a set of rules that determine what, when, or how much you eat. These rules typically come from an outside source. Like a program, lifestyle, health coach, doctor…anyone who isn’t you. Oftentimes the rules are generic and apply to everyone. They require you to follow along in order to be “successful.” And success is related to weight loss, fat loss, inches loss, or muscle gained. Basically any benchmark that’s based on your size and appearance.
Over the years, the word “dieting” has gotten a bad name. And deservingly so. But the impact hasn’t been to quit dieting or burn down the dieting industry. It has simply been to rebrand and call it something else. That’s how the term “lifestyles” was born. There is virtually no difference though! Diets and lifestyles are exactly the same thing. One just has better marketing.
Dieting is About Weight Loss—Not Health
Nutrition has been twisted by diet culture. They have boiled down and overly simplified foods as “good” or “bad.” They focus merely on which foods may cause you to gain weight versus which will (allegedly) help you lose weight. I find it painful to watch the omission of scientific facts. Or the way nutrition is taken out of context as a hard-fast, all-or-nothing rule.
As a Certified Nutritionist, I KNOW the importance of macronutrients, micronutrients, vitamins and minerals. I know how fresh-off-the-farm, nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat nourish our bodies and help them to work optimally. BUT! Just because those are facts, doesn’t make every other food bad or unhealthy.
Food is more than nutrients.
There’s both physical and psychological elements to food and the eating experience. Taste, texture, culture, comfort, variety, satisfaction and enjoyment matter. You can’t tell if a food is “healthy” simply by is caloric value. And you also can’t shun a food as “unhealthy” due to its sugar content. ALL food provides some value. When you have a wide and abundant variety, your body is not only more likely to receive all the various nutrients it needs. But it will also increase the likelihood of meeting all its psychological criteria as well. This is how sustainable healthy behaviors are made.
The physical and psychological factors are left out of every diet though. Because you end up ignoring your biology and physiology in favor of someone else’s meal plan that promises fat loss. And instead start seeing eating as a scientific experiment to determine which “method” will shrink your body the most.
Why You Should Quit Dieting
When you deny yourself certain foods (or entire food groups), you end up with increased cravings, emotional eating, binge eating, feelings of shame and failure. As well as lower self-esteem and body image issues.
Calorie counting, food tracking down to the gram, frequent body checking, and repetitive cycles of gaining, losing and/or regaining weight (yo-yo dieting) can result in a slower metabolism, higher blood pressure, anxiety, depression, fitness and/or food obsession (Orthorexia), difficulty concentrating, and low self-esteem. All which trigger a natural stress response that increases cortisol levels. Which is known to, ironically, cause weight gain. Dieting therefore causes both physical and psychological damage.
Mental health is health
One of the most overlooked aspects of dieting is the negative impact it has on your mental health. This makes me the maddest too because diet culture loves to parade around as if they’re the solution to better health. BUT DIETS CAUSE MORE HARM TO YOUR HEALTH THAN GOOD! Your mental health IS your health. If your head and heart aren’t right, nothing in your body can be right. It has THAT strong of an impact.
The rigidity required to follow a diet is a recipe for disaster. No body—literally NO body—can withstand dieting long-term because our bodies weren’t created to count calories, track food, categorize food as good/bad or try to override our body’s natural cues with diet rules. It eventually takes a toll. It’s one of the main reasons why diets appear to work at first. Until they don’t. Because our body intervenes in an effort to protect us. This is often seen as a “weight plateau” or a shame-filled moment of feeling like a failure because you “can’t stay on plan.” It’s not your fault though, friend! Your body wasn’t made to be on a diet. Because your mental health and physical health are far too important.
Quit Dieting to Become an Intuitive Eater
Over 125 independent scientific studies of intuitive eating since 2005 prove the dangers of dieting. And the improvement in overall health with intuitive eating. Additionally, those who quit dieting to become intuitive eaters are likely to:
- Choose healthy foods more often
- Have better body image
- Maintain the same weight instead of fluctuating
- See positive effects on blood pressure and inflammation markers
- Improve cholesterol levels
- Decrease depression symptoms
- Protect themselves against diet messaging
- Enjoy a higher self-esteem
Source: Kara N. Denny, M.D.,a Katie Loth, M.P.H., R.D.,b Marla E. Eisenberg, Sc.D., M.P.H.,c and Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D.d
Which one in that list surprises you the most? It used to be the first one for me! But now that I live diet-free, I see how choosing healthy foods more often is absolutely true in practice. Because I have food freedom, my body craves balance. And I can tell when it’s in need of more nutrients. So instead of dreaming about potato chips and then going overboard when I finally allow myself to have them. I instead have potato chips when I want. Which ends up being a smaller portion surrounded by more nutrient-dense foods.
You can quit dieting too
I know it can feel scary to quit dieting. It’s valid that you may be concerned about gaining weight, feeling out of control around food. Or feeling like you’ll be giving up on yourself. But I promise that once you unlearn diet rules. Prioritize your mental health. Heal your body image. Practice intuitive eating. And trust your body. You will feel healthier than you have ever felt before!
Want help? I offer 1:1 and group coaching to help you heal from years of dieting. Click here to schedule a free 20-minute consult with me to get started.
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