Have you heard that diets don’t work?
Actually, all diets work. Any way you can dream up to cut calories will usually result in weight loss (assuming no underlying health conditions, sleep and stress are in check, you have a healthy gut microbiome, have not screwed up your metabolism from a history of chronic dieting, etc. etc. etc.). So go for it – paleo, atkins, intermittent fasting, no white foods, whatever – they all work until you stop following them.
Ah, there’s the catch. Who could follow any of them for a lifetime? So, diets only work short term. Health is not a short term proposition. Diets don’t work.
The ugly truth is that an overwhelming majority of dieters regain the lost weight (plus more!). Many others have knocked their metabolism and hormones out of whack (making it easier to gain weight) and may have jeopardized their health physically and emotionally by going on a diet. What’s worse is that weight cycling (the on/off diet lose-and-regain weight cycle) is not at all good for your health.
It’s all doom and gloom for dieting when you look past the initial honeymoon phase when your weight is dropping. Need to have that gall bladder taken out after a low-fat diet? Obsessing about food all the time after calorie counting? Feeling like a failure, unworthy, unlovable after losing and regaining weight again? These are the promises diets should make. #truthinadvertising. You must be crazy if you want to go on a diet. Who wants results like that?
Well, a lot of people do. We are all bombarded by diet culture and fitspo and it is natural to want to lose weight, to model what you see, to want to fit in with current societal norms. We live in a shake-pushing weight-shaming world and large-bodied people face discrimination every day. Our beliefs about dieting and weight are so very skewed from media outlets and celebrities and fitness bloggers. Many blame themselves for not being able to lose weight on a diet (wrong answer) instead of blaming the multi-million dollar industry that is banking on the fact that you will blame yourself instead of the diet plan and spend your money in the diet industry again and again and again.
But, check it. If the majority of diets fail, then at least some dieters are successful, right? I hear the optimist in you. I get it. That next diet, well, it’s so alluring and promising and well, maybe you are in that Miracle Minority who can diet and keep weight off for life! Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not a fortune teller. Even though I know the research about diet outcomes, it is not my job to force that on you. So, go ahead if you want to try just one (or three or five) more diets. I’ll still be here when you are ready to try out something different.
How Can I Help You?
If you want to work on your health and wellness, then I want to work with you. This is where the education part of my job is. Let’s talk about why you believe that the next diet is “the one” and let’s work through how you are thinking about dieting – the process and results and struggles – and see where you end up. It is better to for you to explore your options and for me to give you a safe place to unload and investigate some new ideas.
My hope is that you will move towards the anti-diet/non-diet approach. In fact, many people I work do relax their food rules and find a happy place with food and exercise. If you partner with me then you get a coach to educate, explore, discuss, trouble-shoot, brainstorm, encourage, motivate, and challenge you. You get someone on your side working right there next to you until we find what works for you to reach your health goals.
When you are ready to break the diet cycle and focus on your health, I will still be here.
Yours in Good Health,
-Alexia Lewis RD
This article is Part 1 of 4 in “Health versus Weight as a Focus for Wellness” which will be published during the month of June 2017.
Part 1: The Continuum of Approaches to Health: Thoughts from a Curvy & Healthy Dietitian Health Coach
Part 2: Who Is The Best Health Professional to Help with Creating New Lifestyle Habits?
Part 4: What Is This No-Diet / Anti-Diet Thing Anyway?
T.L.Tylka, R.A. Annunziato, D. Burgard, et al, “The weight-inclusive versus weight-normative approach to health: Evaluating the evidence for prioritizing well-being over weight loss,” Journal of Obesity, vol 2014, article ID 983495, 2014. View at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2014/983495/.
A. Bombak, “Obesity, Health at Every Size, and Public Health Policy,” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 104, no.2, pp. e60-e67, 2014. View at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3935663/
P. Sumithran and J. Proietto, “The defence of body weight: A physiological basis for weigh regain after loss,” Clinical Science, vol. 124, no. 4, pp. 231-241, 2013. View at: http://www.clinsci.org/content/124/4/231.
S. Wolport, “Dieting does not work, UCLA researchers report,” UCLA Newsroom, 2007. View at: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/Dieting-Does-Not-Work-UCLA-Researchers-7832 or the study that was the basis for the article here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17469900.
R.R. Wing and S. Phelan, “Long-term weight loss maintenance,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 82, no. 1, pp. 222S-225S, 2005. View at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/222S.short.
R. Chastain, “Do 95% of dieters really fail?” Dances with Fat, 2011. View at: https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/do-95-of-dieters-really-fail/ (a nice summation with links to more information).
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