Does this sound familiar to you? Maybe it’s something you just talked about with your friends (they probably also discussed diets they’ve tried or are currently on) or silently shamed yourself about. If this resonates with you, most likely you are struggling with being a chronic dieter.
The thing is, it wasn’t you that failed the diet, it was the DIET that failed you. Diet culture and society (which is driven by diet culture) tell us that thinner is better and the way to obtain thinness and good health is by dieting and depriving your body through self control. Here’s why extreme diets don’t work:
Because your body does not know the difference between intentional restriction and famine, it will do everything in its power to keep you alive when you go below your basal metabolic rate (when you eat way below the calories you need at rest), and adapt metabolically. Physiological changes that occur to prevent weight loss and increase body weight include:
Decrease in fullness hormones
Increase in hunger hormones
Lower overall energy output (fatigue and decreased metabolism)
Reduced activity in metabolic systems such as the thyroid and sympathetic nervous system
Symptoms of dieting also includes:
Gut health issues
Depression and anxiety
In fact, while short-term studies show positive results with dieting and weight loss, long-term research shows that 95-98% of people who follow extreme restrictive diets regain it within 3-5 years and up to two-thirds regain more weight than was lost. This is called weight cycling and is actually linked to increased risks of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. That plan the social media post told you to try seems like the only option even though you know it sounds like torture? You know, the one where you cut out all processed foods (all foods are processed in some way, so that doesn't even make sense), no sweets, no this, no that, track every gram and workout every single day, etc.
Or the one where you go low carb but what they don’t tell you is it messes with your GI and can cause gut issues, as well as cause this weird in between low energy, all to just cause water weight loss, which also doesn't help, and long term muscle loss which helps metabolism (hence backing up that statistic because you'll eventually add back in carbs and also eventually probably feel so restricted you go to the all or nothing and regain the weight). Although, it doesn’t have to be that way!!
Those diets literally cause your body to panic, and the LAST thing it is going to do at that point is continue to lose fat or support feeling your best. That’s right, with those extreme fad diets under 1200 calories that tell you to you’re facing almost 100% odds at failure with health risks included. The diet industry intends on blaming it on you because that’s how it continues to profit: off your exploitation. It’s not your “lack of willpower” it’s your body’s biology and innate drive for survival. Your body is keeping you alive, congrats!
You might be asking, “what do I do then??” Nourish yourself adequately and show your body some unconditional love. Transition from a place of body shaming, food fears, and extreme dieting to a place of nourishment, fuel, strength and food freedom! It’s not easy to do it on your own, especially when diet culture is creeping itself into every corner, so finding help from a dietitian who can help you find the best of both worlds can be extremely informative, supportive, and motivational! I promise you, extreme diets that cut out the foods you love are not worth your time, energy, money, or wellbeing, but investing in sustainable health from a whole-body approach is!