The Pitfalls of Dieting

Balancing scale with unhealthy potato crisps weighing down a healthy apple

If you are like a lot of people (myself included) you have tried a few, or a lot of different diets resulting in possible weight loss for a few weeks or months, but usually the weight begins to come back. This can start a trend of yo-yo dieting, which is not healthy for you mentally or physically.

The mental toll of dieting affects weight loss dramatically. Dieting causes anxiety about food that is off limits, how much food you should eat, what you think your body should look like, questioning why you can’t lose weight and many more reasons. Stress is one of the reasons that people gain weight because stress produces the hormone cortisol.

Cortisol sends a message to the body to store fat because of evolutionary instincts. The body is responding to a flight-or-flight mentality where stress could mean a lack of food, which triggers the body to store fat to prepare for a lack of food. In other words, just worrying constantly about your weight and what you are eating can cause you to gain weight.

Diet restriction stress concept. Young frustrated woman with a measuring tape around her mouth junk food and green vegetables shaped as light bulb above head. Face expression. Right nutrition choice

Another reason that diets don’t work is because our bodies are smarter then you think – your body knows what your ideal weight is and will return you to that weight.[1] Our bodies may have more control over our weight, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have control over our health, which is achieved through diet and exercise. Trusting your body to find its ideal weight doesn’t mean that you resign yourself to unhealthy habits and trust that your body will “figure it out”.

You will need to find your own path to a healthy, balanced life style that includes a steady diet of whole foods and exercise, while also not constantly denying yourself foods that you enjoy. When you live your life with “off limit foods” this leads to more cravings, bingeing and eating things you don’t actually enjoy simply because you tell yourself can’t have them.

Instead of making things off limits, try balancing your life with healthy foods for the majority of the time and then occasionally enjoy the foods that are more indulgent—just be aware of when you are eating them. When you don’t scarf down food in a binge you will begin to notice when you are full and want to save half of the food for later.

This allows your body to do its job, and that is to naturally regulate the food you are putting in it so it is utilized. When people binge or diet and starve themselves this hinders the body’s natural process of regulating metabolism and finding its own healthy weight.

In Why Diets Make Us Fat: The Unintended Consequences of Our Obsession With Weight Loss, Neuroscientist, Sandra Aamodt promotes the practice of mindful eating. Mindful eating means being more aware when you eat and paying attention to when you are hungry, the taste of food you are eating, and when you are full. When she began mindful eating she realized that she didn’t actually enjoy the foods she used to eat for cheat.

If you pay attention to tasting your food you may begin to realize you might not like overly processed foods as much as you thought, and may actually want something different that could be better for you. Mindful eating is not something that happens over night, it takes practice learning how to eat better foods and eating till you are satisfied, not overly full.

The body is smarter then people think, it will tell you when it is hungry and when it is full. You don’t need to time your meals or stop eating at a certain time of day, give your body more credit and it will love you back in return by keeping you healthy inside and out.

The mental and physical consequences of dieting are not doing our bodies any favors. Modern humans want quick, easy fixes to our problems and dieting is no exception. We want to eat unhealthily 90% of the time, and then use a quick fix to lose weight once we reach a point that is hard to recover from.

If you can eat healthily more consistently it actually allows you to feel less guilt when you do eat cheat meals, and truly enjoy them. This reduces the stress of dieting and hating yourself, which reduces cortisol, and ultimately leads to a happier life. If you need help figuring out how to eat in a less stressful way or how to have a more balanced diet, please reach out to me.

[1] This is the case for people who have not been diagnosed with health issues that can affect the metabolism.

Aamodt, S. (n.d.). Why diets make us fat: The unintended consequences of our obsession with weight loss.

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