There is a common belief out there that diet’s work but you suck. That if you want to trim down, stay slim, drop a few pounds (or a few 10s of pounds) that dieting in some way is the method to get you there and if you can’t make it work, it’s because you failed.
By diet, I mean anything you do to alter your food intake to alter your body weight. Diet for you might be called a lifestyle change or an eating guideline or just eating healthy. Whatever alternative name it has, I am here to tell you Diet’s. Don’t. Work. You are not flawed, the concept of dieting is. Here are 6 reasons why.
1. It promotes protection padding.
Your body wants to protect you. Your body sees dieting as a threat. A threat of not having enough food. A threat of starvation. Anytime you restrict food, your body will do whatever it can to prevent any change in your body weight. It will hold onto your fat, literally, for dear life. How? By lowering your metabolism. By amping up the hormones that make you feel hungry. By lowering the hormones that help you feel full. Your body will do all that and more to prevent a drop in weight. And to be extra safe, once the food becomes plentiful again—when you break your diet— your body will make an effort to store extra weight in case that scary period of reduced food intake happens again. Some extra padding to see you through the times of famine. Diets don’t work because they encourages your body to GAIN weight.
2. It’s way more complex than rocket science.
Our bodies are stunningly complex. Body weight is impacted by soooooo many more factors than simply how much you eat and how much you exercise. Many of those factors you have little or no control over. There are sure to be factors we don’t even know about yet —there are new discoveries about the human body being made all the time. Dieting doesn’t work because manipulating body weight is not as simple as changing what you eat and how much you move. You are more than basic math.
3. Humans love being boss.
Us humans love our autonomy. Autonomy being the control you have over your own life. Your freedom of choice. Your independence. When you are on a diet of any kind, you hand over some of your power and personal freedom. That is, you let someone or something else—a meal plan, a nutritionist, a list of clean foods—tell you what you can and can’t eat. You can handle that in the short term. But after a while, and sometimes even after half a day, you begin to subconsciously push back against the rules. You want to rebel against the controls that the diet has placed on you. That might take the form of a treat because you have been doing so well. Or a just- this-once meal when out with friends. Or a sneaky snack while cooking dinner. It is a natural and normal response to want to reclaim your personal power and freedom when it has been taken away. Diets don’t work because they erode your personal autonomy.
4. It leads to food obsession.
We are led to believe that our binge-eating, over-eating, food anxiety and stress cause us to be crap at sticking to diets. We often feel that if we could just get those issues sorted, that this dieting thing would be easy. But we have it the wrong way around. Dieting can cause people to worry about food most of the day, stuff their faces when we are presented with naughty treats and feel anxious and stressed about social situations. Dieting leads to those behaviors. The more dieting you do, the worse those behaviors tend to become. It’s not that diet’s work but you have no will power. Diets don’t work because they promote negative psychological symptoms and behaviors.
5. Doesn’t address underlying reasons.
As hard as it can be to believe, there are almost always some deep down positive benefits to having struggles with dieting and body weight. It might be that having excess weight on keeps you feeling safe and protected from sexual advances. Perhaps dieting is a perfect avoidance tool that stops you from having to address the bigger issues in your life. Maybe if you weren’t going on and off diets, you feel you would have nothing to talk about with your friends or colleagues about. Whatever it is (and there most likely IS something) those reasons are not going to be addressed and worked thought by following the latest food plan. Diets don’t work because they don’t address underlying belief patterns.
6. They are no fun.
We are pleasure-seeking creatures. It is important to our survival that we enjoy things that keep us alive, healthy and able to pass on our genes to the next generation i.e. We like food, movement, social connection and sex, among other things. We don’t like dieting because it is not very enjoyable. Sure there may be an initial surge of good times when we feel pumped and great about starting a new diet. But, as you likely have experienced, that fades very quickly. When we diet, food becomes something we have to control, manipulate, stress about, ruminate over and restrict. We have to eat every day, multiple times a day for the rest of our lives. Therefore if we are having to diet a big chunk of our lives is dedicated to worry and constraint. As pleasure driven beings, we don’t want to live like that! And because dieting doesn’t work in the first place, we don’t even get the long term pleasurable benefits of short term dieting pain. It’s lose lose. Food is meant to be a positive, nourishing, pleasant part of your life. Diets don’t work because it makes food and eating the opposite of enjoyable.
You may have been trying for years and years to make dieting work for you. To finally get your eating habits and thigh fat sorted. You may feel, or have felt, so hopeless and disheartened that you couldn’t make something as simple as changing what you eat, work for you. But it is not your fault. You don’t suck. You work. Your body works. It’s diets that don’t.