Isn’t it funny, that with the massive failure rate of dieting, we’re always so quick to blame ourselves for having no willpower or self-control, and yet we don’t blame the diet itself?
I did this for years (as in, blamed myself for failing at diets) and if you currently do or did too, know that you’re not at a fault for believing this. Society teaches us that diets are the answer. We’re at the point in our world where dieting has become reflective of our socioeconomic status. If we aren’t pursuing a diet as a means of being healthy, we are seen to be looked down upon (Source).
But here’s the thing about diets – they are set up to fail.
Did you know, that according to Linda Bacon, author of Health At Every Size, that not one study has ever shown that diets can produce long-term weight loss results for any but a tiny number of dieters? Not to mention, our bodies think primitively with the primary motive being survival. What I mean by this is that our bodies don’t know when we’re dieting versus when we’re experiencing a famine. As a result, when we deprive or restrict ourselves of our basic needs, as diets encourage us to do, the body will upregulate appetite hormones like ghrelin to physically make us hungry and essentially force us to eat so we can get fuel in the body. In doing so, it will be drawn to more fatty, sugary, high-carbohydrate foods which are the body’s quickest and most preferred form of energy.
So if you’ve ever found yourself asking “Why can’t I just stick to a diet? Why can’t I just have will power?”, understand that willpower doesn’t exist when it comes down to toying with your body’s survival mechanisms. It’s NOT because you’re crazy and don’t have self-control.
To add insult to injury, dieting also activates “thrifty genes” which was a term coined by James V. Neel to explain why certain populations are subject to type 2 diabetes. These thrifty genes actually induce weight gain (the opposite goal of weight loss) by increasing your drive for hunger while slowing your metabolism. Those with a history of dieting also send out less leptin (the appetite hormones that signal when we’re full) which explains why many chronic dieters tend to be heavier than those who haven’t attempted weight loss. Your body has reset your setpoint to a higher level.
But to fully comprehend and accept that diets don’t actually work is a scary thought – and I get that.
For the longest time, diets have been our safety net that we could turn to when we wanted to over-indulge or justify eating when we aren’t biologically hungry. “Oh well, it’s the weekend – I can take care of it on Monday!” But how many Mondays have you returned to repeating the same old story, is worth noting.
But if diets don’t work, what can we do instead?
If we genuinely want to pursue health, we need to first define health based upon our own beliefs and values. As of now, your idea of health has been influenced by your surroundings – family, friends, media, and society – that have all modified what health really means. A good place to start is to ask yourself: are you pursuing health as a subtle, discrete and
A good place to start is to ask yourself: are you pursuing health as a subtle, discrete and hopefully way of pursuing weight loss, or are you pursuing health as a resource to pull from to to live a thriving, vibrant happy life so you can run around with your grandkids when you’re 80, hike Mount Everest or haul all of your groceries into your house in one trip (that’s got me written all over it!)
Because the truth is, we can’t pursue both authentic health and weight. As long as we have what Jillian Murphy of the Food Freedom Body Love Method refers to as the “weight loss goggles” on, we won’t be able to view health in any other way other than the hope of eventually losing weight. What I mean by this is that we overlook so many other determining factors of health when our primary focus is just weight loss. For example, you might join a group fitness program and reap so many benefits from improved mood, increased energy, and better sleep, but if you didn’t lose weight, you will remain dissatisfied and will always be looking for the next best thing to resolve your weight loss woes.
This isn’t easy information to communicate, or to receive. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were feeling some resistance to this information right now and that’s okay. It takes time, practice and scientific evidence (PLEASE read Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon) to unravel all of our thoughts and ideas around dieting and weight loss that have been ingrained over all of these years. But if we ever want to pursue health from a non-diet mentality perspective and pursue health in a way that feels good, natural and intuitive for our bodies, this is the work that we need to do.
Registration for my upcoming workshop on Sunday November 5th 2017, Finding Freedom: An Introduction To Healing Your Emotional Eating is open! You will learn how to define health on your own terms, make friends with food and start loving your body in this 4-hour workshop with 20 uplifting, inspiring women! Use the discount code “FF50OFF” at check out to get $50 off of your registration fee. Register here (spots are limited!)