Here's Why "Weight-Loss Diets" Don't Work
It’s January, which means National Dieting Month begins!
You’ve probably already been bombarded with the promises of a better life tied to the size of your body, or, perhaps, you’ve already started your diet of restrictive eating and are working towards that magic number through counting calories, macronutrients, and working out a certain amount of times a week.
You’ve had your last supper of all the delicious foods you absolutely love and are now committed to giving up, so you can watch the number on the scale decrease.
You tell yourself that once you reach your desired number, dictated by this metal box, you will be happy, healthy, and ready to take on the world; in fact, you will be the best version of yourself.
Does this sound familiar?
Why do the best versions of ourselves always include weight loss goals? Why do we always tie our self-worth into our appearance, and to a number the nurse calls out at the doctor’s office? Where in life did we pick up this behavior, and why do we considered it the ultimate measurement of how beautiful, successful, loved, and smart we are?
Wait a minute; this is exactly how we are seduced into dieting!
It’s no wonder we are obsessed with diets when dozens of products with so-called “health claims,” such as “low-fat” and “low-calorie,” fill grocery store shelves. We are bombarded everywhere by magazine covers promising the latest weight loss solution.
You can’t turn on the television or listen to the radio without hearing about the latest diet fad or supplement that promises to melt fat off your belly, hips, and thighs. Thanks to the inherent negativity biases we have as humans, we internalize that message and believe that we are less than satisfactory and need to fix ourselves.
Well, the madness stops here, with the truth.
Weight-Loss Diets Don’t Work
The truth is diets don’t work.
Repeated, restricted calorie or partial starvation diets lead to nutritional deficiencies (something that hugely affects us) and muscle loss. I can understand that the rules, control, and structure of diets are very appealing for many people, but diets are filled with failure, heartache, and deprivation.
Weight loss is much more sophisticated than “calories in and calories out.”
Yet, we continue to see and hear that we need to go into a calorie deficit if we want to see weight loss. The diet industry capitalizes on making us believe that we need to shrink our bodies to feel worthy, loved, and successful. The worse you feel about yourself, the more likely you will spend your money on a diet after diet, which conveniently contributes to the weight loss industry’s billion-dollar profits!
In this article, I will share what the diet industry doesn’t focus on but what it should focus on to support sustainable, healthy weight loss.
4 Sustainable, Healthy Weight Loss Tips
1. Eat for Nourishment, Not Calories
Most people believe that counting calories will somehow help us reach an “ideal weight” and, therefore, make us happier. However, counting doesn’t actually help. In fact, it can be a real drag at best and a dangerous practice at worst.
When we count calories, we are focused more on the numbers rather than the enjoyment of what we’re eating.
We don’t consider the nutrients and the nourishment in food because we are obsessed with the number of calories. Weight loss is so much more than calories. It also encompasses how you sleep and how you deal with stress and hormonal changes, affecting your movement and other health issues.
The diet industry needs to stop “nutritionalizing” food.
This means you should stop rationalizing your food choices with numbers. It’s incredibly freeing when you realize you don’t have to live your life from meal to meal, calorie to calorie. Instead of obsessing over calories and other numbers on nutritional labels, read the actual ingredients (i.e., what you are putting into your body). Instead of obsessing over how much you weigh, focus on how you feel.
When we focus on nourishing our bodies, we stay motivated. It’s a positive lifestyle change that includes the food with which you nourish your body and mind and your emotions, intentions, and self-respect.
Make sure to also read: 6 Weight Loss Myths You Need to Quit Believing
2. Eat Real Food
We live in a society that has, sadly, lost its connection with real, whole food. We’ve turned food into an enemy, and we have become very disconnected from it, thinking of it as mere calories in and calories out.
It’s time to fall in love with food again!
Choose foods with less packaging and fewer flashy health claims. The foods that don’t promise health benefits (ex: “eat this to lose weight,” or “only 80 calories per package”) are, more often than not, the most nutrient-dense.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, eggs, and fish don’t come with food labels. If the food wasn’t picked from a tree, pulled from the ground, caught in an ocean, or raised on a farm, it’s more likely to be food-like substances.
An easy way to reconnect with your food is to shop at a farmers’ market and then prepare your own food.
3. Accept Your Wonderful, Beautiful Self
Okay, obviously, this is easier said than done. And I don’t want to imply that self-acceptance is a cure-all, but the first step in taking care of yourself is to adopt a non-judgmental attitude, regardless of your body size.
Change that is motivated by self-loathing and shame doesn’t last. It’s hard to take care of something you don’t really like.
This also creates a cycle of yo-yo dieting. Move your focus from looking good to feeling good, using intrinsic motivation to guide your decisions. Self-acceptance actually motivates us to treat our bodies with kindness and respect.
You might also really love: 9 Body-Positive Mantras to Love Your Body Right Now
4. Try Intuitive Eating
Dieting damages your relationship with food. When you’re on a diet, you struggle to understand what it means to approach food in a fun, natural, intuitive way. You don’t learn how to truly nourish yourself.
Instead, you’re in a constant push-pull, driven by your dissatisfaction with your body.
You are between wanting to lose weight and learning how to feed yourself to support your body’s needs. When you start listening to your body, you become more in tune with its needs. Intuitive eating helps you to eat for nourishment.
Navigating Diet Culture Online
As the popularity of social media increases, social media influencers are becoming well-known and powerful. These influencers are often lauded and admired for their conventionally perfect bodies, which are often “helped” by expensive cosmetic surgery.
Don’t let these good camera angles or smart posing distract you from the fact that your body is normal and beautiful.
Here’s the thing: if A-list celebrities, models, and athletes can get caught up in diet culture, how is the average person supposed to navigate this winding path?
If you’re serious about making changes to your health and lifestyle, the best course of action is sitting down and talking to a health professional who can go through your personal history with you and devise an individualized plan that will work best for you!
Weight-Loss Diets Are Not the Fix
When it comes to weight loss, it’s important to define health outside of numbers, whether on a scale or calories in food, and, instead, guide yourself to cultivate a nourishing relationship with food.
We are all so unique and individualized that no ONE diet or one-size-fits-all approach is going to work.
The bottom line; happiness leads the way to make choices that support both your physical and emotional well-being. It’s time to stop putting your life on hold until you lose weight. We can all benefit from increasing compassion, acceptance, and respect for all people, of all body sizes, including ourselves.
Related article: The Primal Lifestyle for Beginners