Low-calorie diets, low-fat diets, starvation diets, there are so many diets on the market it's almost like dieting has turned into a popular hobby. But unlike a hobby, it's not fun at all, and deep inside most people know that diets don't work on the long term. In fact, close to 80 percent of dieters cannot keep the weight off for more than a year.
Whether you've been on a diet for a few months or you've followed many different ones for years, chances are you are terrified of gaining even more weight if you stop counting calories and restricting everything you eat. You fear willpower will slip through your fingers and you'll have no control over what you eat anymore just because you're no longer depriving yourself.
But actually, it's the contrary that's true, and here are three reasons why you need to stop dieting if you want to keep the weight off.
1. Dieting implies one day you'll be off the diet (and probably gain the weight back).
The concept of dieting by itself implies that once you are on a diet, you temporarily change your eating habits, you restrict certain foods, you start counting calories and measuring everything you eat, based on the rules of the diet plan you are following.
By doing so, you assume that it's the technique, the "how" that produces the results, and not yourself. And once you reach your goal weight, you don't need the technique anymore, and you go off the diet.
Things go back to "normal," and so does your weight. That's how you can spend years of your life on the diet roller coaster. And this is exactly why you can never manage to keep the weight off.
2. Dieting is focused on deprivation, which is not sustainable.
Dieting implies you have to restrict and deprive yourself. And studies have shown that this deprivation can cause craving and overeating, particularly if you have been restricting yourself. Unlike what you may have heard, this doesn't mean you are addicted to unhealthy or sweet foods; it means that you can't live a joyful and healthy life with a persistent feeling of deprivation.
This is why restrictive diets don't work to keep the weight off, because as soon as you consider you've lost enough weight, you have a psychological (and sometimes physiological) need to compensate for these long months or years of deprivation. And you'll probably gain all the weight back.
3. Dieting doesn't address the real cause of your excess weight.
When you go on a diet, your underlying belief is often that once you reach a certain weight or have a different body shape you'll be more acceptable. If only you were slim, you would be happy and this would solve other problems in your life.
So, you focus on numbers, points, calories, all measurable data that give you reassurance that you are "on the right track," giving you the illusion that your issues are under control. And slip ups, plateaus, binges, cheat meals on any given day can be particularly upsetting because they are a sign that things are out of control and they make you feel like a failure.
Dieting is in fact just a quick fix because it addresses the symptoms (the weight) of deeper issues that are often more difficult to deal with. When you gain weight, it often means you are using food to numb your emotions and distract yourself from unpleasant thoughts. If you don't address those emotions and the reasons why you gained weight in the first place, it's much harder to keep the weight off.
What you need to do is stop dieting and start making a lifestyle change by eating real, whole foods that nourish your body and your whole being. This way you'll no longer be depriving yourself and you'll find pleasure, not guilt, in your eating. It's about nourishing yourself instead of starving yourself.
Anne Ricci is dedicated to helping women make healthy food choices, boost their energy and feel good in their body. You can join her tribe at AnnesHealthyKitchen's Community.