It seems like diet-culture is everywhere. From the Paleo fanatics, to the clean eating enthusiasts, and the Weight Watchers evangelists, there are tons of people exalting the many benefits of various diet plans.
Even if you are not on a traditional diet, I use the word "diet" in this context to refer to any set of restrictive food rules-barring true medical and ethical concerns. If you are feeling guilt and shame surrounding your food choices, then it is likely that you are approaching the experience of eating from a "diet mentality."
The truth is that the diet industry wants us to "fail" so that we will continue to purchase their products. Further, by jumping on the latest diet bandwagon you are supporting a multi-billion dollar industry, which makes profit by convincing us that we are inherently flawed. The following are three reasons why you shouldn't go on another diet.
1. Diets do not help you to maintain weight loss in the long-term.
The idea that people fail at diets because of a lack of willpower is a myth that is perpetuated by the diet industry. There are powerful biological factors at play, which essentially ensure that your attempt at dieting will fail. Traci Mann, a researcher who has studied dieting for over 20 years, found that there are metabolic, hormonal, and neurological changes that contribute to "diet failure."
According to Mann, "When you are dieting, you actually become more likely to notice food ... But you don't just notice it -- it actually begins to look more appetizing and tempting." Mann also stated that as you begin to lose weight, "the hormones that make you feel hungry increase" and "the hormones that help you feel full, or the level of those rather, decreases."
Lastly, Mann explained that when you are dieting, "Your metabolism slows down. Your body uses calories in the most efficient way possible ... When your body finds a way to run itself on fewer calories there tends to be more left over, and those get stored as fat."
Thus, it comes as no surprise that studies show that 95 percent of people will "fail" at diets. Working to suppress your weight below your natural body weight is ultimately a fruitless effort and an utter waste of time.
Even if you are in the 5 percent of people who can maintain a suppressed weight in the long-term, think about what you may be giving up in order to achieve this. After all, what good does it do to have "the ideal body," if you are sacrificing eating out, socializing with friends, and your interests outside of calorie-counting and obsessive exercise.
2. Weight loss is not the key to increased happiness.
As stated above, diets do not work if your aim is maintaining weight loss in the long-term. However, I have a problem with the very idea of weight loss as a goal. Tying your happiness to something external is a recipe for discontent.
Andrea Bonior, a clinical psychologist, exemplified this point when she stated, "It's not the external achievement of some goal that's going to make us happy. You think that will automatically change your life in some meaningful way, but it could be that your life pretty much remains the same."
For argument's sake, let's say that you had your "ideal body" and were supremely happy with your appearance. The reality of life is that our bodies will change as we age. Ultimately, putting all of your worth and value into your appearance is akin to boarding a sinking ship.
Further, counting calories, obsessing about your body fat, and reading diet books, is likely taking time away from more meaningful pursuits. Think about all of the other passions that you could explore if you gave up the goal of weight loss. What if you poured all of the time, money, and energy that you spent on dieting into something that could actually make a difference in the world?
3. Losing weight will not make you healthier.
You can be considered overweight and be healthy. You can also be considered thin and be unhealthy. A person's weight is simply not a good barometer of their overall health.
According to an article in The Nutrition Journal by Dr. Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor, "Most epidemiological studies find that people who are overweight or moderately obese live at least as long as normal weight people, and often longer."
Shifting your goal from weight loss to that of adopting a few healthful habits is one way that you can work to improve your health. Bacon and Aphramor exemplified this point when they stated, "As indicated by research conducted by one of the authors and many other investigators, most health indicators can be improved through changing health behaviors, regardless of whether weight is lost."
We all want to believe that there is some magic solution that will help us to discover true health and happiness. However, the reality is that restrictive food rules and weight loss is not the answer to what we are seeking.
I challenge you to really think about what is behind your desire to lose weight. After all, you can find love, feel great about yourself, and make a difference in this world, at any size.
Lisa Turner, a food writer and nutrition consultant, summed it up best when she stated:
"Losing weight is not your life's work, and counting calories is not the call of your soul. You surely are destined for something much greater, much bigger, than shedding 20 pounds or tallying calories. What would happen if, instead of worrying about what you had for breakfast, you focused instead on becoming exquisitely comfortable with who you are as a person?"