How Dieting Makes You Gain Weight

How Dieting Makes You Gain Weight
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Big news shocker: Dieting makes you gain weight.

The diet industry doesn't want you to know it (because it would mess with their bottom line), but scientific research has proven it. I will get to the details in a minute, but first, a story...

Recently, a reporter put out a request for a Registered Dietitian to help her with a story she was writing about the pitfalls of dieting. Although I wouldn't be giving her the answers she was looking for, per se, I'm a Registered Dietitian and I have the answers, so I responded.

She asked:

"What is something you should never do while trying a new eating plan, and why?"

And I responded:

"What you should never do while trying a new eating plan is follow a diet, or any rules relating to what, how much, and when you should eat. We are all born with an internal “instruction kit” that tells us when we are hungry and when we are satisfied. For example, when a baby is hungry, he cries, and when he is satisfied, he pushes away. And a toddler will walk away from a perfectly good piece of cake if she is no longer hungry. Diets and external food rules placed on us by society and our family (i.e. eat 3 times a day, don’t eat after 8pm, clean your plate) quiet that internal “instruction kit” and cause us to lose the ability to maintain our natural weight.

Side note:

The "instruction kit" that I mentioned is what competent eaters - those who don't restrict food or mindlessly overeat but eat and move on - have used since birth. Chronic dieters have lost this ability but can re-learn that skill by practicing Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating encompasses honoring your hunger and your satiety; listening out for those inner cues and respecting them by feeding yourself when you are hungry and stopping when you've had enough. Sounds simple - and it can be over time - but for dieters, that Inner Food Police can get in the way by reminding you of external food rules. That's why "practice" is the key here.

Okay, back to the reporter's questions...

She asked:

"How might each thing sabotage your weight loss goals?"

And I responded:

"Chronic dieting actually increases your weight over time. We all have a “set point” - that place where our natural weight falls and where our bodies experience homeostasis. When we restrict our food in an attempt to lose weight, our bodies don’t appreciate it and work to get back to homeostasis. To do this, our bodies produce a hormone that makes us obsess over food and signal hunger in an effort to combat our weight loss tactics. Once we give in to our body’s fight, our bodies tend to gain the weight we lost, plus a little extra. That extra weight is an “insurance policy,” in the event of a subsequent diet. This vicious cycle of dieting causes our body to increase our set point, thus, the more we diet, the more we weigh over time. Therefore, ironically, the act of dieting sabotages our weight loss goals. But there is a silver lining! Learning the skills to listen out for that internal “instruction kit” again will help you reach your natural weight - the weight at which your body is most comfortable maintaining. Living at your natural weight - whether it be in a thin body or a fat body or somewhere in the middle - rather than restricting your calories to reach the “thin ideal,” will protect your metabolic health (i.e. blood pressure, blood glucose levels). Recent research concluded that dieting may actually be the cause of the "obesity epidemic" and not the solution."

A couple of things...

Your body is happy at it’s set point. When you diet, you will lose weight, but eventually, it will come back on, and bring a few extra pounds with it. That’s your body resetting your set point. The more you start a diet, the higher your body will set your set point. Hence, dieting makes you fatter.

The Set Point Theory is a real thing. The more we cause stress to our bodies by restricting food, the more our body shows us love and protects us by making us hungry, obsess about food, and eventually give in to our internal triggers. Have you ever noticed that when you start a diet again, that you may lose a little weight, but certainly not as fast or as much as the last time you dieted? That is your body trying to stay at homeostasis. Have you ever noticed that you haven’t eaten more or worked out less, yet your weight is creeping up? Yup, that’s the set point theory again. See, dieting makes you fatter than when you started.

Your set point is unique to your body. Your set point may be in a thin body, it may be in a fat body, or it may be somewhere in between. Unfortunately, our society dictates that only a thin body is worthy/healthy/ideal.


All bodies are good bodies. Our bodies were not designed to all look the same; we are unique and we should be honoring our differences and not stigmatizing them. Also important to note:


If you read beyond mainstream media, you will find scientific research proving that weight loss and a thin body are not effective treatments for, or protection against, illness and chronic disease. In fact, a recent study proved that people with body weights in the BMI range of “overweight” and “obese” not only live longer but find protection from illness and injury from their “excess” weight. In addition, size doesn’t matter in the case of metabolic health - the risk factor measurements (ie blood cholesterol, fasting blood sugar) - that determine your risk for chronic disease. You can be fat and healthy and you can be thin and unhealthy. You can be fat and restrict your food intake below safe caloric levels and you can be thin and struggle with Binge Eating Disorder. Your outsides don’t reflect your insides, and your insides don’t reflect your outsides.

Back to the reporter...

To date, I have not heard back from her. No surprise there as pushing diets and the thin ideal sells more magazines than supporting Health At Every Size, but I will still hold out hope that she will write the story and enlighten her readers with the truth.

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