It’s the first Monday in a new year. Anyone who’s struggled with weight knows what that means — it’s diet time! Even if we manage to escape the temptation on our own, television and magazines everywhere urge us on. Just about every diet program is flooding the airwaves with pitches built on the recent success of this or that star, or even a regular person just like you and me (emphasis on recent success; the stories generally change dramatically 1,2,5 years down the road). Headlines promise simple, easy weight loss, ignoring the complicated picture that is weight loss — whether it’s necessary for some of us and what’s behind the unhealthy weight that some of us struggle with. Rather than reinvent the wheel today, though, I’m sharing a recent post by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, co-author of Intuitive Eating, that gets right to the heart of why the “new year, new diet” movement is something we seriously encourage you to forgo.
If dieting programs had to stand up to the same scrutiny as medications, they would never be allowed for public consumption. Imagine, for example, taking an asthma medication, which improves your breathing for a few weeks, but in the long run, causes your lungs and breathing to worsen. Or, imagine taking a medication to unclog your arteries, but ultimately, causes increased blockage.
Would you really embark on a diet, (even a so-called “sensible diet”), if you knew that it could cause you to gain more weight? Here are some sobering studies indicating dieting promotes weight gain:
- A team of UCLA researchers reviewed 31 long term studies on dieting and concluded that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain—up to two-thirds of the people regained more weight than they lost .
- Research on nearly 17,000 kids ages 9-14 years old concluded, “…in the long term, dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain” .
- Teenage dieters had twice the risk of becoming overweight, compared to non-dieting teens, according to a five-year study . Notably, at baseline, the dieters did not weigh more than their non-dieting peers. This is an important detail, because if the dieters weighed more—it would be a confounding factor, (which would implicate other factors, rather than dieting, such as genetics).
Studies aside–what has your own dieting experience shown you? Many of my patients and workshop participants say their first diet was easy — the pounds just melted off. But that first dieting experience is the seduction trap, which launches the futile pursuit of weight loss via dieting. I say futile — because our bodies are very smart and wired for survival.
Biologically, you body experiences the dieting process as a form of starvation. Your cells don’t know you are voluntarily restricting your food intake. Your body shifts into primal survival mode — metabolism slows down and food cravings escalate. And with each diet, the body learns and adapts, resulting in rebound weight gain. Consequently, many of my patients feel like they are a failure — but it is dieting that has failed them. Not only do diets not work, they increase your risk of weight gain.
It’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiastic hoopla of the New-Year-Dieting-Season — with celebrity testimonials and promises anew. Instead, how about embarking on an inner journey — in pursuit of becoming the expert of your own body. It takes listening and inner attunement.
Isn’t time to get to know you — your wants and needs, what you like to eat–what tastes good and satisfies? But it’s hard to listen to your body when you are following the external directives of a diet program, which is why the first principle of Intuitive Eating, is Reject the Dieting Mentality.
 Mann, T. Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. Am. Psychologist, 2007; 62(3): 220-233.
 Field AE et al. Relation Between Dieting and Weight Change Among Preadolescents and Adolescents. Pediatrics, 2003; 112:900-906.
 Neumark-Sztainer D. et al. Obesity, disordered eating,and eating disorders in a longitudinal study of adolescents: how do dieters fare five years later? J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106(4):559-568.
Warning: Dieting Increases Your Risk of Gaining MORE Weight written by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD. Copyright © 2011 by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD Published at www.IntuitiveEating.org
How will you take care of yourself in this new year without going on a diet?