Using national survey data of almost 9,000 people, researchers found that the odds for becoming obese*¹ increased according to the number of times you diet.
- Diet once and the odds almost double.
- Diet twice and they go up almost three times.
- Always on a diet? The odds of becoming obese are more than triple that of someone who has never dieted.
This isn’t news to those of us who follow a non-diet approach to health and healthy weights.
Over four decades ago, Thelma Wayler, RD, Green Mountain’s founder, recognized that diets not only wouldn’t take people in the direction they wanted to go, diets would send them in the exact opposite direction.
That’s why she founded Green Mountain at Fox Run – to help women (who were most affected by dieting back then) learn how to eat instead of starve, and how to take care of themselves without worrying about weight.
Still, it’s always good to see what we know to be true proven out in studies. Especially a study as huge as this one is.
Dieting Is Anytime You Restrict Your Eating to Control Your Weight
It’s important to understand that dieting isn’t just following specific diet plans. It’s anytime you restrict what you eat in an attempt to control your weight.
Many people today say they don’t diet, but they do (try to) follow rules about what’s good to eat and what’s not, how much you “should” eat at any one time, and when to eat.
Often this is done under the guise of concern about health, but when you dig deep, you usually find weight concerns at the bottom. That’s often because of the confusion about the impact of weight on health, but well-conducted studies show clearly that weight is not a reliable measure of health.
Bottom line: Restricting what you eat in the name of body size is dieting. And it has the same effect on your weight as formal diet plans.
Moving Beyond Diets
What can a person do instead? Let their bodies guide them in eating in a way that supports both their health and their healthy weight. Our bodies are designed to do that, if we know how to listen.
Many of us don’t know how to listen to our bodies about eating anymore, or how to interpret what we are hearing, precisely because the diet mentality has taught us to tune out and not trust our bodies’ cues. Others of us are so out of balance due to all the restrictive eating, and subsequent overeating (yes, there’s a direct link), that our bodies are confused. They can’t give us accurate signals.
The good news is that we can get back in balance through effective self-care. At Green Mountain, we believe enjoyment is a fundamental part of effective self-care so that rules out dieting right away. Bonus!
*Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of over 30. It’s not a term we use at Green Mountain as it doesn’t make anyone feel good to be labeled in this way. But researchers use it in order to effectively analyze data. That’s why we use it in this post.
¹Siahpush M, Tibbits M, Shaikh RA, Singh GK, Sikora Kessler A, Huang TT. Dieting Increases the Likelihood of Subsequent Obesity and BMI Gain: Results from a Prospective Study of an Australian National Sample. Int J Behav Med. 2015 Oct; 22(5):662-71.