How many times have you reached for that cookie, only to have a well-meaning (or not) friend or family member raise their eyebrows, or even ask if it’s ‘on your diet?’ Unfortunately, the scenario is all too familiar.
But here’s some great news to come back with. Results of a randomized clinical trial, the strongest type of experiment to test whether treatments work, were just published in The Journal of The American Dietetic Association (especially significant since this is a group that tends to be friendly to traditional weight loss diets). The study showed that fat women, aged 30 to 45, did much better when they stopped dieting, started eating according to their internal cues, stopped weighing themselves, started moving their bodies for purposes of feeling good instead of weight loss, and worked on developing a positive self image, compared to a similar group of women who went on a traditional weight loss diet.
Just look at some of the results:
· The dieters initially lost weight but had regained almost all of it two years later. The nondieters’ weight remained stable. (While this may not seem particularly encouraging in the weight department, it’s great news for those of us who have only just begun to struggle with weight. How many of us seasoned dieters look back on old pictures and remember that we thought we were fat then? If we had never dieted, it’s likely we would have stayed thinner. Further, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that people can lose weight when they begin eating according to internal cues (or eating mindfully) and moving their bodies in a pleasurable manner; we see it happen in the women who come to Green Mountain all the time. Clearly, more studies need to be done in this area.)
· Both groups initially lowered their blood pressure, but it rebounded among the dieters; the nondieters’ blood pressures stayed down.
· Cholesterol levels among the dieters didn’t change; in the nondieters, they dropped significantly.
· The dieters increased their physical activity but had returned to initial levels by the end of the study. The nondieters nearly quadrupled their physical activity.
· There was about 200% more bulimia and eating disorders among the dieters.
· The nondieters saw remarkable improvements in self-esteem and experienced less depression. The dieters’ self-esteem and depression significantly worsened.
All in all, a momentous study that finally proves dieting really doesn’t help and can cause a great deal of harm. Of course, I didn’t need a study to tell me that, but now we have some real evidence to debate the naysayers – those hardboiled supporters of weight loss diets who say that counting calories and keeping an eagle eye on how much we weigh is the only way to stay at a healthy weight.