It’s Official – You’ll Do Much Better if You Stop Counting Calories & Weighing Yourself


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. 

4 responses to “It’s Official – You’ll Do Much Better if You Stop Counting Calories & Weighing Yourself”

  1. cresmer says:

    Hey, I just added you to my VT blogroll. Cool site!

  2. Marsha says:

    Great! Thanks for the feedback.

  3. dick says:

    You are really on to something with that bit about the non-diet. I was very heavy in high school (light boned, 6feet tall and 255 lb). I decided to lose weight. I ate everyting I had been eating before, just half as much. I stopped using cream and sugar in my coffee. That was my diet. I lost 100 lb over a year’s time and kept it off for over 40 years.

    In the meantime I had a sister-in-law who went on every dingbat diet that came along. There was the grapefruit diet, the no meat diet, the high-protein diet, the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, the hard-boiled egg diet, the celery diet, the crudites diet. Every one worked for about a month and then suddenly she was back up where she was before. She was weighing herself 3 times a day and obsessing over gaining a lb in the morning so she would have to cut back somewhere else. It became ridiculous. She counted calories – 1000 per day, 1200 per day, every fifth day she could have 1500. That one lasted 2 months. I tried to tell her that overdoing anything would lead to problems but she wouldn’t listen. She is still going on every diet that comes along. I guess it is just her hobby or something. Sure isn’t anything else that works.

  4. Marsha says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of people understand what ‘non-diet’ means. They’ve been dieting so long, they think it’s normal eating. A friend recently told me she doesn’t diet anymore, she’s following South Beach. While that’s a healthy diet as far as diets go, it’s still a diet! And with it comes all the sneak eating, guilt, etc., that really messes things up. I hope this study will help people open their minds to not dieting, but first they have to understand what that means!

About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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