New Year, New Diet?
The New Year is upon us and you can’t scroll through your social media feeds without ads breathing down your neck promising you a year ahead of melting away pounds.
“This time it will be different!” “This new method can really trick your body into weight loss for good!”
Through my academic studies, teaching nutrition as an adjunct professor, and becoming a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, I have learned SO MUCH about weight loss, the psychology of diets, and exercise. I am bursting and bubbling over with so much knowledge I want to share with people.
Some people diet and lose weight, move on with their life, and the act of dieting doesn’t mess with their heads. I haven’t met very many people out there like that but hey, I’m sure they’re around. A majority of us diet, lose weight, keep it off for however long, gain it back and maybe gain even more than they lost. Then we beat ourselves up.
“I don’t have willpower.” (Blaming yourself over this thing we call ‘willpower’, which is bullshit)
“I wish I could be as good as I was the last time I lost weight.” (Comparing yourself to a past version of yourself)
“Why can’t I do what she is doing.” (Comparing yourself to Jane, the other mom who is killing it with weight loss goals)
“I am at my heaviest right now.” (Says chronic dieter who has gone up and down on the scale, now at his heaviest, struggling to lose the weight more than ever, and doesn’t understand why. There IS a physiological and psychological reason this happens and I will be blogging about it!)
Something else to consider is THIN does not equal HEALTH. Health is not just about a number on a scale or jeans size. There is a mental component to health too and that’s what so many of us neglect when we diet.
If you have been on and off the hellish diet roller coaster and feel like you’re going to lose your mind, you may be interested in what I have to say. Not because I’m making an empty promise that you will lose weight if you listen to me because I am NOT! But if you are stuck in diet culture and it’s leading to depression, anxiety, and body-bashing, I ask you to consider NOT trying that new diet.
But first, let’s talk about the here and now. The New Year. New Year’s resolutions which, I think by now, most people know are pretty ridiculous and don’t last.
Since January is already in full swing you may have already started a diet. Perhaps you’re still considering. Consider some of these diet facts, all based on scientific studies and not just something made up by a random blogger:
When you diet, your body thinks it’s starving and goes into starvation mode. Our bodies are like an AMAZINGLY SMART computer and are programmed to keep us alive! Once we restrict, a survival mechanism is to slow down our metabolism. This worked great in times of hunting and gathering when our bodies weren’t sure when the next meal was coming. In 2019? Not so great.
The body attempts to survive caloric restriction by eating away at its own muscle. This is why, yes, you will lose body fat but you also lose muscle. Muscle is what keeps our metabolism going. You DO NOT want to lose muscle!! Your body will start using muscle tissue (protein), convert the muscle to carbohydrates (remember gluconeogenesis from your science classes?) and use those carbohydrates as fuel.
Losing both body fat and muscle through dieting will trigger the body to GAIN more body fat in order to survive. Again, your body has no idea you are intentionally trying to lose weight vs heading into a famine.
Among all of these physiological disturbances from dieting, there is an entire psychological component:
Dieting causes you to choose foods based on rules. Eat this, not that. Eat every X hours. Eliminate ______ because it’s poison! You are not considering your hunger levels, energy needs, food preferences… and this all will make you feel deprived. Not to mention once you break one of these rules you label yourself a failure with no willpower.
The more you diet and follow “diet rules”, the more you lose touch with your inner body cues and no longer trust your own hunger, wants, needs, and the way your body works.
When you lose weight and gain it back you ultimately blame yourself: “It’s my fault.” How does this make you feel? Like crap. And you know what? It is SO not your fault. The diet industry wants you to believe it’s your fault and come crawling back for more.
Many dieters become obsessed. You fall down a well so far that you can’t see truth anymore. You think you’re living a healthy lifestyle but, in fact, you are living a life fraught with rules about what to eat, when to eat, and not to mention an unrealistic exercise schedule (yet another blog post).
For all of these reasons and more, dieting is a “gateway drug” (so-to-speak) to disordered eating and worse, a full-blown, life-threatening eating disorder.
Wow. I have so much more to say on the topic. I want to review diets and dissect them for you. I want to share clinical, scientific-based evidence with you. There will be more posts to come on this very topic.
If you are struggling with weight and body image, yet you just can’t subject yourself to another hellish diet, consider breaking free for good. There are many dietitians and therapists out there that are body-positive, non-fatphobic, and not into diets. A great place to start if you need help is to check out the Intuitive Eating website and find a certified intuitive eating counselor in your area.
Also, come back to this blog often. I’ll be posting about intuitive eating, in-depth reviews of diets, exercise, food and its connection to various health parameters, and so much more.
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2017). The Intuitive eating workbook: Ten principles for nourishing a healthy relationship with food. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.