Nearly every month, a new diet book pops up on the shelves and becomes a bestseller. If you take a quick look through them, you'll realize the main ideas are practically the same. While there may be different foods lists, they're all based on principles of deprivation, external rules, and focus on weight loss. Yes, I'm sure you could lose weight on any popular diet out there. Yet, I'm taking a stand against diets because of the negative side effects - physical and mental - that ultimately leaves you frustrated, overwhelmed, and blaming yourself.
Getting trapped in the diet mindset is a terrifying place to be. You don't even need to be following a "diet" plan per se, but over time, all the rules from past diets, magazines, or friends stay set in your head. This pseudo-dieting becomes your life where you feel tremendous shame from indulging in your favorite "guilty pleasures," eating more than 1200 calories, or even eating when you're not hungry.
The only way to get out of the diet mindset is to break down the rules, find peace with food, and give yourself permission to eat what you want without worrying about weight gain or letting it affect your worth as a person.
Here are my top 10 reasons to stop dieting today.
1. Deprivation Doesn't Work.
When you start your diet again on Monday and swear off all 'junk food,' you end up craving that one food the most. This restrictive mindset often leads to eating "so good" all day, only to come home after work and binge on the off-limits food. You can't have just one piece of chocolate because your brain is stuck worrying that tomorrow the diet starts again. The all-or-nothing thoughts turn into eating the entire package of food, so you can start your diet yet again tomorrow.
Instead, by giving yourself permission to enjoy all foods, no one food will have power of you. You can learn to savor a piece of chocolate without devouring the whole package really quickly. You will start to believe there is an abundance of food to nourish your body rather than living in a state of deprivation.
2. Dieting is Stressful on the Body
The cycle of yo-yo dieting is stressful to your physical, mental, and emotional health. The truth is, dieting is associated with weight gain in the long-term.
The constant cycle between restriction and overeating impacts your metabolism, is stressful to the body, and destroys your self-confidence and trust in your own body. Most importantly, you lose touch with your body's intuitive signals of hunger, fullness, satiety, and satisfaction.
Luckily, with time and trust in your body, these natural signals from your body can return. By honoring these cues, your body naturally settles at a healthy weight for you. Best of all, you can stop worrying about food as much and go live your life.
3. Diets are not Individualized.
You are the expert of your body. No one knows your body better than you! When you understand this powerful statement, then you no longer need to see what the nutrition "gurus" on Instagram are eating. Every single person has unique energy and nutrient needs, based on numerous factors - their height, weight, activity level, hormonal health, stress levels, and stage of life (like pregnancy).
Back in my dietetic internship, I had the cool experience of getting my metabolic rate measured using a metabolic cart. My resting metabolic rate was ~1450 calories. This means, if I were to lie in bed all day doing absolutely nothing, my body would still burn 1450 calories. Add in daily activities and any additional movement, and I need a lot more calories.
Keep this in mind when you see ridiculously low-calorie diets or meal plans out there. On a day-to-day basis, my energy intake varies. Some days, I'm hungry all day; others, I don't have much of an appetite. While I don't count calories anymore, I can trust and honor my hunger levels to meet my individualized needs.
4. Diets Don't Address Emotional Hungers.
When our emotional, mental, spiritual, or other "hungers" are not being met, there's a emptiness in our lives. When you eat to fill this void, no amount of food is every satisfying. While it's normal to eat emotionally at times - we do eat for pleasure and socially - remember that another diet will not feed these non-physical hungers.
It takes courage to ask yourself what you're craving. It means looking at all aspects of your life and getting curious about why you're turning to food when you're not hungry. Start to name how you're feeling - jealous, sad, lonely - sit with it, and feed your true hungers.
This is the real reason you're stuck. Emotional eating is a way to numb from how you're really feeling, yet no matter how full you physically feel, you'll never feel satisfied.
5. Diets Aren't Sustainable.
The only truly sustainable way to eat is by tuning into your body. Yes, the answer you've been seeking has been within you all this time. While knowledge is empowering, not every nutrition plan or advice out there will work for your body.
Everyone has a natural intuitive eater within them. When you commit to re-connecting with your body, it's like coming home. Instead of following nutrition rules (that seem to change daily in the media), you realize what works for you.
By entering this intuitive eating exploration phase, you'll have endless insights. Maybe you realize that you thrive on 3 meals throughout the day, or you feel best with small meals and snacks during the day. Maybe you'll discover that having protein with breakfast give you energy and brainpower all morning.
6. Diets are Focused on Weight, not Wellness.
While many diets out there do talk about amazing energy, incredible digestion, clear skin, and a body transformation (pay attention to misleading diet marketing :) ), the biggest focus is typically weight.
Diet books nearly promise weight loss in the first few days. When the focus is all on weight, you end up frustrated if you don't lose the expected amount of weight. You may restrict even more, at the expense of your actual health. Health is all-encompassing from physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. After all, I feel the healthiest I've even been, yet my diet is way less restrictive than it was in the past.
Explore intuitive eating as a means to honor your health and find peace with food, rather than as a way to exclusively lose weight.
7. Diets are Focused on Numbers Rather than Food.
Since giving up calorie counting, food is incredibly more enjoyable. I could never fully enjoy meals if I was counting in my head and worrying if I would go over my allotted number. Diets are too often low-calorie or low-something (fat or carbs).
Now, I nourish my body with mostly whole foods because that's what is energizing for my body. I savor delicious meals out with friends. Variety keeps me satisfied. The biggest change is I eat to nourish myself, so I have energy to move my body, write, be present with clients, go out dancing with friends, and have daily adventures. Food is just one part of my life - not my entire life.
By ditching the numbers, you can give yourself full permission to enjoy food. No food is off-limits. You can eat the foods that nourish your body without worrying about how many carbs, calories, or fat is in it.
8. Diets Stop you from Being Present in your Life.
Diets keep you out of the present moment. You're always focused on when's the next time you can eat, what you're allowed to eat, or worrying about what your scale told you that moment.
By obsessing about food, you're missing out on life. What does having the 'perfect' body or skipping meals out with friends to eat broccoli and bland chicken at home bring you? Food IS pleasure and is meant to taste good. Food is meant to be enjoyed socially - it has been for thousands of years.
All the restriction is why the post-diet binge is so common. Instead, when you eat intuitively, you can enjoy any food. Yet, you'll figure out what foods really nourish and energize your body. This is why even though I don't follow a specific diet, I still tend to eat whole foods most of the time and can savor treats without binging.
Food is a part of social gatherings, and I love that. When I'm at a party, connection is my main focus. I want to laugh, share nourishing conversations, and yes - enjoy food. There's something so enjoyable about savoring food with loved ones and sharing that connection. Speaking of which, I fully enjoyed a incredible meal in Austin recently with my love on a mini-vacation - we shared mussels + chorizo in a tomato sauce, then I got fish tacos with guacamole and black beans, and a margarita :) Years ago, that would never have been an option - I would have gotten a boring salad.
9. Diets are a Fast Track to a Binge.
We explored emotional hungers above, but honestly, your body is way smarter than you. Biology kicks in when you deprive your body of what it needs to survive. If you're not eating enough during the day, it makes sense that you'll snack on everything in your kitchen after work. That's HANGRY (anger hunger!) in action. It's really hard to make clear decisions or take the time to cook a full meal when you're ravenous.
This may feel like emotional eating, but sometimes, this is purely biology. When your body needs energy, it will find a way to get it. By honoring your hunger as it comes throughout the day, binging may naturally decrease. You'll also have the mental capacity to take a moment to explore emotional hungers. When your body is deprived, so is your brain!
10. Diets Ignore your Intuition.
Your intuition is a prized gift. It's that gut feeling we've all felt at times in our lives.
With food, it shows up in signals for hunger, fullness, satiety, or satisfaction. Diets keep you stuck in rules, and you'll always be searching for the next best thing. Yet, what you need to start to build trust with your body.
Luckily, even after years of dieting, you can start to re-connect with your intuitive eating signals. Start to notice your hunger throughout the day. Pay attention to your fullness. Notice if your hunger is physical or not. Find pleasure in your meals. Give yourself permission to eat and enjoy food - it's okay!
Make Peace with Food course (it's free!)