Its that time of year again that diet culture ramps up and is ready to prey on all of our post-holiday eating and body insecurities. Everywhere you look there is a new diet program or fitness routine that promises to change your life and fix your body in some new, alluring way. The top 3 New Years Resolutions year after year are dieting more, exercising more, and losing more weight…so its no wonder the $72 billion dieting industry is only growing and stealing more of our money and energy. But the reality is, diets don’t work, and neither does intense and rigid exercise routines. At least not in the long-run.
We want to point out that just because you aren’t officially following the latest elimination or weight-loss diet, doesn’t mean that you aren’t still participating in diet culture or eating in a restrictive way. Diet culture is everywhere…in the way that we praise thinness and shame larger bodies, the way that we dress, the food we buy, the healthcare we receive. Lets take a deeper look into the dangers of dieting and how diet culture is harmful to everyone.
Here’s what the research says dieting may cost you:
95% of diets fail and most will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years. Whats more is that those who weight-cycle (aka yo-yo diet) are at an increased rick for adverse health outcomes compared to those who never lost weight to begin with. The dieting industry is the ONLY industry I can think of that has a 5% success rate yet diets are prescribed and recommended ALL.THE.TIME!
Many diets and fitness programs appear to be different, but at the end of the day the goal is usually the same – create a calorie deficit. By undereating, you are underfueling your body and brain and will inevitably lead to low energy availability, and your body will respond by slowing down in an attempt to conserve energy for survival. This presents many problems ranging from inability to regulate essential body functions (temperature, heart rate, metabolism), decrease in mental focus and increased irritability, hormonal issues (decreased testosterone and estrogen, loss of menstrual cycle and thus loss of bone mineralization leading to osteoporosis), gastrointestinal disorders like gastroparesis or slowed gastric emptying and constipation…and many other health issues.
Your mental health
35% of “occasional dieters” progress into pathological dieting (disordered eating) and as many as 25%, advance to full-blown eating disorders. Eating disorders are a mental health disorder with nutritional and physical consequences and can be life-threatening. Dieting and weight loss is NOT synonymous with health, and diet plans and protocols totally miss the mark on addressing mental health concerns or the ramifications that can result such as increased anxiety and stress or depression.
The dieting industry is stealing our money at an all-time high of $72 billion in 2019. How much money have you wasted on supplements, diet programs, weird diet “foods”, fancy scales, apps and trackers?
Your social life & relationships
Dieting is isolating and stressful. How can you possibly attend a pizza & movie night with your friends if your diet only allows chicken breast and broccoli? You may not go at all, or go and feel deprived or guilty if you break your diet. Research shows that the constant challenge of monitoring what you eat, eliminating foods you enjoy, and having feelings of hunger, can cause stress. This may compound attempts at losing weight, as stress causes a rise in cortisol and adrenaline, which reduces our calorie-burning potential. So we’re creating the exact conditions that make losing weight difficult by obsessing over food.
This list is by no means all-inclusive, but will hopefully get you thinking about how dieting is harmful in many ways. Now that we have looked at the risks of dieting, which begs the question: what have you gained from dieting? The majority of people pursue dieting for the purpose of weight-loss, or making their bodies smaller. Is the pursuit of weight-loss worth the risks?
If you are wondering, “if I’m not dieting…then what?” we can offer another way of thinking about food and your bodies. Rejecting dieting and diet culture and learning how to eat intuitively is a good place to start, and our Registered Dietitians can come up a roadmap to guide you towards food freedom. If you want to learn more about a non-diet approach to nutrition and wellness, we can help.