So it's January and diet ads are everywhere. But you're smart; you're not going to fall for that shit. You know juice cleanses are dumb and diets don't work.
You're just going to 'eat clean', maybe challenge yourself to the Whole 30; just do what the bloggers do. It's a lifestyle. It's about balance.
It's a fuck*ng diet.
Sure, it's subtle, not easy to spot. But once you know the signs of a diet, you cannot unsee.
Here's a quick checklist:
Can you break rules? Diet.
Can you 'mess up'? Diet.
Can you have 'cheat days'? Diet.
Does it have off-limits foods? Diet.
Does it have points? Diet.
Does it promote 'guilt free' foods? Diet.
Is someone trying to sell you something? Diet.
Are you being told what, how much, or when to eat? Diet.
Is it a case of eat like me, look like me? Diet.
Ok, now you know how to recognise a diet in all its subtle forms, you might still be like 'what's wrong with diets'? Let me break it down for you.
DIETING DOES NOT WORK - the psychological, physiological, and social stress of diets do not outweigh (not sorry) the benefits.
Side effects of diets include:
*Slower metabolism: Your body can't tell dieting apart from actual food scarcity and starvation, so to compensate for the shortage of calories your metabolism slows to try and conserve energy. You become more efficient at doing more with less. In other words, your body becomes really good at storing fat.
*Bingeing - dieting leads to bingeing. It's science. Say you skip breakfast to try and be 'good'. Your brain is pissed. It sends out neurotransmitters and hormones like ghrelin and neuropeptide Y - both of which are super potent orexigenics - they stimulate appetite. So as the day goes on - these guys build up, you give in (to your normal biological urge to eat) and once you pop you can't stop. Sound familiar? Yup.
*You undermine your own innate ability to recognise hunger and fullness - think about it; if you're following a diet plan down to the letter, you're relying on someone else to tell you what and how much to eat. THEY DON'T KNOW YOUR LIFE. I never give clients diet plans. Who am I to say when they're hungry and what they're hungry for?
Relying on someone else to tell you what to do can so easily result in over or undereating. Lets say you're doing one of the points systems. You've used up all your points for the day, but you're still hungry? You either go hungry or you beat yourself up for going over. Neither of them sound like good options to me. Likewise if you have some points left over, you're probably not going to let them go to waste, even though you're not hungry.
*Rebound weight gain. Your weight can go up higher than your original weight- I mean, doy! How many people do you know who've sustained weight loss over long periods of time? Now how many of those people are content and not furiously counting calories or going beast mode *shudders* at the gym? Right, so everyone else is probably heavier than their original weight and feeling pretty shitty about that, and now they're trying to figure out the next diet they're going to attempt.
*Food Obsession - you can't stop thinking about your next meal, when you're allowed to eat again, you spend hours picking out recipes on Pinterest and trawling Instagram from #foodporn figuring out how you can make 'healthy' gluten free, sugar free, low-cal substitutions. You have no mental bandwidth left for living your life.
*Deprivation backfires - You know when you were a kid and your mum told you not to do the thing so you did the thing? Yeah. I see this all the time with my clients. They say certain foods are off limits; foods they enjoy eating but deem 'bad'. They do without it instead of satisfying their craving for it. Next thing they know they're shoulder deep into a bucket of Phish Food, feeling sick and guilty. And the next morning you're skipping breakfast to 'make up' for it. Rinse and repeat.
Dieting is bad for you and there's solid science to back that up. But when you've pretty much spent your whole life on a diet it's tough to break the habit. Learning how to recognise diet culture (in all it's subtle guises) will help. Ditching diets, is step one; embracing body positivity, intuitive and mindful eating, and health at every size can also help build a healthy relationship with food and help you feel good about yourself - check out my new Intuitive Eating online course and community, launching at the end of this month. Or sign up for my newsletter to get updates on these topics.