In general, dieting doesn't work. Not only do restrictive diets often take the pleasure out of eating, they take decisions out of your hands. Your diet includes this, your diet cuts that out. Your diet controls your life.
That's not only frustrating but unhealthy. Here are a few of the traps that actually make many restrictive diets unhealthy.
How many times have you heard the number, 1,200 when referring to calorie goals? This is a common calorie goal for many dieters. If you don't weigh much and don't participate in much physical activity, this could be an appropriate number of calories for you. But if not, a calorie restricted diet won't actually allow you to lose weight and keep it off.
Research that came out of The Biggest Loser franchise suggests that severe calorie restriction actually lowers your metabolism long term. It means that your body has compensated to require less fuel (or food) to work. That's not the way most people want it to go. Instead of throwing out a random number or doing what your best friend is doing, get your resting metabolic rate tested or even better, work toward intuitive eating and not dieting.
So many popular diets these days focus on cutting out whole food groups or certain foods. These restrictions lead people to believe that certain foods are good and others are bad. It leads to a lot of confusion regarding nutrition. Usually, there is no physiological reason to avoid eating certain grains (particularly whole grains), fruits or vegetables. A varied diet of these foods that you enjoy will most benefit your health now and for the long run. Cutting out food groups or foods that have nutrition benefits just limits your access to these beneficial nutrients, while confusing you.
This trap brings into account many of the other traps. Not being able to eat foods you enjoy, not being able to eat enough, having to follow certain food rules that take your time or limit your choices all can increase stress in your life. Here's a bit more about how dieting can stress you out. Stress increases our cortisol levels and can negatively affect our eating and exercise habits. All of these can lead us to be less healthy and happy.
Again, certain diets encourage specific foods and restrict others. One major dieting trap is the fact that pleasure is totally removed from your eating experience. Finding pleasure from eating certain foods, contributes to your satisfaction, which contributes to your ability to regulate how much you eat. When you have to eat certain foods, especially foods that you don't like, eating becomes miserable. That leads to increased stress, as well as a shorter period of time you can actually follow that diet. Pleasure is an integral component to creating long-lasting health habits.
As Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, the authors of Intuitive Eating say, all foods are emotionally equal. Now they're not saying they're equally nourishing, they're equal emotionally. We tend to look at certain foods as good or bad. These thoughts have two potential negative impacts on our health.
First, you are more likely to turn those thoughts onto yourself. While that may not be so horrible on its own, when we turn those thoughts to ourselves and think that we're good or bad based on what we eat, that's where problems arise. If we can separate our value from our health habits, we're ready to be able to actually get healthy. Sure, being healthy can make life easier, less stressful and improve your well-being, but does being healthy make you a good person or a person worthy of being loved? Not any more than being unhealthy. When you allow yourself to be compassionate toward yourself, you're more likely to take care of yourself.
Second, there's nothing more enticing than something that's out of our reach, especially if it's restricted for reasons that aren't determined by us. Remember, we like to have control over what we eat. Foods that we think of as "bad" tend to develop this power over us and can be really enticing.
Long story short, dieting is rough. Dieting doesn't work and focusing on weight loss doesn't work either. Here is an article on why dieting doesn't work, and one about moving away from our focus on weight.
Instead of focusing on restriction, as a registered dietitian, I give you permission to eat what you want, to listen to your own body and not to some diet to tell you what you eat. I give you permission to choose enjoyable foods and means of exercise that keep you wanting to do them long term. I give you permission to throw that scale out the window in order to focus on the habits you have, the habits that will actually change your health.
I give you permission to meet with a registered dietitian who can help you navigate the waters of this confusing dieting world, without turning to diets that make you miserable.
I give you permission to like yourself as you are, because you are valuable, regardless of your weight. Now it's time to give yourself permission.