Love and Real Food
by Stephanie Michelle Scott, RDN

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Registered Dietitian Colorado Springs, Nutritionist Colorado Springs, Health Coach, Online Nutritionist, Online Dietitian, Eating Psychologist, Mind Body Nutrition Coach

10 Surprising Reasons Why Diets Don't Work

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The statistics tell us that 98% of diets fail.  This is shocking.  This means that the multi billion dollar health and dieting industry that we all turn to time and time again has an overwhelming chance of failing us.  Hear that again… you are not failing.  The diets are failing you.

So why do intelligent people continue to offer up new “solutions” for our dieting woes that are ultimately just variations of the same theme?  Every time I pick up a new diet book that claims not to be a “diet” it is still ultimately a diet.  Why do we continue to buy into this?  

The truth is, what we eat is only half the story.  The other half encompasses our life experiences.  Our past, present, and future.  Who we were and who we want to be.  It encompasses our work life, our home life, our money troubles, our relationships, our sense of inner fulfillment, our susceptibility to addiction, our inability to properly manage feelings and emotions, our negative self talk, our perceptions of ourselves, and this list goes on…  It’s not just about what you eat, it’s about what’s eating you.

So here are my top 10 reasons why we should all stop dieting and start living:

1.  When we diet we are attacking the problem where it isn’t.  

For example:  When our stress levels increase we turn to food which can lead to weight gain.  In an effort to lose the weight we resort to a destructive diet instead of addressing the actual problem… the stress.  Compare the following:

  • Get Stressed.
  • Gain some weight.
  • Cry and hate on self.
  • Go on unsustainable & restrictive diet (i.e. don’t eat all day.  enjoy boiled chicken dinner)
  • Lose weight quickly.
  • Damage fragile metabolism (body thinks you’re starving on an island somewhere).
  • Start eating again (because you’re hungry).
  • Gain weight back (because your physiology is now driving you to overeat).
  • Get scared.
  • Cry and hate on self some more.
  • Try a different diet.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.

Versus:

  • Get stressed.
  • Gain some weight.
  • Smile cause life is kind of a bitch sometimes.
  • Relax. Breathe.
  • Practice new self soothing and stress management strategies.
  • Savor something delicious. (because it helps).
  • Take up yoga.
  • Stress levels begin to return to normal.
  • Desire to overeat naturally dissipates.
  • Weight effortlessly returns to normal.
  • More smiles.

2.  When we diet we are eating against our food culture.  

We are literally salmon swimming upstream.  The food we are surrounded by is never allowed on our diet so we begin to isolate.  “No I can’t celebrate Christmas this year, I am on a diet.”  Living in isolation is not fun so eventually we give up on the diet.   

3.  Dieting sucks.  

It’s really hard.  It’s a completely miserable experience that is no way for a human to live.  As humans we are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain and no one on this planet can sustain something for very long if they find it difficult and unpleasant.  Eventually we will crack and fall head first into a pile of junk food because as humans we require pleasure. (true science.)

4.  We don’t think about what we’re going to do when the diet is over.  

If we force weight loss by using a miserable restricting diet, then what will we do once we lose the weight?  If the diet that got us there was truly awful, then once it’s over we still haven’t learned how to live a healthy life in a sustainable way. What will carry us through the rest of our lives at this goal weight?

5.  Dieting often involves “hating ourselves” into “loving ourselves.”  

This is backwards thinking.  We believe that if we hate ourselves enough (think body parts) then we will be more likely to white knuckle our way through a pleasureless diet, lose weight, and finally start loving ourselves.  This is ultimately an ineffective (and silly) approach.  I might go so far as to argue that none of us are actually after weight loss or the perfect body… we really just want to experience genuine self-love and acceptance.

6.  Dieting involves control and force.  

We as humans are naturally rebellious.  I don’t care for chocolate cake, but tell me I can’t eat it and I will start obsessing over chocolate cake.   What we try to control controls us.  What we resist persists.  

7.  Diets don’t address stress.  

If a weight loss strategy is stressful (stressful meal plans, stressful exercise routine) than it’s destined to fail.  The toxic nature of the stress itself becomes counterintuitive to all our efforts.  Consider the following:

  •    Stress increases the hormone cortisol.
  •    The presence of cortisol increases blood sugar.
  •    An increase in blood sugar releases the hormone insulin.
  •    Insulin is our fat storage hormone.

In other words, stress leads to non-caloric weight gain.  So stressing about dieting actually promotes weight gain.  So unfair.

8.  Weight problems are side effects.  

Diets fail to address this fact and instead treat weight challenges as the main issue.  But usually when people have trouble controlling their weight, it’s a side effect of something else going on in their lives.  Our weight concerns can even start serving as distractions from scary things in our lives that we are afraid to address i.e. it’s easier to focus on planning out a new diet than it is to tell our significant other we aren’t feeling heard in the relationship.  Dieting doesn’t treat the deeper life problems we face, and until we start facing them the diets simply won’t get us where we need to go.

9.  Diets disempower us.  

Following someone else’s idea of the perfect diet disengages us from our own bodies and its subtle messages.  If you’re told that this food is good and that food is bad, then you might not notice when a “good” food upsets your stomach or when a “bad” food served to nourish your soul.  Following strict diets pulls us further from being in connection with our own internal body wisdom.  We are all capable of finding an individualized dietary approach that works well for us as individuals, but diets fail to nourish and cultivate this process.

10.  Diets distract us from living the lives we’re meant to live.  

We tend to get stuck thinking that life will finally start once we find the perfect diet and lose the weight.  But diets don’t work because they keep us distracted and keep us from living out our fullest lives.  The longer we stay distracted by diets, the more our lives will continue passing us by.  Don’t keep your life and your dreams on hold any longer.  Start living your authentic life now, and you might actually reach your weight loss goals faster than you could have ever imagined.

Stephanie Scott