I am a holistic nutritionist, and I HATE diets.
Okay, I realize hate is a strong word, and that there is something to be learned from all life experiences, so let me phrase this another way:
I am a holistic nutritionist, and I do not believe that a diet is ever going to get you the long-term weight loss and HEALTH that you desire.
But let’s back up for a second – first off, what do I mean when I say “diet?” The definition of the word I am using in the context of this article is:
“A special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.”
Diets are a multi billion-dollar industry, and right away that should tip you off that they are not something you are going to want to take part in. When there is that much of a financial interest you can be sure that truth is being diluted, stretched and down right ignored to help support the bottom line of those involved.
Here are my top five reasons for never recommending a ‘diet’ to any of my clients, and what I suggest you do instead of dieting.
Reason Diets Suck #1: They Are Designed To Trick You
The diet industry is very clever. They snafu you into thinking that they have found the magical cure for ending the battle of the bulge. They sell you shiny ideas in shiny books and shiny pills in shiny bottles – telling you what they know you want to hear. The reason that they are doing this is not to help you improve your health – they are simply trying to improve the size of their collective bank accounts.
Reason Diets Suck #2: They Are Designed To Fail
The truth about diets is that they are built to be unsustainable. If the diet industry actually came out with something that really worked, they would put themselves out of business! Remember again, the diet industry is a business – and businesses must continue to make money. In the case of diets the magic formula is creating something that works for a short period of time – so that people have a reason to believe it will work and therefore have a reason to pay money for whatever is being offered – and then to fail so that you have to keep coming back and paying for the next best thing.
Reasons Diets Suck #3: They Are Built On Restriction
The whole idea of restriction sets you up for a long-term battle with food. Understand that when we were wandering the globe in our hunter gatherer days, we had times of feast – when we stumbled upon a mango grove and consumed them to our hearts content – and then times of famine – when the mangos ran dry and we had to pack up and wander some more to find the next source of food. Due to this feast/famine cycle, our bodies developed the ability to store calories in our fat cells during times of feast, for later use when there was a famine. In our world today most of us do not experience literal famines. This was an amazing life preserving system back then, but now when you go on a diet and you begin to restrict either your caloric intake (think Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig), your intake of a particular macronutrient group (think Atkins) or a combination of these (think South Beach or The Zone) your body is going to act and react as though you are in a famine. This is why you can stick to your plan for a week or two, and then all of a sudden your cravings for the highest calorie, highest fat ‘no-no’ foods kicks in to the point where you can’t fight it. That is your body’s natural urge to find food that would have kept you walking and searching back in our primitive days. Without that drive our species would have died out. Now, we really don’t need that overwhelming drive to eat because so many of us have an abundance of food. You are not crazy when you feel like you lose control over your appetite after dieting for a few weeks – it is your biology.
Reason Diets Suck #4: They Mess With Your Metabolism
All of that restriction does a number on your metabolic function. Again remember that these metabolic processes were set in place during a time where reality very different than it is today. Back when we were globetrotters, is was incredibly useful for our bodies to burn up muscle cells during times of famine, because it is much more calorically expensive for your body to maintain a cell of muscle than it is to maintain a cell of fat. It made sense for the body to stop sending nutrients to nourish our hair, skin and nails back then because those functions were not integral to our survival. It even made sense for reproductive activity to be shut down because again when we did not have enough food to sustain our own bodies, creating new life didn’t make much sense. Now when you go on a diet and your body senses this famine, the same metabolic adjustments are going to take place. You will lose muscle cells and non-essential functions of your body will be dialed down. This means when your drive to eat steers you directly to the carton of ice cream you are likely to regain all the weight you lost PLUS some, because now your metabolism has slowed in an effort to preserve your life. The more times you repeat this cycle, the heavier you are bound to become.
Reasons Diets Suck #5: They Skew Your Sense of Body Image And Self Image
Finally, dieting is going to mess with what you see when you look in the mirror. It is going to skew the way you view your body and the bodies of everyone around you. We are bombarded with images of what the ‘perfect’ body should look like on a daily basis through the media, and the fact is once you start participating in it, the drive to improve every last inch of yourself is only going to increase. The more you buy into what they are selling you, the more you are going to find that which is wrong with your appearance. You may even start to tie your self-worth into what you look like – which will further fuel the dieting fire.
As you can see, diets are simply designed to be a vicious cycle that keeps you trapped. They do not lead to health –on a physical or mental level.
So what do you do instead? Here are my top five tips for ending dieting and starting to get healthy:
Refuse to Label Foods as “Good” or “Bad”
Food is food. Some foods make you feel good when you eat them; others make you feel less than optimal. Start to view food as being neutral in and of itself – and then decide how you wish to feel in your body. From there simply make a food CHOICE based on that desired feeling. It is very confusing for your brain to categorize something that you need to survive, like food, as being a ‘bad’ thing. This is why you feel guilt when you eat a food you have deemed as bad. In order for your brain to make sense of it, it has to decide that YOU are bad if you eat a ‘bad’ food. The labels mess with your view of yourself and your relationship with food. Decide not to do it.
Add Mindfulness To Your Meals:
Instead of trying to adhere to a specific set of dietary rules, simply take a moment to notice how you are feeing physically before you eat a meal, half way through your meal, and after your meal. The more you take the time to tune in with your own body, the more you will become consciously aware of what is working for you and what isn’t. From there you can start making educated choices that come from within, rather than looking outside of yourself for your answers.
Add Before You Subtract:
My last tip is to always focus on adding more fresh, vibrant, whole foods that you know make you feel good into your diet before you try to start cutting things out of your diet. This will help switch you into an abundant mindset instead of a restriction mindset, which is going to make your brain and your body feel much safer and happier. This approach means you will be starting to fuel your body with the foods it was designed to run on. You are going to feel more and more satisfied with these foods and you will be having fun experimenting with new recipes and new foods along the way. Then, by the time you are ready to let go of some less optimal foods it won’t feel like restriction, and you will have many things to replace those foods with.
Are you ready to let go of dieting? Do you feel otherwise? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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