You did not fail, dieting failed you

Happy Friday everyone, just popping in today for a quick chat! Lets talk diet culture, it is so pervasive. 

I run into this a lot.  This sense of guilt and defeat when I talk to others about their health goals or nutrition.  Partly because we all live in this culture were the pursuit of thinness is real and aggressive.  People tell me all the time, that they know what to do to be “healthy”, but just don’t have the “willpower.” Or, they have tried “every diet in the book” and the diets “worked” but not for long, because they failed or “fell off the wagon.”  First off willpower is crap and diets are designed to fail.  Dr. Traci Mann did some great research on the myth of willpower and if you are interested it is outlined so well in her book Secrets from the Eating Lab

Clients often want guidance when it comes to eating healthy, and I get that.  People also have weight concerns, and I get that, how could you not.  We live in a culture that really expects people to be pursuing thinness, no matter their size, but especially if you live in a larger body.  

I used to give meal plans, or have clients track their intake, because they would tell me this is really what they wanted.  And the meal plans would work for a little while but then they would return, defeated and feeling guilty for not being able to “stick” to it.  These recommendations I gave were still someone else telling them what to do and how to eat, verses them following their own body cues.  Plus any type of diet or diet in disguise sets you up for not only food deprivation, but mental deprivation, that can lead to over eating.  We literally tell ourselves we are not allowed to have something and that sets us up for overeating or in some cases bingeing.  

Ever go all day eating so “carefully” that you are left ravenous when you get home from work? Then you eat five random foods, all while standing in the kitchen over the sink, and then –boom negative thoughts about yourself start.  This is deprivation at work.  This pattern I saw led me to stopped giving rigid meal plans and advice about counting or logging their intake.  I realized I was part of the problem.  Plus, you can get tons of free meal plans, all over the internet, and again they are just a diet in disguise, and they don’t work for very long.  I do understand that rejecting the diet mentality is hard, so here is some food for thought.  

You did not fail, dieting failed you

Physiologically, restricting your food doesn’t work.  I touched on what happens if I restrict from an overeating stand point and mentally, but your body also does some adjusting too.  If I limit my food, my body learns to compensate.  We are all genetically designed to be in a certain weight range; a “set point” if you will.  So how does the body adjust to maintain a set-point?  It will slow someones metabolism, it will hold on to every calorie for dear life, making it hard to be efficient machines, and it will actually make you tired so you don’t want to move your body.  This is why people typically regain weight after weight loss.  I read a great article once that said- “dieting is a predictor of weight gain.” Most weight loss studies, don’t look at long-term data, so they only see the short-term success.  Which in the short-term, yeah dieting works, but after 6 months, 1 year, nope.  Now, you may know someone who had a “success” story and lost a bunch of weight and has managed to keep it off, that is not only rare (2-5% of people rare), but usually done so at the expense of a healthy relationship with food and body.  Those who have “kept it off” usually have disordered eating tendencies and typically their whole life revolves around keeping the weight off, which is just a different way to live I guess. 

Diet culture robs us from appreciating diversity and makes us believe we need to change to be accepted. 

Also, many forget or aren’t aware, that under-eating can actually light fire to inflammation in the body, which is interesting because often I hear, oh I have x,y,z ailments, so I need to decrease inflammation in my body, so I will restrict—dairy, gluten, insert any entire food group, etc. I literally had a patient tell me once, she went to see her doctor for a broken arm and they recommended Whole30….excuse me?!  So now we are risking making more problems than we started out with, awesome. 

Bottomline, if you think you are not so great at dieting you are not alone, it is a system that is setting you up to fail.  Otherwise you wouldn’t need to keep going back for more.  The dieting industry needs your feelings of defeat to survive.  Who else would buy their cleanses, shakes, etc.  Diet culture, don’t feel dooped, we’ve all been there, just refuse to participate!

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