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Why Dieting Is A Bad Idea

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on July 17, 2008

Before we get started on the road to body love, I must break open some of the assumptions that most of us work with but don’t even acknowledge.

Our society is in love with diets. We are diet crazy! Have a big event coming up? Go on a 7 day cabbage diet! Need long term weight loss? Try weight watchers! It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle, because you don’t have to count calories anymore! You can count points! Wow!

I’ve got news for ya. If it’s a “system” or “plan” that tells you what to eat. IT’S A DIET.

So what’s wrong with diets? A lot. So many things, in fact, that I’ve made a list of 16 reasons why diets are a bad idea. (That’s 16 reasons for size 16, the average size of the American woman.)

1) Many diets support the use of non-nutritional, highly chemicalized foods like fake fats and fake sugars. These chemicalized foods negatively affect body chemistry, cause low level undernourishment, and often encourage overeating when the dieter gets the signal that s/he is not getting nourishment.

2) Diets have such a high failure rate that they are really a gamble with a low risk of success. If you look at the fine print of most studies on diets, they will tell you that diets have a 90-99% long term failure rate. People lose some weight, only to find it creep back up, often surpassing their initial, pre-diet weight. Even the “successful” dieters often don’t keep all of their weight off. (For more info on this, check out my resources page.)

3) Dieting gives dieters the message that they cannot trust their internal sense of what nourishes them. This distrust of internal signals affects other aspects of a dieter’s life, where they seek external approval and control of their non-food related actions.

4) The diet industry has a deep interest in the failure of dieters — if everyone got skinny, they’d go out of business.

5) Dieters’ self esteem is often tied to their weight — they feel good about themselves when they’re losing weight and bad about themselves when they’re gaining weight.

6) Diet system reinforce low self esteem in dieters by making them feel like they have no “willpower” when they have diet lapses. In actuality, diets encourage people to ignore their internal will in exchange for the perceived will of the diet industry.

7) Rather than being about nourishment, food often becomes about reward and punishment for dieters.

8) Diets cause dieters (who are often women) to revolve their lives around food rather than other things that may really matter to them (relationships, careers, social issues).

9) Diets cause a lot of body hatred, particularly when the dieter isn’t losing weight. Dieters tend to see their bodies as wrong and problematic when they’re not seeing the “results” they want.

10) Diets often categorize foods as good/okay vs. bad/forbidden. Just like our culture’s genesis story revolves around a woman eating a forbidden food (the apple), it’s human nature to want what’s forbidden. So it’s no wonder that dieters often crave forbidden foods even more once they are forbidden, and then hate themselves for eating those foods.

11) Diets encourage what I like to call “lottery thinking”–most dieters know that diets haven’t really worked for them nor most of the people they know, yet they think that this new diet is going to make them thin and they’ll finally be in that tiny successful group.

12) Most diet programs are expensive. I cringe when I think about the money that I and my friends and family have spent over the years on weight watchers and special shakes and diet pills!

13) For some people, diets are like a bandaid on a deep scar. For people who really overeat and eat unconsciously, they often eat to numb their feelings and go unconscious. Their issue is not really “portion control”. In fact, they often are too controlling of themselves and their emotions.

14) Diets assume that all fat people eat too much. They don’t account for the fact that people come in all shapes and sizes, and that a person’s weight is not an indicator of overall health.

15) The weight loss/gain cycle created by dieting is more stressful on the body than just being plain, old fat.

16) Diets work on a scarcity principle. Diets make dieters focus on lack, tell them they can only have “this much and no more” and that to want more is a bad thing. Because dieting is so all encompassing, this scarcity principle often filters into other aspects of dieters’ lives. They begin to see lack and scarcity in their relationships, in their jobs, in the world.

I promise that this list is the most dire thing you’ll read in this blog. But I just had to bust open your assumptions so that we could move forward toward the radical self love that I want for every client and reader.

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