by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C.
We are constantly bombarded with dieting program ad campaigns and magazines that tout the achievements of people who have lost weight. We’re constantly told that if we’re not vigilant, if we don’t keep up the struggle, if we don’t measure and write down everything we eat and pay for packaged, calorie counted food then our bodies will fall apart and we’ll gain 100′s of pounds and no one will ever love us etc. etc. etc.
About a year ago, I developed this list to support my clients in finally getting off the dieting rollercoaster. (I posted it back in May, but I find it so helpful that I’m reposting it today.)
Refer to this list often. Refer to this list whenever your friend calls you up and tells you about another diet that’s working for her. Refer to this list whenever another Weight Watchers mailer arrives in your mailbox and has you believing that this time, it might work for you. Refer to this list if intuitive eating appeals to you but doesn’t quite make sense yet. Forward this list to every unhappy dieter that you know (just be sure to credit me and/or this blog).
16 Reasons Not To Diet
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 properly nourished.
2) Diets have such a high failure rate that they really are a gamble with a low chance of success. Why not just play Keno? If you look at the fine print of most studies on diets, they will tell you that, despite potential immediate success in limited numbers, diets have a 90-99% long-term failure rate. People lose some weight, only to find their weight creep back up, often surpassing their initial, pre-diet weight. Even the “successful” dieters often don’t keep all of their weight off.
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. This is a particular problem given item #2, if most dieters regain the weight they lose, they spend much of their lives feeling bad about themselves.
6) The diet system reinforces 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. This out of control feeling reinforces low self esteem and makes dieters feel out of control in other areas of their lives.
7) Rather than being about nourishment, food often becomes about reward and punishment for dieters. They let themselves have a “treat” because they’ve been “good” on their diets and deprive themselves when they’ve been “bad.” Food is a necessary part of life. When food is about reward and punishment, we override our internal cues about what our bodies actually need.
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). Who knows how many great ideas, inventions, beautiful relationship etc. the world is missing out on because so many of us are so obsessed with dieting.
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. But really, body and mind are connected, and this false conflict creates a great deal of unhappiness.
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. Thus, it’s no wonder that dieters often crave forbidden foods even more once they are forbidden, and then hate themselves for eating those foods (maybe because they’re made to feel as though they’ve caused all of humanity to become sinners).
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 some new diet is going to make them thin, and they’ll finally be in that tiny successful group. This creates a great deal of disappointment for dieters who are constantly trying to achieve something that is nearly impossible.
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, special shakes and diet pills!
13) For some people, diets are like Band-aids on deep scars. For people who really overeat and eat unconsciously, they often eat to numb their feelings and consciousness. 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, and in the world.
What would you add to this list?
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