Do Diets Work?
Since when did being a female mean taking a mental inventory of all of the women as you enter a party?
Identifying where you think you fall in the hierarchy; weight, age, styling…?
And how will that ‘ranking’ affect how you feel? Will you feel inferior? Hide in the corner and keep your coat on?
Will you avoid the delicious canapés as they meander through the throng? Or sneak off to devour a whole platter? Both are very real possibilities.
And neither allow you to be present – Wait, have you forgotten you’re here surrounded by your friends to enjoy an evening together?
It’s too easy for many of us women to become totally obsessed and preoccupied with food and our bodies in this way.
And when you take a moment to look at the mental dialogue in moments like these, it’s clear just how disordered your relationship with your self-worth may have become.
It’s hardly surprising and nothing to feel guilty about if this has resonated with you. After all, the appearance of your physical body is often regarded as evidence of your worth on this planet. And an inability to shrink to fit the ideal-mould can leave you carrying a heavy burden of shame. And the belief that you’re just not good enough.
No matter how incredible you really are.
The unspoken ugly side of dieting!
So, I’m asking, do diets work? I want you to question the power that diet culture currently holds over you. Even if you’re not on a ‘formal’ diet, I urge you to read on. There’s something else waiting for you – and it smells like freedom!
What Is Diet Culture?
I’ll hand over to the one and only Megan Crabbe to open up this question. Here’s a quote from her extraordinary book, Body Positive Power:
It is so deeply ingrained in us that we barely even notice it’s there, it’s just the way things are, nothing to be questioned. Diet culture is why we hate our bodies. Not because we’re hideously flawed, and not because of some unchanging truth about what it means to be beautiful, but because we have been taught to. We have been taught to hate our bodies by the culture we live in. A culture that has convinced over half of us that shrinking ourselves is a worthwhile and necessary pursuit. How diet culture has been created is simple: people realized that a lot of money can be made from teaching us that our bodies are a problem, and selling us the solution.
Well said Megan!
Just how easy do you think it is to avoid an industry estimated to be worth $245 billion worldwide by 2022? Not very!
We believe that diet culture is just the way it is.
Is Thin In?
The message that ‘thin-is-in’ is omnipresent. Not only through the endless airbrushed, heavily filtered images of extremely slim women across media. But also the inexplicable lack of other body types.
And perhaps more insidious, the language which surrounds the whole thing is incredibly triggering:
- your fat loss mission…
- earn your treat at the gym…
- clean vs dirty
- good vs naughty
- guilty indulgences
- sweat is fat crying
The suggestion is that weight loss should become your priority at any cost. It is positioned above your mental and physical health. More important than your relationships, your time, your money and any efforts to achieve your actual goals.
So do diets work? – Only in keeping you suppressed. Isolated. Paralysed. Your life’s mission has been reduced to losing fat. And you’re left unable to grab life with both hands and really enjoy it.
Do Diets Work?
It’s now normal to believe that your body is the problem. That being thin is the key to happiness and success. And that dieting is the solution.
And so you put your life on hold while you act out the rollercoaster of deprivation and shame. You try desperately to detach from your less-than-perfect body and ignore your natural biological instincts.
- Exercising to punish yourself instead of for the joy of movement.
- Not trusting your instincts and impulses and rely on external restrictions and controls.
- Seeing food as the enemy and become nervous about the choices that you might have to make.
- Accept that feeling tired, angry and resentful is part of the process to get where you want.
- Hating your body and feeling guilty for every deviation from ‘the rules’.
So, do diets work? NO! Almost all diets fail – and many result in an increase in weight, slower metabolism and stronger cravings for food. You end up heavier than before with an increased physical resistance to weight loss.
And that’s not all. In her awesome book, Just Eat It, Laura Thomas lists some even more worrying side effects of dieting:
- body and food preoccupation (basically obsessing about food and body)
- body dissatisfaction
- increased stress
- disordered eating
- eating disorders (in those who are predisposed)
- lowered self-esteem
Plus – if you’re a chronic yo-yo dieter whose weight is constantly fluctuating it gets worse:
“weight cycling is associated with higher mortality (death rate), higher risk of osteoporotic fractures and gallstone attacks, loss of muscle tissue, hypertension (high blood pressure), and chronic inflammation. Not to mention disordered eating, lower self-esteem and self-worth, and more emotional distress and emotional eating. ”
Is the unspoken ugly side of dieting surprising you yet? Or have you always known this deep down?
What If You’re Not On A REAL Diet?
This was me for the last 10 years – after I had given up ‘fad-diets’. Yup, Atkins failed, master cleanse failed, paleo failed, grapefruit failed, cabbage soup failed…
And what was left? A weird personalised set of rules that I attempted to follow…under the guise of a lifestyle change.
But here’s the thing. I was still letting my choices be controlled by good vs bad. I read tonnes of books on insulin, and clean-eating and anything else I could get my hands on. Used apps to track calories. Dabbled with macros. Weighed excessively. Fasted for days. And then binged like someone who was…well, starving.
Your own non-diet might not look like mine. So, here’s how to check if you are in dieting-denial…
- Can you fall off the wagon?
- Are there rules and restrictions?
- Do you have cheat days?
- Do you earn treats or burn them off with extra exercise?
Answer yes to any of those? Then you are still stuck in the dieting-mentality.
So, what’s the answer?
My goal with this post was to encourage you to question the power that diet culture currently holds over you.
We have asked over and over…do diets work?
And the answer has been consistantly – NO! Not to make us lose weight or feel better about ourselves in the long term.
Can you consider the idea that dieting is not the answer to all of your hopes and dreams, in the way it has been sold to you.
There is another way – and it requires an awareness of your current disordered beliefs around your body and food.
If you can find the courage to trust yourself and your own biological instincts again – perhaps for the first time in decades, then that’s a great start. Intuitive eating is a wonderful tool to help you reach this goal – and it’s something that I’ll be covering soon!
So, tell me, are you ready to quit dieting? Or does the thought still terrify you?
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If you would like extra support in healing your body image for life, check out my self-paced online course, Food & Body Freedom.
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Get my Course, “How To Set Boundaries” here.
And of course, I’m always here. Feel free to drop me a DM at anytime, I’m happy to chat.
You can find me @itslisawelsh.