Whether it’s the man next door praising keto or your best friend telling you carbs make you fat – fad diets are everywhere. Sadly we live in a society where it is considered that being fat = unhealthy and dieting is considered the solution to this “problem.” Living in this diet culture world, we are led to believe that health and happiness hinges on what and how we choose to eat.
What is dieting?
Put simply dieting is where we intentionally take steps to make our bodies smaller. It could be either calorie restriction or cutting out food groups, whatever steps you take to intentionally change your body is dieting.
Why diets don’t work
Dieting and restricting foods may lead to temporary weight loss and make you feel better about yourself. However, in most cases you are left feeling unsatisfied which can lead to overeating which leaves you feeling negative emotions about your food and yourself and encourages the cycle to begin again.
This is in spite of the fact that science suggests that in the five years after weight loss 95% of people don’t keep the weight off. Instead of this being acknowledged as normal and okay, diet culture teaches us that weight regain is failure. The vicious “dieting cycle” (see below) concept summaries why diets don’t work.
Four tips to stop dieting (and be happier and healthier!)
Health and wellness mean so much more than space we take up – It’s not simple or easy – but here are four tips that may help to reject diet mentality, stop dieting and help you to feel not only happier, but healthier.
- Increase your awareness of diet culture. This messaging is ingrained and hard to ignore but the first step to overcome is to recognise. Diets are often marketed as quick fixes to all your problems, they play on emotions and align feelings of guilt and shame with the food we eat. Look out for language that links emotion to food and your body and recognise advice which advises restriction to reach goals.
- Be kind to yourself and celebrate all your wins – we would never say the things we say to ourselves to our best friends. Diet culture teaches us that any body that is not thin is abnormal and needs to be fixed. However, weight is not a good measure of beauty or of health. There is growing recognition of alternate measures of health including healthy behaviours like physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake, medical measures such as blood pressure and psychological factors such as self-esteem and positive body image – these are all valid and should be celebrated!
- Consider your past experience with diets – did they spark joy? If no, maybe it’s time to make like Marie Kondo and remove them from your life. Food is a powerful vehicle for memories, celebration and comfort. Diet culture damages this, making us feel guilt and shame for eating “bad foods” and feeling natural cues like hunger – this is not healthy.
- Seek support! It’s not easy, but you aren’t alone. There is a growing movement that recognises that health can exist at any size. When seeking new health practitioners ask about their approach and if they can support health at any size or anti-diet principles . If you are on social media, consider following people who share these values and unfollow those who make you feel like your size is wrong. Some examples of great anti-diet health professionals on social media are: