Written by: Erin Kukura, MS, RD
The New Year is upon us which means so is the bombardment of dieting messages. We resolve to “eat clean,” “cut out sugar,” or “lose x amount of lbs.” Only to find ourselves burnt out, frustrated and unable to “stick with it” by January 31st.
So why are diets unsuccessful time after time? The good news is that it’s NOT you. The act of dieting goes against our bodies inherent mechanism to survive a famine. You are fighting primal biology every time you embark on a new diet. Let’s look at some of the pitfalls of dieting.
Why don’t diets work:
Diets lead to weight gain over time. When dieting, our body receives the message that we are not meeting our basic energy needs. Signals are released that tell our body to do whatever it can to hold on to and conserve energy to prevent additional weight loss by lowering one’s metabolism. This is usually evident by the “weight-loss plateau.” Over time, periods of dieting and rebounding can lead to weight gain even above one’s weight prior to dieting. Thus, increasing one’s natural “set-point” or where one’s body feels most comfortable.
Dieting equals restriction. Whether you’re cutting out total calories or food groups. Even as simple as telling yourself not to have a certain food item will likely trigger a feeling of deprivation. This leads to increased thoughts about food and for most people induces primal urges to binge or overeat. Therefore, it’s not a lack of willpower that causes one to “fall off the wagon” and eat everything in sight after being on a diet.
Dieting doesn’t teach you how to eat or listen to your cues. What happens after the diet is over? We tend to eat all the foods that were once off limits and are further away from understanding what foods make us feel good and energized.
Dieting takes time and energy away from more important things in our life. You miss out on hobbies, making connections with other people, enjoying nature, and living in the present. Things that bring meaning and enjoyment to our life.
What can you do instead of dieting?
The New Year might be a great time to assess how you would like to feel (strong, energized…). But, instead of focusing on losing weight, or cutting out “x.” why don’t you focus on the things that you know will make you feel better:
Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
Move your body in a fun way at least 1x/day (walk, yoga, swim, hike, soccer, dance…)
Try a new class (aerial yoga or surfing)
Incorporate one more serving of vegetables daily.
Eat breakfast every morning.
Pack snacks so you are not hungry in class or ravenous by dinner.
Focus on the smaller more sustainable changes that will lead to long-term success and happiness.
If you’d like to get more assistance with behavior change, how to stop the dieting cycle, eating intuitively contact Erin at:
Erin Kukura, MS, RD
UCSD FitLife Dietitian
Photo Credit: License All rights reserved by anthony bargain