Ever try to lose weight by going on a diet? According to a recent Harris Poll/HealthDay survey, nearly 2 out of 3 American adults are cutting back on calories, or removing certain foods completely from their diet. The desire to change body appearance through dieting is a battle that Americans have been fighting for years; and with two-thirds of adults in the United States overweight or obese, dieting is clearly not working. But how can a $71 billion dollar diet industry, and subsequent culture, not have more weight loss results? Because diets don’t actually work and the idea that you have to be thinner in order to feel good about your body is false! Sometimes, people have to lose weight due to health concerns. In these instances, Instead of jumping on the latest diet bandwagon, there are other things you can do to set yourself up for weight loss success instead of failure. For others, it’s time to jump off the weight loss wagon completely and focus on your overall wellbeing.
Why Do Diets Fail?
Instead of asking yourself the question, “why do I fail at dieting?” try asking, “why do diets fail me?”. There is more than one answer:
Diets are based on deprivation: The human body is not designed to handle any type of food deprivation positively. It thinks there is a famine. This is why hunger and cravings can become unbearable while on a diet. To deny your own hunger and cravings for months on end is not only unhealthy, it’s unrealistic for the long term.
Diets are designed to be temporary: You go on a diet to lose a certain amount of weight and once that weight is off … now what? There’s often no long term, sustainable planning that goes into a diet.
Diets don't fit into normal life: Weighing, measuring, counting calories, and keeping a food journal may help you lose weight initially, but aren't practical or healthy for the long term. It’s hard on your mental health and wellbeing to constantly be thinking about food- and your lack of it.
Diets can be expensive: Buying special foods and supplements can be painful to your wallet.
Diets can actually lower your metabolism: When you drastically cut back on calories, your metabolism tends to slow down to conserve energy. So you end up burning less calories throughout the day, making it difficult to lose weight.
Diets are tough, harmful, and on top of everything else- they don’t work! This is why it’s not only important to ditch the diet mentality, but also consider why you’re trying to lose weight in the first place. Is it necessary to improve your quality of life? Is your weight truly affecting your physical health? Or, are you succumbing to the false messages you hear and see in the media about how thinner and “fitter” are better? Whether you’re trying to lose weight, or just want to improve your wellbeing, below is a list of things to do instead of depriving and restricting yourself.
What to do Instead of Going on a Diet
If you want to lose weight, but deprivation and restriction diets are doomed to fail, what else can be done? It turns out, quite a bit:
Practice slowing down and eating mindfully: If you’re a fast eater, it can be difficult for your brain to signal to your stomach that you’re done before it’s too late and you're uncomfortably stuffed. As often as you can, slow each bite down and take time to enjoy your food. This allows your brain to catch up to your stomach and you might just decrease your portion sizes without deprivation.
Eat plenty of protein: Contrary to popular diet culture, eating more might actually help you feel full longer, specifically eating more protein. This is because protein can increase feelings of fullness, reduce hunger and help you eat fewer calories thanks to its effects on several of your body’s hormones.
Focus on exercise that is enjoyable: Regardless of weight loss goals, exercise is an important part of your overall wellness. In order to make it a regular, realistic activity in your life, you have to find exercise activities that you enjoy. By engaging in activities that you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick with them.
Get enough good quality sleep: How much shuteye you get can affect everything from how hungry you are to how well your metabolism functions. Ideally, adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep daily. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, make sure you’re following a consistent bedtime routine, not eating right before bed, and getting out of bed around the same time each morning. If all of these factors are in check, it’s probably time to talk to your doctor about potential sleep issues.
Manage your stress: Chronic stress affects your cortisol and adrenaline levels. These hormones signal to your body to hold onto fat, especially around your middle. It’s impossible to remove all stress from your life, so find ways to reduce it as much as you realistically can.
Practice self-compassion: The diet industry and the culture it has created has us believing that we should be as perfectly unblemished, thin, and fit as the models they so carefully airbrush. The reality is, our bodies were created to be beautifully different. Practice embracing who and where you are right now in life, instead of shunning and shaming yourself for not looking like the images you see portrayed through the media.
The diet industry has created a culture that prioritizes body appearance over mental and physical health and wellbeing. This is why it’s important to focus less on your appearance and more about your overall wellness. Outside of the diet industry and culture, weight loss isn’t always a negative experience and can be a healthy option for some. This is why it’s important to talk with your doctor to decide what, if any, weight loss is necessary. Remember, you want to play the sustainable, healthy game of life and practicing restriction/deprivation is anything but healthy. Before you try another diet, consider some of the options above!