To support you in this journey, I am reprinting my 16 Reasons Not To Diet. Why 16? Because that’s the average dress size of American women!
And here's the list!
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 nourishment.
2) Diets have such a high failure rate that they are really a gamble with a low chance of success. If you look at the fine print of most studies on diets, they will tell you that diets have a 90-99% long-term failure rate. People lose some weight, only to find it 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
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.
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.
7) Rather than being about nourishment, food often becomes about reward and punishment for dieters.
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,
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.
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 this new diet is going to make them thin, and they’ll finally be in that tiny successful group.
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, in the world.
Big thanks to Gina at Through Thick and Thin for posting this there. This list really gets at the heart of the futility of dieting and the body hatred it inspired in me. Fighting that uphill dieting battle was causing me nothing but pain. Learning to accept myself as I am is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever tried to do, even harder than the dieting, I think. But the reward is so much greater. It takes a lot to completely turn my worldview upside down and to start swimming in the other direction. It feels strange and sometimes lonely. But I know in my heart that I’m doing the right thing for me. For all the effort I put into dieting, what did I get? A lot of feelings of failure and the opposite of what I thought I wanted (I became bigger in the long run, instead of smaller).
Though painful at first, letting go of the goal of weight loss is freeing me up to engage with myself and others in ways I haven’t before. Instead of joining in to body-shaming conversations, I try to be the voice of reason and love. The world is a hard enough place sometimes, without piling on abuse our very selves. I loved the End Fat Talk movement from last month – it was a great way to get this discussion going and to bring awareness to this problem. Now, we have to take it one step further and bravely step away from the scales that arbitrarily determine our moods and often, even our self worth. It’s time to ditch the outside voice of some random authority that makes money on perpetuating our struggle. Who gave them the right to decide what we need to eat? Are we that out of touch with ourselves that we don’t even get to decide that? I think we can do better for ourselves and I will start by reminding myself of the truth contained in this list everyday.
I know there will be some differing opinions out there – please share your perspective below. Do you think that diets work? When they don’t, do you assume it’s all your fault and that you messed up? Do you think the diet industry truly wants you to find lasting success (and quit getting your cash)? Are you willing to devote yourself to food restriction for the rest of your life? Is that really a reasonable expectation? And if not, what’s the alternative? How can we all lead happy and content lives at home in our skin without becoming obsessive? Please share your experience and any insights you’ve found that help ease the body shaming that is so rampant and excepted in society.