Diets don’t work! Really?

I actually skipped a step last week by starting with learning about my hunger. However, I knew it would take some time and I will continue to work on that issue while I examine the issue of diets.

Two psychologists: John Foreyt and G. Ken Goodrick first talked about a phenomenon called the “Dieter’s Dilemma”. Essentially, this is triggered when someone has a strong desire to be thin (lose weight). They go on a diet (following an eating plan that for most is only sustainable for a limited period of time). Because of the associated lists of forbidden foods and the restricted calories, people frequently give in to cravings and overeat. Over time, this often leads to weight gain and the weight is sometimes greater than the weight at which the person started. Of course, then the desire to lose weight kicks in and the cycle continues.

According to T. Mann, et al (2007), after examining data from over 30 diet studies (2-5 years in length), dieters lose most of the weight in the first 6 months (5-10%), about 66% regain more weight than initially lost within the next 4+ years, and she found that dieting was a consistent predictor of weight gain.

A study conducted by A. Keys (1944-45) followed 32 young men of excellent health and with no significant mental health issues. They were initially allowed 3492 kcal for 3 months (control period). For the next six months, they were in what was called a semi-starvation period (2 meals per day totalling about 1600 kcal, with limited food choices and exercise). The average weight loss was 25% body weight. However, the weight loss was accompanied by edema, weakness, anemia, and fatigue. During the three months following (called a re-feeding period), the participants experienced insatiable hunger. In addition, the following changes occurred: increased food preoccupation and cravings; increased depression, lethargy, and apathy; increased anxiety, irritability, and hysteria; decreased metabolism (by about 40%); decreased body temperature, respiration, and heart rate; decreased sexual interest; and decreased concentration and comprehension.

According to Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD, Fiaedp, FADA, Nutrition Therapist (2013), chronic dieting frequently leads to: decreased metabolism, increases in risk of premature death and heart disease, doubled enzymes that make and store fat, atrophy of satiety and hunger cues, changes in body shape, and can cause headaches, menstrual irregularities, fatigue, dry skin, and hair loss. Emotional and psychological effects of dieting can include increased stress and social anxiety, decreased self-esteem, erosion of confidence and self-trust, and increased risk of eating disorder.

If you are like me, the arguments are pretty convincing. And they lead to the first step of Intuitive Eating (Tribole & Resch) – reject the diet mentality. This is described as purging your life of influences that lead to false hope related to quick, easy, and/or permanent weight loss. Recognize the lies that these influences tell you and the resultant feelings of failure when they did not work.

What did this look like for me? Well, I had been collecting all sorts of fitness magazines, you know the ones. But not only did I have those, I had the weight-lifting, bodybuilding magazines too. I got rid of them all. I kept a couple of issues that have some workouts I like, the rest – GONE! I took down the nutrition lists, the measurement tables, and other diet related propaganda in my home office. The Weight Watchers list of “0 points foods” – ripped up and in the trash.

Was it hard? Hell yes! Does Chatty Kathy still get in my ear and try to convince me that I can’t eat something or ‘shouldn’t’ eat something? Absolutely. Am I still tempted to read labels and pick the lowest calorie version rather than the one I really want? Yep. Have I found myself bingeing, craving, or eating more than intended? Nope, in fact it appears that I am eating less. Will I give up on this process and the healthy lifestyle it brings? Not a chance!

~~~For more info on Intuitive Eating, see the link on my Resources page.

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