Why is it so hard for people to understand that diets don’t work?

I am studying for certification as an Intuitive Eating counselor. Of course this means that I need to make sure that I am even more in tune with my eating and my body. I cannot expect to help others if I have not healed my own issues. One of the things that I and many others struggle with is the idea that diets work. Of course we know that they lead to weight loss, at least some do, sometimes. But we also know that many people not only regain the weight they lost but gain additional weight leaving them heavier than when they started the diet. Others will say that we all need to make lifelong changes in our eating. No more sugar. No more carbs. Low fat. No gluten. The list goes on and on. And then there is the argument that we can eat whatever we want as long as we exercise it off – burn the calories we consume. Ugh.

No matter which way you go with this, it requires sacrifice, deprivation, and/or excessive exercising. None of this is living or liveable for the long term. What does the child want to do when his mother tells him not to do something? I know what I did when I was 2 or 3 and my grandma told me not to touch the razor blade. I picked it up and cut myself. I still have the scar more than 50 years later. When someone (even when that someone is us) tells us we cannot have something – chips, cake, potatoes, a hamburger, pasta, etc. – we want it even more. This want can turn into a sort of obsession that can actually lead to a binge. What about exercise? When we are exercising solely to burn off calories, we are not having fun. Why would anyone continue this form of self-punishment over the long term?

Where does hunger and satiety come into play? How about having fun?

I have tried all sorts of diets – Weight Watchers, South Beach, Grapefruit, something where I had to drink apple cider vinegar before meals (YUK!), diet pills, deprivation… I have also spent up to two hours per day in the gym working as hard as I could. I ran and convinced myself I liked it even though it made my knees and left heel hurt and I would limp whenever I got out of bed or up from a chair.

And then, when these don’t work and we gain weight, we tell ourselves we are flawed, weak, not determined. We see ourselves as failures. We speak to ourselves in ways that we would never speak to others. We shame ourselves for our big thighs, flabby arms, belly.

Does this make anyone happy? Is this healthy? What are we all chasing? What are we all so afraid of?

Diets will not change our lives. Thin does not bring happiness and does not guarantee health (remember long-time reader, I was diagnosed with an aneurysm when I was the picture of health – great weight, weight lifting, working out 2 hours per day/5 days per week).

Move. Laugh. Have fun. Eat what your body wants and what makes you feel good. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied and comfortably full. Why not listen to our bodies? Be intuitive.

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