Why Diets Don’t Work

January 5, 2023

One word typically comes to mind when we hear the word “Diet” and that is “Restriction.”

Meaning, we would say things like “I can’t eat that on my diet” or “I don’t get to have any of XYZ on my diet.” Whether you are referencing pasta, a mocha latte or even a slice of pizza, restriction can cause a lot of harm even in a short period of time. That harm can be mental, emotional or physical (or even all three)!

Diet mentality is harmful because perfectionism is often too much of an emphasis, especially in women. At Feed Your Soul, we are always telling clients in our Soul Fit Nutrition programs, “It is not about perfection, it is always about progress.” Most of the time, when we get into restrictive mentality or perfection mentality, one small hiccup can send us spiraling.

Let’s say your latest diet stint has you cutting back on sugar but you have a bad day at work and that stress causes you to eat a brownie from the tray your coworker brought in. Most dieting women will enter into guilt and shame cycles here along with the notion of having to behave even more extreme the next day in order to “make up for it.” Those guilt and shame cycles are exhausting emotionally and tear down confidence in nutrition. They also create a more negative relationship with food. All of this compounded can push us into “All or Nothing Mentality,” an intense yo-yo cycle that can last for years.

The hiccup of the brownie can also easily create the ability to choose to open the floodgates for junk food, alcohol and sugar. Have you ever said, “Well, I ate the brownie, may as well eat the pasta for dinner and drink some wine?”

And the cycle goes on and on and on…

Diet Culture and How it’s Harming Your Health & Wellness Journey

You can’t scroll through your social media feed, grab a magazine or watch TV without dieting hitting you in the face. Society has been dieting for more than 150 years and there is no end in sight.

When you can truly tap into what an authentic definition of what Health & Wellness means to you as well as what your “Why” is, that is when it becomes more of a lifestyle opportunity versus the dreaded obligation of a diet. Your “Why” is rooted within things like being a better role model for other family members, getting off prescription drugs, or being able to travel in an airplane more comfortably.

Health & Wellness can mean you choose to nourish your body with foods from the earth because you feel better eating that way or getting daily exercise because it helps reduce daily anxiety and stresses. The ‘Lifestyle’ and the ‘Why’ keep you engaged in your life long journey and make more of an impact long term versus watching the scale go up and down. (By the way, our weight fluctuates 3-5lbs a day, so there is that too!)

Diet culture also has us constantly chasing down what our bestie is doing or what diet our neighbor did. Just because your best friend tried Keto and lost 20lbs does not mean it will produce the same results for you. It also could be more harmful for your health as Keto is very restrictive with only 20-25grams of Carbs a day. Be cautious of reading or hearing what others are doing and applying that same realm to your life.

What about all the doctored images out there of women with bodies that are not realistic (because they are not real)? That is certainly not helping the diet obsessed culture we have. You may want to filter your social media to see less of those images because they can be doing more subliminal harm than you think. Instead, you can follow people who have a body positive focus with an emphasis on physical strength. I personally love watching documentaries of people who do epic adventures like climbing Mount Everest or Big Wave surfing. That is more inspiring!

Rewiring Your Brain Around “Dieting”

The emotional and physical toll of dieting is exhausting so it’s my mission to help women rewire their brains and how they speak their goals.

For example, I hear weekly from prospective clients, “I want to lose 15lbs so I am dieting. I have removed sugar, pasta, bread and am not drinking alcohol.” Imagine replacing this type of sentence with, “I am working on living a healthier lifestyle so I am choosing to reduce sugar, limit my alcohol and eat healthier versions of carbs.” Big difference in feeling less restricted and more balanced.

One of the other main negatives about “diet culture” is that it’s always wrapped around “losing X pounds on the scale.” Living a healthy lifestyle is so much more than the number on the scale. This is why we are always chatting with our clients about their non-scale victories. This is why we also take progress pictures and why we take body measurements. Focusing on the number on the scale as an indicator of your success or failure of a diet will always lead you to running in circles and feeling frustrated.

See if you can change your verbiage from, “I want to lose weight” to instead, “I want to change my body composition” or “I want to improve my health” or even “I want to get stronger.” After all, if you have excess fat on your body, your focus is to lose fat and gain muscle. And sometimes when we lose fat, then gain muscle, the scale stays the same, but our body composition looks way different.

Solutions Outside of Dieting

If you are overweight and need to lose weight, make sure you are eating enough! I can’t tell you how many women come to us expressing they have been on diets where they only eat 1000-1200 calories and now are stuck and can’t lose anymore weight. I know it sounds counter intuitive but ensuring you are eating enough will help you lose weight! Keep in mind, nutrition experts will encourage you to eat enough, but it is intended you eat more clean, whole foods and less junk or processed foods. That alone is a big difference in health!

Knowing more about your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) as well as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) will ensure you are eating enough calorically to ensure you can be the human you need to be. Whether you exercise regularly or if you have a laborious job, you need to ensure you are fueling your body. Under eating is just as unhelpful as overeating. 

Some apps out there will give you calorie goals and even some will give you some macronutrient goals for Protein, Carbs and Fats. The issue with these apps is that they are AI (Artificial Intelligence) based; meaning it’s a robot and you are human.

It only asks your age, height, weight and how much weight you want to lose in a week. How is that enough information to help you long term?

The apps also do not take into account what your starting point is, so those goals can feel very challenging to hit. Being mindful of calories alone can get you to one point, but ensuring your macros are correct is the most efficient and healthful way to improved body composition.

More importantly, these apps are not going to educate you or teach you more about healthy eating, emotional eating, meal prep, habit making/breaking etc. All of those things need to be folded into the mix for long term sustainability.

They also will not know when to modify your calories, protein, carbs or fats allotment. Those allotments can shift depending if you are in a fat loss phase or a maintenance phase. That is why working with a human coach that better understand your typical lifestyle is most beneficial. It matters if you live a sedentary life. It matters if you travel out of state every month for your job. It makes a difference when you are a single person versus a person with a big family living together.

In our nutrition coaching programs, our coaches not only break down your specific calories and get your accurate macros, but we fold in your starting point as well as consider your lifestyle variables. 

What’s great about how we coach our clients to nourish, is we teach them how to fold in the occasional brownie or glass of wine. Life is not life without an ice cream cone or Taco Tuesday and a margarita, right?!

To make your healthy way of eating more sustainable, it’s important to know what some of your treats will be and make a plan to have them on occasion. We all know that eating these foods frequently is not healthy. But never eating them is unsustainable. I know I look forward to my date nights with my husband when I eat a piece of lasagne and have a glass of wine or when we order a pizza in and have a beer! 

If you feel you are done with the vicious cycles of dieting and want a once and for all solution to a healthier lifestyle, get in touch with us about our Soul Fit Nutrition Programs. Whether we teach you about macros, guide you through intuitive eating or help you learn a lifestyle way of eating (becoming gluten or dairy free), we can help!

I admit that once upon a time I bought into so much of diet culture. I bought Slim Fast Shakes. I starved myself. I did endless hours of cardio. I’ve been there. My coaches understand these things too and have lived some of it themselves as well. So when you choose to work with us, you’re getting a coach that knows what it’s like and has compassion for your situation.

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