Dieting for the purposes of intentional weight loss can be harmful.
Dieting can lead to decreased self-esteem, irritability, anxiety, guilt, fatigue and a lack of concentration (1).
It can lead to binge eating as a result of restriction, make us totally preoccupied with food and decrease mental health (2).
It can lead to a “what’s the point?” mindset in other areas of our life such as self-care activities, sleep, exercise and managing our stress levels.
It can turn into an eating disorder (3).
It can make us feel as though we’ve completely. lost. control.
All of this pain for unlikely weight loss (4).
Even if you do lose weight while dieting, it is likely for a maximum for 6 months. And then, most weight that is lost is regained after two years (5).
The patterns of weight cycling where we lose-gain-lose-gain has been recognised as not only psychologically harmful (6), but it has also been associated with an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease (7).
So how do we break free of this cycle? One of the first things we can do is ditch dieting mentality per the evidence-based Intuitive Eating principles by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (8).
4 Top Tips to Ditch Dieting Mentality
1. Acknowledge that dieting does more harm than good. Perhaps make a list of all the things you experience on a diet. Seeing this list may help smash the cultural idea that dieting works.
2. Be mindful of dieting thoughts. The idea of “willpower”, being “good” or following rules is diet mentality. Ditch these ideas because the simple act of being told to do something can trigger a rebellious response in the name of self-preservation to protect your personal boundaries. You are the expert when it comes to knowing when, what and how much to eat. Responding to fullness and hunger cues is a powerful way to regain autonomy.
3. Ditch the bathroom scales. Body weight can fluctuate between 0.9-1.8kg per day (9) so the continual weigh in process where the number jumps about can wreak havoc on our mindset. Also, scales do not measure body composition. This device would be put to much better use to weigh your travel luggage.
4. Be kind to yourself. It is completely understandable why we get sucked into dieting mentality (society’s push of the “thin ideal” is relentless). So be gentle on yourself and don’t beat yourself up for entertaining the idea of wanting to try a diet. It can take a long time to let go of the idea dieting, but know that it can happen.
Stay tuned for more top tips about how to break up with dieting to heal your relationship with food from a place of kindness and mindfulness.
(1) Polivy, J., & Herman, C. P. (2002). If at first you don't succeed: False hopes of self-change. American Psychologist, 57(9), 677-689. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.57.9.677
(2) Bacon L, Aphramor L. Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutr J. 2011;10:9.
(3) Patton, G. C., et al. (1997). Adolescent Dieting: Healthy Weight Control or Borderline Eating Disorder? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38(3), 299-306. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01514.x
(4) NHMRC. (2013). Clinical Practice Guidelines of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, Adolescents and Children in Australia. Retrieved from https://nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/clinical-practice-guidelines-management-overweight-and-obesity
(5) Mann T, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E et al. (2007) Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Am Psychol 62, 220–233
(6) Foreyt, J., et al. (1995). Psychological correlates of weight fluctuations. International Journal Of Eating Disorders, 17(3), 263-75. doi: 10.1002/1098-108x(199504)17:3<263::aid-eat2260170307>3.0.co;2-n
(7) Montani, J.P., Viecelli, A.K., Pre ́vot, A., & Dulloo, A.G. (2006). Weight cycling during growth and beyond as a risk factor for later cardiovascular diseases: the ‘repeated overshoot’ theory. International Journal of Obesity, 30(S4), S58–S66.
(8) Evelyn Tribole, M., & Elyse Resch, M. (2012). Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works. New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin.
(9) Gingras, J. R., Harber, V., Field, C. J., & McCargar, L. J. (2000). Metabolic assessment of female chronic dieters with either normal or low resting energy expenditures. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(6), 1413-1420. doi:10.1093/ajcn/71.6.1413