Dieting doesn’t work. And if there’s one goal I have as a dietitian, it’s to get the word out. To everyone, everywhere. I can be very preachy and quite stubborn when I need to be, so watch out. I’m gonna beat, beat, beat this drum.
We like to think of diets as a race along a straight line. We begin at the starting line at our current weight. The weight that we’ve decided we must change. We envision jumping across that start line on day one of the diet and steadily running the course, the pounds melting away day by day. We cross the finish line weeks or maybe a few months later at our goal weight. You know, the one we arbitrarily picked because it seemed liked the perfect amount of pounds that would maximize happiness while keeping a little booty for those cute skinny jeans? After crossing the finish line, the race is over and we move on with our life, perpetually staying at our perfect new weight. The things is, diets don’t go in straight lines at all. They don’t even zig zag or squiggle. Diets are more like circles that we spin around on over and over again. They’re like never ending Merry-go-rounds rides that are cute and fun at first but the weird pink unicorn and creepy circus music turn really freaky really fast. The circle has stages and they go like this:
Stage 1: You notice that superskinny mom in the pick-up line after school. You know, the one who wears the fitted running pants that she actually works out in, not the yoga pants you prefer because they make you look like you’ve been working out and have a fold over stretchy waste at the same time? Usually this is your chance to make up snarky comments in your head about her scrawny little thighs but you are feeling extra inspired today. Maybe it was the extra shot of espresso at Starbucks, but instead of feeling frustrated by supermom’s super tight pants, you feel motivated to be superskinny too.
Stage 2: With some help from your super health conscious friends, you come up with a plan that involves things like starvation, only eating things that are disgusting (so that you don’t eat as much), doing sit-ups every time you go to the bathroom (even in the middle of the night) and “detoxing” with green smoothies every morning.
Stage 4: But then, one Wednesday evening, you finally get the kids down without any help because your husband has to work late (again!). You’re starving (the bean sprouts and cauliflower didn’t quite cut it for dinner) and mentally exhausted. You decide you deserve a little spoonful of Ben and Jerry’s (just this once) and before you know it, you’ve watched 3 straight episodes of Fixer Upper and polished off the entire carton because seriously, why can’t you be as cute and nice to your husband as Joanna is to hers?! And how come houses are so ridiculously cheap in Waco anyways?! And why can’t your husband remodel an old barn for you to run a cute little shop out of?!
Stage 5: Over the next couple of weeks, guilt and starvation take over. You figure that you’ve already blown it, so a Double Cheeseburger meal can’t hurt. And then you’re so hungry after weeks of deprivation that you impulsively supersize it. And, before long, you find that you’ve gained back the weight that you worked so hard to lose.
Stage 6: You continue on with life, unhappy with your weight, but happy about getting to actually eat until the next moment of inspiration hits—and it starts all over again.
Friends, we need to jump of the scary diet merry-go-round. Because with each spin around the diet cycle, you don’t start back quite at the same place. You start the next go with a higher body weight, a slower metabolism, a body that holds onto fat with more gusto and much more emotional baggage.
But if I shouldn’t diet, what should I do?
I’m glad you asked. There are better ways. Ways that wont get you stuck in a never ending cycle. Ways that are gentle and kind to your body. Start by familiarizing yourself with the idea of Intuitive Eating, or, better yet, come to my class starting in October. And please talk to me before you start that next diet.