Do you wonder why your diet doesn’t work? Check these 3 Reasons
Health & fitness are an important part of my life now. I am a psychotherapist and health coach. But, when I was a kid taking care of my body was the farthest thing from my mind. I was an obese kid. I remember being weighed in the 4th grade. The teacher measured our height and weight and wrote them down on a chart in the classroom that everyone could see. I was mortified every time I walked by that chart. My weight was in the triple digits and everyone else had a weight in the double digits! I spent most of my life dieting and still struggled with my weight. Even when I was at a healthy weight I still felt scared the weight would come back and obsessed about every pound and about everything I ate. Both intuition and experience have taught me that diets don’t work and here are the 3 main reasons you should avoid dieting.
Diets can destroy your metabolism and make it harder to lose weight
At 12 years old I started becoming obsessed with my weight. All I could think abo
ut was losing weight. I started working out for hours on end and severely restricted my calories. I lost weight but I quickly dropped to a dangerously unhealthy weight. I remember only wanting to look like the girls in “Seventeen” magazine.
I knew this was turning into a problem when everyone started telling me I was too skinny and I still saw an overweight girl in the mirror. I wondered, “Why can’t I see what they all see?” In my min, I still didn’t look like the girls in the magazines and I thought I had to work even harder. Although I was never officially diagnosed with anorexia, I was clearly struggling with an eating disorder.
Then something strange happened. After years of extreme dieting, I started getting fatigued, sleeping all day and I stopped working out. I didn’t feel like going anywhere and was getting depressed. I started eating normally again, but I started putting on lots of weight which made me more depressed. I went to the doctor. It was the middle of the winter and he said: “take off your coat.” I will never forget the look of shock in his eyes when I took my coat off. He said, “oh my god, you have the thyroid of an 80 year old woman!” I was 16. He immediately diagnosed me with hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid condition and I had a visible goiter, to boot. I was prescribed a medication called Synthroid and have been on it for over 30 years.
Since I didn’t have a family history of this disorder I wanted to know how I developed this condition. I started doing research and discovered that anorexia, thyroid problems, and depression are all linked. Hormones play a major role in all 3 issues. I probably destroyed my own thyroid through extreme dieting. I screwed up my hormones, which in turn, created both depression and an underactive thyroid. Recent research on contestants from the show “The Biggest Loser,” suggests that extreme dieting slows down an individual’s metabolism for several years. Also, after dieting you end up feeling extremely hungry and that is why it is so easy to gain back the weight. Every time you diet you actually have to eat less with each diet to be able to lose weight. So, the more diets you been on in your life the harder it will be to lose weight. So you end up in a vicious cycle where it becomes harder to lose weight with each diet and easier to gain the weight back.
Diets can destroy your self-image and make it harder to lose weight
I think it is significant that my crazy cycle of extree dieting started when I was a teen with a poor body image. My only goal was to look like the models in magazines. I didn’t value my body. It distorted my image of myself and my focus was on deprivation and not about getting to a healthy weight. Comparing ourselves to others sets us up to devalue ourselves and then we do things that punish, instead of nourish, ourselves. So, we end up severely depriving our bodies of nutrition and we mentally beat ourselves up because we can’t compare to the images we see in the magazines. This sets us up for failure and keeps us trapped.
I think having a negative view of our body also causes a lot of people to go on those quick fix type of diets that usually leads to yo-yo dieting. Also, exposure to thin models is related to body image distortion, as well as, eating disorders. We see the standard of beauty that exists in the media and we internalize it. When we compare those images to our own bodies it causes body dissatisfaction. You and I both know that many of those images are “photoshopped,” but we still compare our bodies to the ones we see and we undervalue our bodies. Research suggests that advertisers are basically betting on the fact that you will compare yourself to the models in the ads and when you realize you don’t measure up you will go out and buy that product so you could be more like the model! Advertisers win and we lose.
Diets suck and that makes it hard to lose weight
Let’s face it. It is not fun to be on a diet. It is all about restriction and deprivation. We eat foods we don’t like or we give up foods we love. It is a battle all the way. We feel stressed out when we are around food. We worry about whether or not we will have enough willpower to get through the day. We worry when we start eating if we will be able to stop. We feel hungry and cranky all the time. No one wants to live like that. Diets are not sustainable because you cannot live in this state of self-deprivation forever. Well, you can, but you will be one darned unhappy camper. We gravitate toward a neutral place. Our bodies and minds want to shift back into a place of comfort, a place that feels good. Food, especially comfort foods, work on the pleasure center of our brain. For some people, when we are feeling stressed and we eat we are trying to comfort ourselves and it works. Eating literally gives us pleasure and takes away the pain, because certain foods will have an effect on our serotonin levels and boost our mood. We have been eating to deal with stress. Dieting can strip us of the only mechanism we may have to cope with stress. No wonder we stop dieting. Who really wants to feel pain all the time? If you don’t have another way to cope with stress, you will just return to using food to help you get that surge of feel good mood neurotransmitters, like serontonin.
So if you want to lose weight and get healthy, stop dieting. The first step is to deal with how you cope with emotions and what is underlying your emotional eating. When you take that first step and understand your relationship with food and your emotions, you can create new ways to deal with your emotions and food becomes something that nourishes you instead of comforts you.