Wouldn't you agree that most people start dieting because they want to lose weight? However, research states that 95%-98% (depending on the study) of people who diet actually gain the same amount of weight back or more within 1-5 years. That seems shocking doesn’t it? So that diet you’re on won’t maintain weight loss for longer than about 3 years on average. A team of UCLA researchers reviewed 31 long term studies on the effectiveness of dieting and concluded that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain—up to two-thirds of the people re-gained more weight than they lost (Mann 2007).
The process of dieting itself, (independent of genetics), increases your body’s likelihood to gain weight. Scientists call this “dieting-induced weight-gain” and it may be a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic that we have in this country.
In fact, a 6 year follow up study of Biggest Loser contestants, showed that compared to their baseline, their metabolisms were suppressed by an average of 500 calories, guess what happened. Kevin Hall, a senior author at the National Institute for Health, said ‘Metabolism acts like a spring; the more effort you exert to lose weight, the more it stretches out, and the harder it will spring back, regaining and holding onto the fat that was lost.’ So basically, the more you diet, the harder your body is going to fight you in that and retain or regain the fat.
Another study focused on overweight patients with type 2 diabetes. In this study, overweight patients with type 2 diabetes, were placed on weight loss diets and supervised over 6 years by physicians. A control group of similar patients received no treatment. Researchers were stunned to discover that the dieters had a worse prognosis than the control group who had maintained their overweight status. -Intuitive eating workbook
I think you can see by these statistics and research that dieting not only doesn’t maintain weight loss but it actually hurts your psychological and physical health and well being.
Another reason why diets have been proven not to be effective is that they’re often not sustainable long term. If you can’t do it forever, why start? The diet industry is a $33 billion/year industry...if we all had the secret to weight loss would there need to be a multi-billion dollar industry for it? People make money off of them not working. Weight Watchers makes the bulk of their profits from people continually renewing. Diets also don’t create sustainable change. They’re meant to be temporary which means their results will be temporary. Of course what we eat is important, but changing the type and amount of food we eat alone, doesn’t necessarily create long lasting change because it doesn’t touch on our deep rooted beliefs, patterns, and behaviors that shape our relationship with eating habits in the first place.
We need to explore why we eat and how we eat, instead of just following a diet plan that someone else sets up for us.
So what are we to do? If you have a health concern or you want to focus on starting a healthy living journey, what do you do if diets don’t work long term? I personally encourage intuitive eating. Intuitive eating can actually aid in finding our bodies’ natural set point and developing a nourishing and healthy relationship with food.
Intuitive eating is a way of eating that integrates your mind and body knowledge so you can start honoring your health by paying attention to the messages from your body and meeting your physical and emotional needs. This is a personal journey that puts you front and center, and makes you the expert of your own body. After all, only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. No special diet plan or nutritionist can know your hunger level, fullness cues, or what foods will satisfy you in the moment.
Trust is the main point. It’s by developing trust in your body’s inner cues regarding hunger and fullness that you can begin to make great choices around eating. You can distinguish between physical and emotional hungers and over time you’ll see that you can eat in a way that allows you to find your natural weight and health. Good health and natural weight doesn’t require diets, calorie restriction, and extreme exercise. It’s actually the opposite! The simple act of listening to your body, trusting its wisdom and honoring its needs can lead to weight loss, improved energy and a better experience of life. Some of the benefits of intuitive eating are a healthier relationship with food and exercise, freeing yourself from chronic dieting forever.
I believe strongly that no one knows more about you than YOU. So as you consider all the information out there regarding food and health, take a step back and look inside. You have so much of the information you need within your own body. Your job is simply to practice listening.