Are you planning to diet this year?
The pull of diets to lose weight is so strong in January, as most people look to improve their health.
But, here’s why this dietitian believes you may want to skip dieting this year.
Is weight loss on your to-do list this year? If it is, I want you to know that I hear you and I really understand you.
Yes, I’m a non-diet dietitian. But, that doesn’t mean that I blame anyone for wanting to lose weight. In fact, wanting to lose weight is our brain’s way of protecting us!
You see, the human species was originally built on being with a pack. In caveman times, not fitting in meant certain death. Things aren’t as dire in the modern world, but the desire to fit in is still hard-wired in our brains. And, in a society that praises thinness, fitting in often involves weight loss.
But, what if it wasn’t as simple as the common narrative which tells us that weight is the determinant of health?
For most people, it’s best to acknowledge that there are two truths occurring simultaneously:
1. You want to lose weight.
And you don’t feel like you’re asking too much with your goals.
You’ve been on enough diets to know that your body wasn’t meant to be at that weight where you were always hungry, dreaming about food, and not missing a day at the gym.
You don’t need to fit into your prom dress, either! But, you want to lose enough weight to feel good and stop worrying about your family history of diabetes.
2. You are so tired of dieting.
- You just can’t stand how you start each day (or week) vowing to be “good,” only to find yourself overeating your “bad” foods by the end of the day.
- You live in fear of sugar and carbs. You feel so deprived ALL THE TIME.
- You spend hours a day with a dialogue running through your head about what you should and shouldn’t eat.
- You can’t even enjoy going out with friends because you’re either stressed doing the math of your splurge or sipping on seltzer water while everyone else eats and drinks.
So, you feel stuck! What should you do?
Your life experience has taught you that rushing into something isn’t the answer, right?
I’m all about informed consent over here and I want you to be too. So, before you spend the day searching “the best diet,” and hours plotting out the perfect meal plan, let’s do a little reflection.
Here are the steps you should take if you find yourself being pulled towards a diet this month:
1. Do a diet history. (and not the one where you think about your past diets in your head for 5 minutes!)
Our brains often allow us to revise events. Childbirth is a well-cited example, but we also come up with some interesting memories around our diets too.
Use my Diet History Worksheet to do a full history of your personal diet history. Here’s where we get down to the nitty-gritty. Instead of saying, “I did Weight Watchers,” list out every time you did Weight Watchers, how long it lasted, how much weight you lost, weight regain, etc.
Take your time with this exercise. The more detail, the better. Grab yours below.
2. Reflect on your diet history.
What did you learn?
If you regained the weight you lost, when did that occur? Do you feel like it was your fault?
For the vast majority of dieters, any weight intentionally lost is regained, and then some. The pace of weight regain varies. Some experience it quickly, while for others it can be 3-5 years. But, the weight usually comes back.
“But, my friend, Sally lost 50 pounds and kept it off!” Yes, we all know someone who intentionally loses weight and keeps it off, but the overwhelming majority of individuals don’t have this experience. And if you dig into the research, it’s going to back up these statistics.
Note: There are no weight loss studies longer than 18 months, but most are 6 weeks to 6 months long. The punchline: studies may end way before weight regain occurs.
If you did maintain your intentional weight loss, do you need to exercise an hour every day, avoid certain foods, or skip meals? It’s good to check for these behaviors because too much restriction to maintain a weight loss can have negative health consequences.
3. Unpack your beliefs around weight, health, and your body.
- What are your lingering questions about weight and health?
- If you have been losing and regaining the same weight for 20+ years, do you think this time will be different?
- Do you feel like the only way to ‘fix’ your diabetes or PCOS is through weight loss? Here are a few things to consider:
- Research supports health behaviors to improve these conditions, and weight isn’t really a behavior. Behaviors are actions we can actually take. Your weight may or may not change as a result of healthy behaviors.
- Yo-yo dieting actually worsens the outcomes for these conditions.
If your doctor automatically prescribes weight loss for these or other chronic conditions, it can be interesting to ask:
- What do you prescribe for your ‘normal weight’ patients with this condition?
- Can you show me the research behind this recommendation?
Still have questions? Send me an email to Kelly@npoweryou.com
Use all the data you collected above to make an informed decision.
Here’s your opportunity to choose your next steps based on facts rather than emotion.
Here’s to informed consent!
Will you choose to diet or try a different approach? The choice is yours.
P.S.: Are you curious about a non-diet approach?
Perhaps you’re encouraged to try something new. A non-diet, Intuitive Eating approach can help you learn to eat in a way that feels great physically and mentally, without the fluctuating weight, non-stop dialogue in your head, and stressful social situations.
If you want to learn more about the Intuitive Eating approach, check out my article What is Intuitive Eating?
If you’ve been on the fence for a while, but are considering diving into Intuitive Eating work this year, the next best step is to schedule a complimentary call with me. You can learn what it’s like to have the support of a professional, like me, as you embark upon your Intuitive Eating journey.
Kelly Abramson MS, RD is a dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who works with clients in Alexandria, VA and virtually via telehealth. She guides women as they break free from dieting to find joy in food and their bodies. Kelly blogs regularly at NpowerYou.com and has created a free e-book for download, “7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating.”