I have been debating about writing this post for a while now. A lot of people still visit my blog to read a post I wrote on a popular liquid replacement diet. I also still get people who email me about it. I have said before that I don’t regret going on the diet and I don’t, it is part of my story and my learning around my food and my body. I still don’t know if it paid a part in the conception of my son. So I cannot regret the past.
But… I do wish I had broken the cycle of dieting earlier. Four years ago I made the decision to give up dieting, and it was without a doubt the very best decision for me. I now very strongly believe that dieting does not work. Yes, you can lose weight in the short term, but in the end, most people will put it all back on again. This is not just my belief, research has now shown it to be scientific fact.
A study conducted by UCLA found that even four years past a diet, dieters will still be regaining weight, here is an excerpt:
“People on diets typically lose 5 to 10 percent of their starting weight in the first six months, the researchers found. However, at least one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number may well be significantly higher, they said.”
Studies are still coming through, but the true figure seems to be around 95% of people who go on a diet regain all of the weight they have lost and about 60% end up weighing more than before they started. Which is jaw dropping. There is a very informative article on the Huffington Post about obesity that I would highly recommend that you read. But here is an excerpt from it:
“…research showed that losing just 3 percent of your body weight resulted in a 17 percent slowdown in your metabolism—a body-wide starvation response that blasts you with hunger hormones and drops your internal temperature until you rise back to your highest weight. Keeping weight off means fighting your body’s energy-regulation system and battling hunger all day, every day, for the rest of your life.”
The results of this research are just staggering. One of the greatest causes of weight gain is dieting. Just think about that statement for a moment. Why are we even still doing it?
If a doctor offered you some medication but told you it only had a 5% success rate and there was a 60% chance you would end up feeling worse than you do now, you would never take that pill. So why do so many people torture themselves with diets every year?
Diets sell a dream, but they also sell shame. The shame of you are and what you look like. Overweight people are portrayed as lazy, lacking in willpower and unattractive. And yet, I would argue that overweight people probably have the greatest willpower of all, as they pick themselves up and get back on the scales and start diets over and over and over.
I’m of course talking about all diets now, not just the aforementioned liquid replacement diet I have done in the past. But we also need to remember that all dieting companies are commercial enterprises. The dieting industry in the UK alone is worth £2 billion. They are powerful, they are hugely profitable and they want you to come back. It’s one of the many reasons I think GPs should not be allowed to hand out diet clubs vouchers to patients.
Dieting damages your metabolism, your hormone balance and leads to disordered eating. I can hand on heart say at the end of my dieting journey my eating was very disordered and unhealthy. I was unhappy and pretty much hated how I looked. I was miserable. I had to learn to love myself again and not feel deep shame for what I looked like.
I often wonder in the future if we will sit back and look at our dieting history with horror. How we were encouraged to repeatedly damage our bodies and how the process was endorsed by our family doctors. Will it be like smoking that was prescribed to patients from the 1930s to the 1950s, a black mark in our medical history?
So what can you do? Maybe you’re reading this and thinking if I don’t diet how can I change. It all starts with exercise, something I am only beginning to discover in my journey. Exercise to get stronger and fitter, not for punishment and restriction. Exercise in a way that is sustainable and manageable. Find joy in movement. Love your body and yourself for who you are right now. Eat in moderation, still have the cake, but next time just make it a slither smaller. Ditch the stigma, the self-hate and the shame. Break the cycle of pain. Think fit and healthy, without focusing on size and embrace your life. Because it’s about time we all started to turn our backs on a practise that is quite clearly so damaging.