5 Reasons Dieting is Hurting Your Health

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It seems like everywhere we turned in January, we were seeing information about another diet. This influx of diet spam caused everyone in our office to do a big 🤦Now, as South Carolina starts to ease COVID19 restrictions, unfortunately you can expect to see a resurgence of of diets talking about their solutions to the “COVID 15/19/30” or whatever they are calling it these days.

We pride ourselves in being anti-diet dietitians at Brittany Jones Nutrition Group. Have you ever wondered why we choose to practice this way? We speak up against trendy diets like Keto, Paleo, and Intermittent fasting because they aren’t sustainable for our clients, but also because diets are straight up harmful to our clients.

The Diet Cycle

The image above shows a typical diet cycle. Let’s walk through it using low carb diets as an example:

  • It’s Monday. You start your low carb diet, restricting delicious food items such as bread, pasta, potatoes, corn, and your personal favorite, French fries.
  • On Wednesday you start to feel really deprived. Maybe your spouse is eating French fries with their burger, but you order a salad because you are being “good.” You may also show signs of fatigue and irritability (remember, carbs are your main source of energy!)
  • On Thursday you start to really crave these foods. All you can think about is French fries.
  • On Friday the thoughts are consuming your life and eventually you give in to them. You don’t just give in a little bit. You give in A LOT. You go through the McDonalds drive through and order two supersize French fries and eat them all rapidly in one sitting.
  • Then on Friday night you feel guilty and beat yourself up for not being able to stick on your diet. You decide to start another low carb diet that is even more restrictive again next Monday. And the cycle repeats.

Sound familiar?!

What happens when we find ourselves following into this vicious cycle on a chronic basis?

Here are 5 reasons why being trapped in this diet cycle harms your overall health.

1 – Weight Cycling Increases Your Risk for Chronic Diseases

Usually when we fall into the diet cycle, we find ourselves losing weight during our restrictive diets only to later regain the weight back, and usually plus more. Then we do it all over again. This yo-yo weight pattern is called weight cycling. Research shows that weight cycling alone, regardless of your initial body size, increases your risk for cardiovascular events, osteoporosis, gallstones, hypertension, chronic inflammation, and eating disorders/disordered eating. The healthiest weight for you is when you ditch the diet mentality, break free of this cycle and learn to listen to your body’s needs when it comes to food and movement. 

2 – Dieting Harms Your Relationship with Food and Your Body

Research shows that dieting is strongly linked to a preoccupation with food and appearance, increased food cravings, and increased binge urges. At Brittany Jones Nutrition Group, we work on creating complete food freedom with our clients. Remember, all foods fit! We want you to be able to feel comfortable around all foods and get rid of the feeling that certain foods control your life. There are NO good and bad foods – and food has no moral value! Restricting foods will only lead to overeating them later. 

Diet rules also force you to ignore your natural hunger and fullness cues. They tell you that you can not eat after a certain time of day, that you have to fast in order to lose weight, and that it’s good to be hungry all day. These are all false claims that get you out of touch with your body. Our bodies are incredibly smart. They naturally crave a variety of nutrients and will tell you when they need fuel by showing signs of hunger. You do not question why you have to pee when you get the urge to pee, so why do we question our hunger?

3 – Dieting Harms Your Mental Health

Think back to when you did your last diet. How was your mental health during this time? Did you feel deprived? Did you cancel social events because there wouldn’t be something you were “allowed” to eat on your diet there? Research shows that dieting increases body dissatisfaction, reduces self-esteem, increases stress, and harms social life. Health is about SO much more than just what you eat and how often you exercise. If we neglect our mental health in order to improve our appearance, we often end up worse in the end. We are not just alive to lose weight and pay bills! There is so much more to life! Don’t miss out on the fun of life because you are concerned with appearance or eating “perfectly.”

4 – Dieting Can Cause You to Miss Out on Key Nutrients

Diets often restrict certain food groups such as fat and carbohydrates. When we restrict food groups, not only do we crave them more, but we also miss out on key nutrients! For example, carbohydrates are your main source of energy, provide fiber and B vitamins, and make your RNA and DNA. Fat is important for regulating our body temperatures and producing our hormones. All the food groups have a purpose! 

Another popular and risky diet is fasting. When we are only “allowed” to eat during certain times in the day, not only are we ignoring our natural body cues, but it is also incredibly difficult to get the nutrients and variety we need in that short period of time. 

5 – Dieting Increases Your Set Point

Do you remember learning about homeostasis in science class? Turns out our body is really good at regulating processes within our body to keep us alive. Just like it regulates our temperature, it also regulates our body size. Think of it as a thermostat for your weight. Many factors contribute into why we are the weight we are. Genetics, access to health care, access to nutritious food, environment, and movement all play a role. Where our body weight naturally falls when it is at homeostasis is called the set point. When we fall out of our set point, our body works tirelessly to do anything it can to bring it back to our set point. Our bodies do not know the difference between a diet and starvation. If we keep messing with this internal thermostat through dieting, your body views this as a famine and struggles to maintain control over your weight. During this period of starvation (dieting), your metabolism decreases and your brain releases less leptin, a hormone that triggers the feeling of being full. AKA your appetite physiologically INCREASES during a diet! After your diet fails, your body forces you to not only regain the weight back but it adds on extra weight to protect against future diets (periods of starvation). Therefore, your set point increases. In addition, people with a history of chronic dieting end up releasing less leptin overtime than they would have without the history of dieting. 

“Ok I Get it Now, but What’s the Alternative to Dieting?”

Instead of falling trap to the diet cycle, it is best to focus on finding balance. Strive for progress, not perfection! Instead of doing crazy diets that eliminate certain foods, remind yourself that all foods fit! Incorporate gentle nutrition by following the 80/20 balance and utilizing the portion plate.

Learn to listen to your body. Ask yourself: “What will nourish me and what will satisfy me?” before meals. Eat according to your natural hunger and fullness cues. Move your body in a way that feels joyful and good, rather than punishing it for what you ate.

Through rejecting diet mentality, finding food freedom, and moving joyfully, you will find the weight that is healthiest for you without sacrificing your mental health to get there.

Want to learn more? Click here to set up a FREE 15 minute discovery call with our CEO and Registered Dietitian Brittany Jones, MS, RD, LD!

-Written by Allison Walters, RD, LD

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