Make peace with food - why diets don't work

Dieting does not work. Research suggests about 95% of people who lose weight by dieting will regain it in one to five years*. Not only is dieting a pointless exercise but it can pave the way for a long-term war with what should be a fundamental joy – food.

Dieting, by definition, is a temporary food plan. Therefore the results are unlikely to hold any kind of longevity. It would be unreasonable to expect anything else. In the same way as if we follow a strict fitness plan we will become fitter, but if we stop and fall into a sedentary lifestyle we cannot expect to maintain the same level of fitness.

The deprivation of restrictive diets, especially if they are on-going or have begun very early in life, may leave a tormenting imprint on a person. Food restriction impacts heavily – both emotionally and physically. On an emotional level, using very rigid diet – type food rules over time creates a negative relationship with food. When an avocado stops being a deliciously smooth green fruit and is simply a number of points then it is time to reassess our relationship with food.

Food rules used as a coping mechanism to control a life that has become rather chaotic need working on, as a bad relationship with eating – which should be a fundamental and simple part of our lives – can easily snowball into an eating disorder. When food becomes the ultimate enemy and there is no pleasure involved in its preparation or consumption, life becomes tricky as the impact is wide reaching, creeping into family relationships and work-life. Social interaction may suffer and the situation can easily escalate.

Physically, food deprivation can affect bone mass, skin and hair quality. A lack of regular glucose to the brain will lead to concentration lapses and reduced work capacity, therefore, quality of life are very much reduced. An overly restrictive diet will slow the metabolism which will, of course, make it even harder to lose weight and it is not uncommon to see low-calorie diets leading to over-eating or a diet-binge cycle.

Once dieting has become entrenched within the mindset of an individual it is often useful to work with an intuitive eating approach, considering why the dietary rules were first established and then making baby-steps towards recovery. Recognising that your diet has become restrictive or obsessive is the first step then seeking guidance is important. Depending on the length or severity of the issue a therapist may be required and finding a nutritionist experienced in this area is then useful to work alongside therapy in order to support the reintroduction of a ‘normal’ eating pattern.

Making peace with food and discovering the freedom to eat intuitively can lead to a much calmer and healthier way to be.

*National Eating Disorder Information Center (NEDIC) website

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