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Why Diets Don’t Work and What Does

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

by Cristin Wipfler, MPH, RDN - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Health Coach

Gluten free ingredients

Can we be honest for a second? No one wants to be “on a diet”...right?! We like the idea that we are taking care of ourselves, but the rules, restrictions, deprivation, guilt, and all of the other yuck that come with a diet, no thanks. Because the harsh truth is that diets don’t work. You may find some success at first because you have a newfound focus on your intake, but the long-view is bleak. Why? Diets in their nature are designed to have you fail. Wait, what?!?! Yep, diets are not designed for us to succeed. I was so frustrated when I figured that out so if you’re feeling irked right now too, you are not alone.

This is why: Your body is hard-wired for survival so any deprivation at all, sends off the alarm bells and the body fights back to keep you alive….and it does this by shooting out hormones to make you hungry so that you eat. So it has nothing to do with willpower, your self-worth, or this diet over that’s biology. Its protective instincts also cause a change in energy exchange, called adaptive thermogenesis, which “slows down” our metabolism. Plus, our body starts to store more energy as fat as another protective measure.

Diets also come with a litany of food rules causing us to further disconnect from our own bodies, lose trust, follow someone else’s rules, increase our preoccupation with food, and make us focus on what we can’t have. Sound familiar?

Furthermore, the diet mindset is one of “fixing” ourselves to achieve the arbitrary expectation of what we are “supposed to” look like. That our food and lifestyle choices are a reflection of our self-worth (spoiler alert - they are NOT!) and that we will be judged for any choice that doesn’t align with the diet culture message. This is the diet industry at work. Their messages are designed to make us feel broken and frustrated with ourselves so that we try the “next greatest thing”...until that doesn’t work either. Ugh! I know that dieting cycle well and coach a LOT of women on how to get off of that vicious merry-go-round.

When we are able to take a step back and really see the behaviors and patterns that our dieting culture promotes, it is hard to ignore the disempowerment any longer.

The world of weight loss has created this insane idea that if we are miserable enough, hard on ourselves enough, shame and guilt ourselves enough, and play by somebody else's rules, that we will end up happy, confident and thin. It’s crazy ~ that is obviously NOT the path to happiness, success, or a joyful life.

It took me a long time to see this truth about the diet industry and our weight loss/diet culture and now I want every woman to know that it is NOT our fault. It is NOT our lack of willpower. We are NOT broken. Our self worth isn’t tied to ANY number (scale, calorie, carb, you name it). And that we can live FREE of diets….forever!

You see, nourishing yourself should lift you UP. It should work WITH your body, not against it. It should NOT isolate you from living your life. And it should be EASY.

Instead of depriving, restricting, counting, shaming, shoulding, and all of the other torturous (and potentially dangerous) “ings” that go hand-in-hand with dieting, here are my top tips for optimizing your metabolism.

  1. Balance your blood sugar with healthy fats, protein, fiber, and slow carbohydrates.

  2. Build lean muscle with strength training.

  3. Consistency is key.

  4. Foster a strong mindset and change how you think about food and your body.

  5. Get your zzz’s. Sleep is critical to health and metabolism.

  6. Manage your stress levels for better lifestyle choices and hormone health.

They aren’t flashy, exciting or anything “new” - kind of boring, actually…

but they WORK!

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