There’s a stunning dieting statistic that has been tossed around since 1959, when the clinical study revealing this fact was conducted — and it’s still shocking: 95% of all dieters will regain the weight they lose within one year. While we would like to believe things have changed since 1959, in this case, it’s only gotten worse. Currently, we have even more dieters, (approximately 45 million people dieting on any given day, in the US) and because of that, an ever growing diet industry. And that’s just the people we can keep track of!
One thing we know for certain, however, is that most of these diets are not concerned with long-term weight loss – because if they were we wouldn’t have a 33 billion dollar diet industry. They would do their job and we would move on.
So the question we need to answer is, with so many different diets, and so many differing approaches, and so many experts and books — why are we not losing weight? It turns out that the very premise of dieting works directly against our biology, psychology and our inborn need for pleasure. And it’s these three dimensions that can help us understand the 3 key reasons why diets don’t work.
# 1 Biologically, diets slow down weight loss
It does seem counterintuitive that when working our hardest to shed pounds, our body is working against us, but it’s true. This is because our body experiences dieting as a stressor. When we’re stressed, we produce high-levels of cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones). These hormones cause our body to slow down the rate at which we burn calories. Our body is intentionally slowing down our weight loss efforts, because it perceives our reduced calorie intake as a threat to survival. And all our body is trying to do is keep us alive and as healthy as it can, every day, all day long.
When we cut caloric intake too much, as far as our body is concerned, we might as well be on a desert island with limited food and fuel, and so we have thousands of years of evolutionary conditioning informing our biology that it’s in our best interest to conserve fat, just in case we’re going to be in low-calorie survival-mode for a long time. The body’s job is to keep you alive.
#2 Diets don’t create sustainable change
Most of us can change our eating habits for a week or two, or sometimes even a month or two, but most often – dietary induced changes are external changes – “eat this, and don’t eat that.” Of course what we eat is important, but changing the type of food we ingest alone does not necessarily create long lasting change, because it doesn’t touch on theedeep rooted beliefs, patterns, and behaviors that inform our food choices and eating habits in the first place.
If a diet only focuses on food choices and doesn’t touch upon “why,” we keep reaching for foods that diminish our energy and health, then we are likely stuck working only on the surface level. In order to make sustainable changes in our eating habits, we need to explore why we eat, how we eat and who we are as an eater.
Long-lasting change comes from making shifts on both the external level of food choices and eating behavior, as well as on the inside, which we know as the psychology of eating. The mindset that we bring to the table, consciously or unconsciously is the key to our relationship with our food and body.
#3 Diets aren’t fun!
All diets have an element of deprivation, and there’s often a “no-no list” of foods that we must avoid if we want to be successful. Restrictive diets require us to have “willpower” and an ability to stick to the rules. But the problem with this constraining, tough-it-out attitude, is that it’s no fun! There’s no pleasure, and there’s no joy involved in becoming healthier! There’s no ease in our eating when we are being tight-lipped and controlling around our food.
And, whenever we are in this state of tension around our food, we create an environment of stress within our body. As mentioned above, stress causes a rise in cortisol and adrenalin, which diminishes our calorie burning potential. So we’re creating the exact conditions that makes losing weight difficult.
If you’re not willing to enjoy what you eat and how you eat, then weight loss will be like the battle so many believe it to be. Diets don’t work, but stepping into pleasure and exploring the deeper psychology of eating can
By creating a positive relationship with food and body we will actually support our biology and psychology in generating the ideals conditions for reaching our natural weight. Dieting is concerned with the exterior, but eating psychology deeply addresses who we are as eaters.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
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