Updated: Mar 2
I always questioned why nobody told me what crash-dieting may do to my body. Or perhaps they have, I was just refusing to listen, mesmerized by the overnight results that ‘before and after photos’ so clearly shown to be true.
After all I know about diets and their effect on my body- I certainly would not go on a crash diet again, even if I got paid for it. After 10+ years of ‘professional’ dieting, binge-eating and daily self-loathing I feel I learnt a thing or two about why ‘one innocent little diet’ can become a slippery slope.
If you’re getting sucked into the hype of dieting as a New Year’s resolution, read this first.
1. Crash/ fad diets don’t work
Ever wonder what happens to those smiley people in ‘before and after’ weigh loss photos a couple of months later? That’s right, they gain weight.
I’ve worked with serial dieters that are also regulars at Slimming World meetings for 5 years, just to see their weight increasing and health declining. I second Sandra Aamodt (1) - if diets did work long-term, the world would be running out of dieters and we would all be thin.
2. The body will fight back
The human body is way more complex and cleverer than we can grasp. If we drastically restrict calories and food intake, the body will rebel to the extreme changes, resulting in increased cravings and possible binges. Eating Disorder Hope reports that 20-25% (2) of dieters may develop anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder as cases of extreme restriction.
3. Calories are not all the same
Logically it’s easy to understand that 600 kcal of donuts and 600 kcal of broccoli isn’t going to bring the same health benefit, so why is it still too common to solely count on kcal intake and restriction when dieting?
Calories are so much more than just a number on the label- the body needs different amount of energy to process each macronutrient, aka the thermic effect of food (TEF) (3). And 600 kcal of broccoli and donuts will make you feel satiated differently- that’s because of difference in their satiety index numbers (4).
There’s so much more to nutrition than just counting kcal: time of the day, state of wellbeing at the time and synergistic interaction between nutrients also matter (5).
4. The metabolism ‘curse’
Wonder why the body responds so well to diet changes at first, then plateaus and when we restore ‘normal’ eating- the weight shoots up again?
The simple truth behind that is that together with calorie restriction the body thinks that your are in a desert and food isn’t available, hence it slows your metabolism down this way saving resources for survival.
Once the diet is finished, we’re left with a temporary illusion of weight loss and a sluggish metabolism, which can seriously hinder sustained weight loss and is one of the most common reasons for yo-yo dieting.
5. We’re supposed to be different
Being an advocate of embracing differences in personalities, I never applied embracing differences of bodies. Thanks to Health at Every Size I am able to appreciate my own beauty and embrace all body shapes and sizes. Wouldn’t it be boring if we all looked the same?
Imagine Oprah, Kris Carr and Beyoncé all looked exactly the same? Would you still like them so fiercely, or would it make them less inspiring? No, it’s not just about the looks, yet our features and our external differences are also what makes us so unique and gives us character. All we can do is embrace them to the full.
6. Body Image issues will not disappear
Losing weight, temporarily or long- term will not make the body image issues go away, causing more distress and body- hatred. The work towards unconditional body love and happiness needs to be done now, whatever the scale is showing. I wish Body Positive, Body Neutrality movement and documentary ‘Embrace’ existed 15 years ago, when I entered my dieting ‘career’.
7. Mindful and intuitive eating
Turns out that it’s not just what you eat, but how you eat it too. Even the person with ‘the healthiest diet’ on paper can easily gain weight and affect health if pacing through meals, eating when stressed and paying no attention to food. Bye bye, work lunches at the desk while checking emails. Hello freedom around food, eating what I like, when I like it and effortlessly sustaining health and healthy weight.
8. Photo correction is everywhere (even your friends are doing it)
Heavily photoshopped models in adverts and magazines is old news, however it was shocking to hear a teenage client complain about her friend removing her freckles and changing her hair color for an Instagram photo. With so many filters and corrections available, it’s hard to know what is real anymore. So how can we compare ourselves to the girl in the magazine (or even your Instagram feed), if she doesn’t even look that way?
9. The truth behind ‘fat feelings’
Hands up who else used the ‘feeling fat’ excuse to avoid a social engagement or leaving the house? ‘Feeling fat’ often shows up as a red flag, that doesn’t mean that we are physically ‘fat’, but rather that we are somewhat unhappy. Good question to ask yourself- what am I feeling that is unpleasant? Lack of confidence? Loneliness? Fear of unknown? Naming the feeling helps to bring it to the surface and let it go faster.
Diets come in many compelling names and mask themselves under fancy guidelines and protocols, that can be really challenging to resist having a go at- especially when all your friends in the gym are talking about it.
I realised there is no ‘magic pill’ that would change how I feel about myself and, in my body, overnight. The only way ‘out’ of the food and body prison is to fix the internal, and the external will catch up with a gentle reinforcement of good habits.
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