4 Good Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Diet


Think Dieting Will Make You Happy? Think Again…


Diets Make You Feel Bad

Diets won't make you happy

Diets won’t make you happy

Drastic changes aren’t sustainable. Resolve to cut out carbohydrates or severely restrict your calorie intake for the day and you’re setting yourself up to fail. The more dietary rules you set, the more likely you are to break them (you’re human), and the worse you’ll feel about yourself. You’ll turn to food for comfort, feel even worse about yourself, and so resolve to start fresh with an even stricter set of rules.

Ditch the diets and instead make small, sustainable changes towards healthy eating. Remember to make sure that you’re giving your body the right kind of fuel, which includes a daily supply of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Also keep in mind that healthy eating means eating a balanced diet – you don’t have to stop eating foods you love, just don’t eat ‘sometimes’ foods every day.

Diets Can’t Change Your Genes

Like your height, your weight is determined by your genes. Your body has a “set-point” or a healthy weight range that it’s genetically determined to stay within. When you’re within your healthy weight range and you eat fewer calories than your body needs to carry out its functions it will go to extraordinary lengths to keep your weight within its set range.

When you restrict your diet it might initially look like you’re losing weight but this is due to water loss not fat loss – you’re not actually changing your body weight. When you’re within a healthy weight range and you significantly restrict your intake to lose weight your body goes into fuel saving mode, it slows your metabolism and makes your muscles work more efficiently to make the fuel it does have last longer.

If you’re eating significantly less than what your body needs and it doesn’t have enough fuel to function it will also give you food cravings (usually sugary foods that will give you quick energy), make you feel tired and lethargic (so you move less and therefore use less energy), make you think about food (to try to motivate you to eat), and send you strong hunger signals (to try to get you to eat something).

Why does your body do this? Because it’s fighting to slow or stop your weight loss to keep you within your pre-set, healthy weight range. It explains why most people can’t maintain weight loss once they stop restricting their diet. People who are able to lose weight and maintain their weight loss were probably above their “set-point” to begin with (i.e. they had weight to lose).

Diets Trap You In The Diet Cycle

If weight loss is your only motivation for healthy eating you’re less likely to achieve long-term change. Once you reach your goal weight your reason for healthy eating disappears and old habits will resurface. So what’s the key to breaking free from this dieting deja vu?

Make healthy eating about something other than weight loss.

Your body is an amazing machine and it needs fuel for organ functions, for bodily processes like digestion and temperature regulation, for growth and repair, for daily activities like climbing a flight of stairs or making a bed, and for exercise. When you fuel your body well you feel energetic and positive. When you give it the wrong kinds of fuel you feel tired, lethargic, and heavy.

If you see food only as something that will make you gain or lose weight, then you’ll stay stuck in the dieting cycle. Instead, focus on nutrition – try seeing food as fuel and aim to fuel your body with the right kind of foods so that you feel healthier, happier, and more energetic. Fuel your body well and you will probably still lose weight (if your body is outside your healthy weight range), but by not having weight loss as your focus you free yourself from being forever trapped by the number on your scales.

Diets Can Be A Distraction

If you’ve been stuck in the dieting cycle for a while it might be time to stop and think about why dieting is such a big part of your life. If being unhappy and dissatisfied with your body is your reason for dieting, will reaching your goal weight suddenly make you love your body, or is the solution body acceptance not dieting? If you use dieting to help you cope with stress is it effective, or when you look at the bigger picture does dieting actually add to your stress?

Dieting can feel like the answer but sometimes it’s actually the problem, and worse, it can distract you from finding a real solution.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.