The Downfalls of Diets

Diet culture leads us to believe that we should all be cutting out some sort of food group while hitting up the gym 9x/week and making sure to get in our juice cleanses on the weekends in order to shed those extra pounds we all just need to lose. But, diet culture just has it all wrong. There is no reason that anybody, unless they have a medical condition that requires gentle medical nutrition therapy, needs to cut out anything from their diet.  When we cut out food groups from our diets, we miss out on super important nutrients. For example, if we were to follow the popular ketogenic diet and cut out carbohydrates, there’s a whole list of nutrients that we would miss out on. For one, we need carbohydrates to function. Most importantly, they provide the main source of energy for our bodies and our brains. Carbohydrates, such as grains, also contain a bunch of vitamins and minerals including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, and selenium…just to name a few.

Not only do these diets cause us to miss out on important nutrients, they cause us to restrict our body’s natural desires. Because yes- it is completely normal to crave a piece of cake or a slice of pizza.  You do not lack willpower. You are simply a human being who wants a piece of cake or a slice of pizza and you deserve to have that. When we restrict ourselves from having what our body desires, we can set ourselves up to binge. And again, this is not because we lack willpower. It is evolutionarily ingrained in our bodies to binge eat following starvation or the threat of starvation. Therefore, you may be able to stay on that diet for a few weeks, months, maybe even a year. But, studies show that one-third to two-thirds of individuals who diet regain even more weight than they lost and that diets do not result in significant health improvements.

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Furthermore, about 60 years ago a study was conducted on a group of healthy men to determine the effects of starvation. These men were first observed as they ate normally and then as their intake was cut in half. The researchers observed that these men became obsessed with food, engaged in strange food habits, and even daydreamed about food. They also reported increased rates of anxiety and depression. While this study would be unethical to conduct today, weight loss companies promote diets that lead to these same negative health consequences every single day.

Instead of diets, cleanses, deprivation, and restriction, the best way to take care of our body is actually listening to it. Intuitive eating is the idea of eating based on the body’s hunger and fullness cues and making choices based on health as well as enjoyment. Eating intuitively allows us to be mindful of our bodies and focus on our overall wellbeing because there is so much more to us than our weight. Remember, you are more than a number and you are allowed to fuel your body with all foods.

Kelly Miller