13 Nov 2020
Reject the Diet Mentality
13 Nov 2020
The promises made by diet culture are enticing: “get the body you’ve always dreamed of”; “reach your goals”; “achieve health and well-being”. The weight loss industry markets diets as a fresh start and the solution to your problems. Diet talk might seem inspirational, but as I mentioned in my last blog post , the failure rate of diets is a massive 95%! Diet culture likes to chalk this up to a lack of willpower. When people can’t stick to a diet or they regain weight after completing a diet, they usually blame themselves.
However, what diet culture fails to acknowledge is the negative side effects of dieting. Have you heard about the negative consequences of dieting before? Diet culture doesn’t tell people that our bodies don’t want to diet! If you’ve tried diet after diet and nothing has worked for you, keep reading to find out why diets don’t work. I’ll also tell you about a liberating, stress-free alternative.
The Science Behind Why Diets Don’t Work
A common pattern in fad diets is to restrict or completely cut out carbohydrates. The problem is, this style of eating goes against our biology. Carbs are the body’s preferred source of energy. Of the 3 macronutrients – carbs, fat, and protein – carbs are the most efficiently converted into energy. On top of that, your brain and the cells that make up your nervous system, blood, and eyes all rely exclusively on glucose for fuel.
Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a neurotransmitter that your brain produces. It’s what causes the drive to eat carbs, so you can meet your body’s energy needs with it’s favourite source of fuel. It’s your body’s way of telling you, “Feed me!”
NPY levels are naturally at their highest in the morning because your body uses up it’s stores of glucose throughout the night. After all, our cells need to be fed even when we’re sleeping. This is why breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You’ve got to replenish your glucose stores! Contrary to diet messaging, having the desire to eat carbs in the morning is completely natural and is part of normal biology!
Certain things can make your NPY levels go into overdrive. Many dieting habits will cause this. For example, if you skip a meal (especially breakfast) or only eat a small amount of carbs at mealtimes, your brain will produce a greater amount of NPY. Your body doesn’t know that it’s on a diet. It just knows that it’s not getting enough energy. These “feed me” signals will continue, increasing your cravings for carbs, until the desire to eat is overwhelming.
Have you ever noticed that when you skip meals or try to cut out carbs that you end up overeating in the evening? Maybe you don’t end up eating that healthy meal you had planned? There’s a biological reason for that! When our body reaches an extreme level of hunger, it goes into survival mode. It seeks out large amounts of high-calorie food because it’s desperate for nourishment. Your body doesn’t know when it’ll get an opportunity to eat again, so it goes all out.
Unfortunately, carbs tend to get demonized by diet culture. There is a lot of messaging online about how to “stop carb cravings”. The truth is, we crave carbs because we need them! Depriving our body of carbs just increases these cravings by raising NPY levels. In reality, eating carbs actually decreases your carb cravings – can you believe it?! This is because eating carbs causes the production of serotonin, which in turn signals the brain to shut off production of NPY.
Side note: There are several other factors that influence NPY production. Stress is one example. Stress decreases serotonin levels. Since serotonin shuts off NPY production, that means when serotonin is low, NPY will remain high. That is why many people crave carbs when they are stressed out.
Increased cravings and overeating aren’t the only side effects of dieting. Your body is wired for survival. Dieting and food restriction is interpreted by your body as starvation. There are a number of actions your body will take to protect itself:
1. More fat is stored
Eating a low-calorie diet signals your body to store energy in the form of fat. Calorie restriction will cause your body to double its fat-making enzymes so it can build up it’s fat stores.
2. Your metabolism decreases
Imagine your metabolism is a furnace and the food you eat is the wood used to stoke the fire. The less wood you use, the smaller the fire in your furnace will be. When you eat too little, your metabolism will slow down in order to conserve energy.
3. Dieting blunts satiety cues
If you are dieting and not providing your body with enough fuel, your body will delay satiety cues when you eat. Delaying fullness signals is your body’s way of trying to get what it needs in this time of “famine”. By sending your brain satiety cues only after eating a large amount of food, your body is making sure it’s getting lots of energy to store for later.
Are these side effects of dieting sounding familiar to you? Have you put on more and more weight in spite of going on diet after diet? Do you find yourself binge eating even when you’re trying your hardest to “be good”? These things don’t happen because of a lack of willpower. Your body doesn’t want to diet!
Are You Ready to Reject the Diet Mentality?
Now that you know the biological reasons why dieting doesn’t work, are you ready to reject the diet mentality? Maybe you’re feeling unsure about whether you should give up on searching for “the right” diet. Here are some signs that now is the time to stop dieting:
- The mere thought of going on a diet brings on cravings for foods such as ice cream, chocolate, and cookies
- After ending a diet, you go on a food binge and then feel guilt and shame.
- You have trouble trusting yourself around food.
- You feel like you don’t deserve to eat until your body has shrunk to a certain size.
- The lifespan of your diets is getting shorter and shorter; you can’t stay on a diet for as long as you used to be able to.
- Before starting a new diet, you have a “last supper”, feasting on the foods you will not be able to eat while on your diet.
- You become socially withdrawn when you’re on a diet because you fear losing control in social situations (ex: parties, going out to dinner)
- You’ve noticed your metabolism has gotten more sluggish.
- You use caffeine to survive the day because your energy is so low from undereating.
These are all signs that dieting has taken a toll on your health and well-being. If you’re experiencing any of the things listed above, that means dieting is not serving you. In fact, it’s stealing your health and happiness!
At this point you might be thinking, “If I’m not supposed to diet, what AM I supposed to do??” Well, I’m glad you asked…
Intuitive Eating is a style of eating that rejects the diet mentality and accepts your body’s inner wisdom. Intuitive Eaters eat in response to their hunger cues and stop when they are full – rather than following a prescribed diet. They make eating choices that honor their taste buds as well as their health. Intuitive Eating is about respecting your body and showing it love by providing it with adequate nutrition and engaging in joyful movement. Unlike dieting, Intuitive Eating does not involve depriving yourself or feeling guilt for your eating choices.
Free yourself from the shackles of dieting and begin your Intuitive Eating journey today!
If this way of eating sounds appealing to you, our Dietitian at Natural Choice Medical Clinic in Guelph can help!
Book a free meet and greet with Karissa to learn more about her 10-week program. She will guide you, step-by-step, through the process of becoming an Intuitive Eater. You will learn how to tune in to the messages your body is sending you. You’ll build strategies to leave emotional eating and binge eating in the past. And you will arrive at a place of self-love and body appreciation.
Karissa Giraldi, RD
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary anti-diet approach. New York: St. Martin’s Essentials. pp 19-21, 72-74, 88.
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