According to the many years of treatment, therapy, and education on eating disorders, dieting is just a way to normalize disordered eating habits.
Diet culture is another way for people to make money off of other’s insecurities about their bodies. Diet culture thrives on the idea that thinner is better when that’s not necessarily the case.
Dieting can often lead to disordered habits if the diet doesn’t already encourage it, which can be dangerous, such as restricting caloric intake which often leads to binge eating later on, or sometimes eliminating food groups all together which again can be dangerous. These habits are a slippery slope that can land you into the pit of an eating disorder.
According to NAMI, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people struggle with some kind of mental illness and according to NEDA, or National Eating Disorder Association, eating disorders are more than a physical illness, they are actually very complex mental illnesses that effect roughly 1 in every 100 people. Unfortunately, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among all other mental illnesses.
Not everyone who diets will develop an eating disorder, however in almost every case of dieting, the dieter eventually gains back the weight lost (if any) and then some. Dieting can throw the body off and confuse your natural system. When you restrict or eat less than your body needs, it can become confused so to speak, and go into something called survival mode. Survival mode means your body is unsure of when it will get food again, this then causes your body to hold onto the calories you do consume, even more than normal making it even harder to lose weight.
So…if you’re reading this and thinking you still want to or need to lose weight, there are healthy alternatives to dieting. Dieting suggests that you change your habits for a certain amount of time and then once you reach your goal, you can essentially go back to your old ways of eating. This is how the dieter ends up gaining back the weight, and usually a little extra. If you need to lose weight for health reasons, don’t diet…make a lifestyle change. A lifestyle change is much different than a diet. Changing your lifestyle suggests that you essentially make changes to your every day life permanently. Now, this may seem daunting when diets advertise quick and easy ways to lose weight.
The truth is, maintaining a healthy weight is more manageable if you make small changes that you can easily keep up with such as adding variety to your meals: more fruits and veggies along with a healthy amount of fats and proteins for your body. Please consider consulting a registered dietitian!
Despite having the word “diet” in the name, registered dietitians can help put you in the right direction by explaining portion sizes, and helping you figure out how many calories your body needs to maintain a healthy weight because *spoiler alert!* every single person’s body is different and has different needs, and choosing a fad diet isn’t it.