I get it. We all wish we could lose a few pounds.
Maybe you’re overweight, and the extra weight is becoming a health issue. Or maybe you just never lost the baby weight. (Honestly, most of us haven’t.) Perhaps you feel certain that losing 5-10 pounds will make you happier. Maybe it’s just that need to fit into that expensive dress you bought for a wedding six months ago.
I could tell you you’re beautiful no matter what you say, and that changing your outside won’t make your inside happy, but I’m not you. I can’t solve all your problems.
But you know what else won’t solve all your problems? About 90% of the diets out there. Maybe 100% of them.
The Cabbage Soup Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the Raw Food Diet, the Blood Type Diet, the Cookie Diet, the Lemonade Diet, the Cotton Ball Diet — yes, these are some of the most extreme of the diets out there. (The Cotton Ball Diet, where you actually consume cotton balls, is probably the most insane and dangerous one out there. Look it up.) But even some of the tamer ones — like the South Beach Diet, Paleo, Atkins, and everyone’s new favorite superfood shake/powder — have one huge, glaring, gigantic problem: They are not sustainable for most people.
Yep, many of them work, and you will lose weight with them (at least initially). They are built on the precedent that they work; that’s how they draw people in, and why they are in business. (And don’t be fooled for one second that these are not businesses. Their main goal is to lighten your bank account, not your behind.)
Almost all diets are built on the idea of starvation. I don’t care what you say, but no one is supposed to live on 1000 calories or less per day. If you do that, you will lose weight — and fast. (Beware of the fastest weight loss guarantees. Those are almost all scam diets.)
But then you will gain it back, and then some.
I’m not just saying that because that’s what’s happened to me every time I dieted. I’d lose 10 to 15 pounds, feel like the million bucks, and then six months to a year later, I’d gain it all back.
And I’m not just saying it because it’s happened to almost everyone I know who latches on to the latest diet craze.
It’s science. It’s the way our metabolism, brain, and neurology works. Countless studies back this up.
Sandra Aamodt is a neuroscientist who wrote an excellent article for the New York Times called “Why You Can’t Lose Weight on a Diet,” and since I am far from a neuroscientist myself, I will let her explain the science behind why diets don’t work.
“The root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience,” writes Aamodt. “Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding.”
In other words, your body really doesn’t like it when you starve yourself, and when you get to that point, you pretty much become obsessed with food — food becomes more tantalizing than ever.
Maybe this explains why so many people who follow a trendy diet gain back the weight within a few years of starting said diet(s).
I’m sorry to be so such a downer — I really am — and I’m not knocking anyone who is committed to bettering their life through nutritional changes and/or weight loss. But as someone who nearly spiraled into an eating disorder as a result of starvation and meal substitutions, I take it all seriously — very seriously. (I should add here that it’s not just me. Research shows how fad dieting and eating disorders are strongly linked — another reason huge problem with fad dieting.)
So when I scroll through my Facebook feed and see so many women singing the praises of the newest multi-level marketing “weight loss guaranteed” product — where you drink the most amazing shake made of superfoods, antioxidant, vitamins, and 10 million minerals sourced from prehistoric algae from the bottom of the Dead Sea — I want to throw up a little. Or cry.
Even if you lose the weight and all your cravings disappear for a few months, neither your bank account, your biology, or your freaking soul will be able to last too long on a diet like that. Period.
All these diets do is teach women that their bodies are broken in some way or are terribly less than. It teaches them that they have to deprive themselves or rely on meal substitutes rather than consuming and enjoying real food.
I’m not saying I have all the answers here. I know it’s important for all of us to stay healthy, eat a balanced diet, and move our bodies regularly. I know having too much extra weight on our bodies can be unhealthy in many cases. But I wish the first thing people gravitated to weren’t these fad diets with the goal of quickly changing the number on the scale.
There are better ways, truly. If you are finding yourself binging or overeating out of habit, misery, stress, or boredom, or obsessively restricting your calories in an attempt to lose weight, please talk to your doctor. You are worthy, so make that time for yourself to get the help you need.
And let’s all try to just stop it with the bullshit fad dieting.
Seriously, don’t give in to the hype.