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  • Jessica Davis

WHY DIETING DOESN’T WORK

Updated: May 17, 2023

WHY DIETING DOESN’T WORK

TOXIC DIET CULTURE Unfortunately, diet culture isn’t going away. There is no shortage of fitness influencers or weight loss supplement companies that have found a system that truly works… for them… to make them money. The belief that eating as little as possible and exercising as much as possible creates healthier bodies is not only completely false, it’s also incredibly toxic and extremely damaging to our physical and mental health. One of the biggest and most harmful misconceptions generally adopted by dieters is that being thin automatically means you are healthier. In other words, losing weight, no matter the type of weight, is good 100% of the time. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many diets such as keto and low carb cause you to lose weight, not fat. For example, initial weight loss on the keto diet is largely water weight. After the initial water loss and drop in blood glucose due to carb restriction, the body’s stress system gradually starts going into overdrive in order to compensate for the lack of dietary carbs (1). Furthermore, chronic stress causes metabolic disorders. Dieting (especially prolonged restriction) perpetuates and exacerbates chronic stress, creating a vicious cycle which leads to anything but true health and vitality. WHY CAN’T WE LET GO OF DIETING? Diets give only short term results, but we tend to hold on tight to these initial short term results. Even after we stop seeing results, we still believe that the diet works, but we’re just doing it wrong or not well enough. (Cue the dietitian telling you to eat cucumbers if you’re hungry after hitting a plateau, or the “fitfluencer” telling you to push through the fatigue and show up despite being sleep deprived or on your period). Eating barely anything and expending energy you never had to begin with suddenly becomes a badge of honor, because you did everything right. I don’t think I have to explain why this is terrible for you, but I will. The hormone cortisol is released when you’re under this kind of stress, sending your body into fight-or-flight mode, temporarily pausing regular bodily functions and slowing your metabolism. An excess of cortisol can also lead your body to waste muscle mass (3). SETPOINT WEIGHT AND THE ROLE OF STRESS Yes, it’s true that stress may cause you to overeat, but the issue is not actually the overeating. This is because the body has a complex, highly sophisticated system for regulating its fat stores – also known as your body’s “set point.” Your set point, sometimes called the “adipostat,” is located in the brain. Its function is to compensate for and minimize the discrepancy when actual fat mass deviates from the norm. In other words, your body fights to keep you within a range of about 15 pounds — also known as your “setpoint weight.” (2). The real issue is the fact that your metabolism slowed or paused so that your body could carry out its stress response. When metabolic function slows, all bodily functions slow including digestion, nutrient absorption and liver detoxification. DIETING COULD BE EVEN WORSE FOR WOMEN Stress blocks our natural ability to lose weight and disrupts our adrenal patterns and cortisol levels. Because of this, the fat that we are trying to “burn” does not become useful as fuel. Instead it goes straight back into our cells and contributes to more fat accumulation, oftentimes around the hips and belly area. Then, restricting calories and over exercising increases stress even further causing another vicious cycle. The more stressed you are, the slower your metabolism becomes, preventing your body from eliminating excess estrogen, and ultimately causing estrogen dominance (the cause of so many hormonal health issues from endometriosis to infertility problems and beyond). WHAT HEALTHY FEELS LIKE When your metabolism is functioning optimally, your body knows exactly what to do with the food you eat and it can easily convert it into energy. Life is easier, you feel better, sleep better, look better, and have natural energy. You may drink coffee, but you don’t need it or hate everyone you interact with when you don’t have it. Why? Because your body already has plenty of easy-to-use (bio-available) fuel. SO WHAT WORKS BETTER THAN DIETING, COUNTING CALORIES, AND TRYING TO OUTRUN YOUR FORK?

  1. Understanding your own body type rather than trying to shrink yourself into someone else’s

  2. Focusing on feeling good (naturally) by eating a diet of nutrient dense, bioavailable, whole foods

  3. Reducing stress

  4. Slowing down while eating, chewing food thoroughly, having gratitude for your food and and accepting all of the nourishment and energy it provides your mind and body

  5. Eliminating environmental toxins (which also place stress on the body) as much as possible

  6. Exercising in a way that makes you feel happy and strong (builds muscle mass), not depleted and constantly in pain

  7. Getting sufficient, high quality sleep – the more you sleep, the more calories you burn (day and night)

  8. Addressing deficiencies of all kinds – nutrients, vitamins, minerals, sun, nature, fun, laughter, connection, sleep, peace

  9. Recognizing subconscious beliefs that may be blocking weight loss (ie have you been punishing yourself for gaining weight in the first place?)

  10. Developing deep love and appreciation for who you are as a person and detaching your worth from the number on the scale

IN CONCLUSION, PLEASE SHARE I’ll be honest, this blog has been a long time coming. Over the past decade and as a personal trainer, fitness instructor and nutrition coach myself, I’ve been in the thick of it when it comes to diet culture. I’ve heard trainers and dietitians go on and on about how you absolutely cannot lose weight if you’re not in a caloric deficit. I’ve had clients of my own fight me when I tried to move the focus away from calories and toward nourishment. And I’m not saying that calories don’t matter at all – what I’m really saying is that the calories in, calories out model of “health” does not even come close to addressing the root cause of why you don’t feel your best. So, when the majority of people in the weight loss industry are shouting about the law of thermodynamics, I implore you to share this message with a friend and start a new conversation around health, happiness and living a life of meaning and purpose. References

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s42255-019-0160-6#citeas

  2. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm199503093321009

  3. How to Heal Your Metabolism by Kate Deering. https://www.katedeering.com/my-book

  4. The Carlorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor. https://www.amazon.com/Calorie-Myth-Exercise-Weight-Better/dp/0062267337



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