The dangers of a fad diet

A fad diet. We’ve probably all been on one or know someone who has. The truth is, weight loss is HARD. It is sold as something simple, just eat less, move more. Yet how many times have you tried this only to fail? 

All around us, the world can be rife with diet talk and the lastest fad diet. This can slowly seeps into our minds, affects our thinking and before you know it you have been “diet-cultured”. Listening to that talk about needing to lose weight to fit into clothes, needing to be thinner to be accepted, being “good” with what you have eaten or how a lack of willpower has led to you being lazy and fat can all contribute to chronic dieting.

What is a fad diet?

A fad diet is a way of eating that supports a claim without any robust evidence to back it up. They are usually aimed at weight loss. These are often restrictive diets that cut out food groups. A fad diet may have a plan to follow where you only eat certain foods at certain times. There are usually rules to follow that leave you with guilt if you do not stick to them. They can include expensive ingredients, supplements and powders. Following one fad diet after another can lead to chronic dieting.

What is chronic dieting?

Chronic dieting isn’t just about shedding a few pounds on a fad diet. It’s a repetitive cycle of restrictive eating where you try fad diet after fad diet. This is often fueled by pressures from society, unrealistic body ideals, and the belief that thinner is better. This cycle can become an unhealthy, never-ending loop of weight loss attempts followed by periods of regaining, contributing to physical and mental distress.

Signs of Chronic Dieting from a fad diet

Identifying chronic dieting involves recognising the signs that you have fallen into the trap of perpetual weight loss attempts. Where you have tried time and time again using diets to lose weight. If you are left with constant thoughts about food, rigid food rules, and feelings of guilt after eating the these are common indicators of chronic dieting. You may also notice you feel obsessed with body weight and shape, your weight frequently fluctuations and you are obsessed with finding the next fad diet to try.

Impact on the Body of Chronic Dieting

Chronic dieting can have severe consequences on the body. In actual fact the majority of diets just do not work. While initial weight loss may occur, studies consistently show that over the longer term (1 year plus), the majority of people regain lost weight, and often some extra too. An analysis of 29 studies showed by 5 years 80% of the weight lost was regained. 

Moreover, the metabolic changes achieved through dieting, such as improved blood pressure and lipid levels, are frequently short-lived. The body’s natural response to persistent undereating involves an increase in appetite and a decrease in energy expenditure. This makes sense as it is yoour body trying to get you to eat more. But it makes long-term weight loss more challenging. That fad diet and those short-term fixes just do not help you longer term. 

Rebound Weight and the Diet Cycle

The diet cycle is a familiar pattern for chronic dieters. You start with the initial enthusiasm of a new fad diet plan, which is followed by temporary weight loss. However, this doesn’t last and is followed by a regain of the lost weight. Then leading to frustration and a renewed commitment to the next diet. This continued cycle can have negative effects on your mental well-being. It can, in the long term, lead to a negative relationship with food, body dissatisfaction, and a distorted self-image.

This diet cycle isn’t your fault. I want you to go back and read that sentence again. It isn’t your fault. We live in an environment that facilitates weight gain. We have ready access to food, with more calorie-dense options being easier to grab and go than more balanced ones. The design of our environments and work schedules lead us to having more sedentary lives. Even with all the motivation in the world, healthy choices can be an uphill battle against the default.

Whilst it may be easy to lose that first bit of weight, there is a negative feedback loop that then makes it harder. So once you lose some weight your appetite increases and your energy expenditure decreases. You use up less energy and are hungrier! You are not lazy, you do not have poor willpower, it is actually your body making it harder for you to persistently under-eat.

Impact of Diet Culture: Why a Fad Diet Doesn’t Work

The influence of diet culture is a significant factor in chronic dieting. We need to break from from society’s unrealistic standards. These are driven by the media, plus advertising and even the mannequins in shops. They all contribute to an unhealthy idea of how bodies should look. Diet culture thrives on the notion that weight loss equates to success, happiness, and acceptance. However, this pressure often leads individuals to embark on diets that are unsustainable, building a cycle of disappointment and dissatisfaction.

Breaking free from the dangers of chronic dieting involves challenging the norms perpetuated by diet culture. Instead of succumbing to quick fixes and restrictive plans, consider embracing a healthier lifestyle that prioritises long-term well-being. Ditch the diets, step away from the scales, and focus on making sustainable changes to your lifestyle. Connect with your body’s signals, challenge negative thoughts, and find deep motivation rooted in health, not just appearance.

What can help?

Ditch the diets. Step away from the scales. Instead choose to make long term changes to your lifestyle that you can keep for good.

Start to rewire your thinking and getting back in tune with your body’s signals. This takes time, but it will be worth it. Think about how long it can take to build a new habit. Then try focusing on committing for a year and not a few weeks. Here are some tips:

  • Start working on connecting with your hunger and fullness signals. What do they feel like, how strong are there at different points of the day? 
  • Eat, cook and prepare more meals at home, rather than a grab and go or eating out.
  • Challenge your negative thoughts about yourself and your body. Try to reframe these with neutral or positives. For example “I look fat in this” can be reframed as “My body has looked after me well and whilst I am not comfortable with it all the time I choose to be kind to it”.
  • Find your deep motivation, why do you want to make change, what is really going to help you keep making change long term?
  • Focus on health changes and not weight changes. What can you do that will benefit your overall health right now? A lunchtime walk, eating an extra portion of fruit, drinking more water, sleeping earlier?
  • Manage your expectations. There is no perfect diet or lifestyle. Instead of being “all or nothing” focus on the happy balance. You may not end up with that perfect body but getting to know your body and accepting it will be so very worth it.
  • Work with a healthcare professional who can be there alongside you every step of the way.

What to do instead of a fad diet?

Start reading, listening and following those who talk about and work in the field of intuitive eating. There are some super podcasts and books. 

Book recommendations:

  • Food isn’t Medicine by Dr Joshua Woolrich
  • The body is not an apology by Soya Renee Taylor
  • Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole
  • Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield

I also run a 6 week Flexible Eating course that helps challenge these diet culture thoughts, works on restructuring your own thoughts and starts the journey of connecting into your body’s signals. Plus we cover sensible lifestyle changes you can make. I’d love you to come join me.

In the pursuit of a healthier you, consider seeking guidance from healthcare professionals and exploring the principles of intuitive eating. Dive into the podcasts and books above that promote a balanced and mindful approach to nutrition. Remember, it’s not about achieving a perfect body; it’s about understanding and accepting your body while making choices that contribute to your overall health and happiness.

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