The Anti-Diet Advent Calendar: 31 Reasons NOT to Diet in 2019
It’s December 1st! This is day 31 of the official countdown to DIET SEASON!
Did you know that January is National Dieting Month? You’re totally shocked, right?
Forty-five million Americans go on a diet every year, many of them starting on January 1st…and most of them going down in flames by February 1st.
I’m going rogue in 2019 and I want you to come with me! I’m not going to diet ever again and I’m going to encourage you to do the same. So for each day in December, I’m going to give you good reasons NOT to diet in 2019, and also plenty of tips on what to do instead!
Think of it like an anti-diet advent calendar!
I’ll be posting a new anti-diet reason every day in December. You’ll need these tips to stay strong while your friends eat kale for all of January (and then Oreos for all of February), so make sure you check back daily and follow me on Facebook or Instagram!
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT DIETS…
First, let’s go over a quick definition of the word “diet”. What comes to mind when you hear that word? The definition of “diet” simply refers to the kind of foods a person or animal habitually eats - without any sort of attached judgement. Problem is, most people associate the word diet with pain, deprivation, and lists of foods that are “good” or “bad”. We’ve taken a benign word and charged it - and ourselves - with negative meaning.
So as I post daily about why you shouldn’t “diet”, please remember that when I refer to that word, I’m usually talking about the 4-letter kind that we love to hate….but that we continue to do despite the fact that the diets aren’t working for us.
REASON #31 NOT TO DIET IN 2019: DIETS MAKE YOU LESS HEALTHY.
If you’re dieting “for your health”, which is a common (but BS) reason that people give for going on a diet, you should know that dieting can actually be bad for your body. Weight cycling – the loss and regain of weight – is correlated with increased risk of illness and death. That means staying at a heavier weight is actually healthier than yo-yo dieting! Need proof? There’s plenty of research supporting that diets not only do not work, but that they’re bad for our health! Check out this study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO INSTEAD…
Anti-Diet Suggestion: Decide not to diet. Weight cycling is bad for your health, so reevaluate your reasons for attempting an extreme diet or cleanse. Stop basing your food and exercise decisions on body weight and appearance (because neither is a good predictor of internal health). And be aware that many programs and meal plans like keto, Paleo, and Whole 30 call themselves “lifestyles”, but are really nothing more than glorified extreme diets that are very difficult to maintain long term. Maybe a few people have success with them, but the research shows that the vast majority of people struggle to make the enormous shifts in lifestyle called for in these diets.
If you are really interested in improving your health (with weight loss often happening slowly as a happy side effect), make small shifts that are easy to make and maintain. Take inventory of what foods you and your family eat right now and ask yourself “How can I make the foods we already eat a little healthier?” This might mean adding a side of leafy greens or a bowl of berries to dinner, or upgrading from white rice to brown rice, or trying a new grain like Farro, or switching to grass-fed meats and eggs. These small upgrades won’t help you lose 39 pounds by next week, but they also aren’t terribly painful to make, are easy to sustain, and will increase your health (and decrease your weight) over the long term!
Reason #30 NOT to Diet in 2019: Your mind will be full of pink elephants
What are you thinking about right now?
An interesting phenomenon occurs when we attempt to restrict our thoughts about or access to something. We suddenly can’t stop thinking about it. This is also what happens when we eliminate foods and whole food groups. The very second you say “I can’t have it”, you start to crave and obsess over it. Couple that with cutting calories, and you’re going to have donuts and pizza on the brain 24/7.
A World War II study conducted by Dr. Ancel Keys powerfully demonstrates this:
Thirty two healthy men who had never dieted, and were of average weight and height, were chosen to participate in a starvation study. During the first three months of the study, the men were told to eat as they pleased. They averaged nearly 3500 calories per day. The next six months was the “starvation period”. Calories were cut in half to about 1500 per day. The effects of this semi-starvation were strikingly similar to dieting. Among some very disturbing physical changes such as metabolic rate decreasing by nearly 40%, the men were also obsessed with food. They talked about food constantly and even collected recipes. DUDES COLLECTING FOOD RECIPES…in the 1940’s…when women still did nearly all the cooking! The men also reported disordered eating habits and weekend binges totaling more than 10,000 calories in a sitting. These men went from healthy, normal eating habits, to feelings of obsession and shame, and in some cases full-blown eating disorders, in less than 6 months!
The lesson: restricting food makes humans obsess over food. This is basic survival stuff. When food became scarce for our ancient ancestors they thought about food, which caused them to look for food. Any human that didn’t think about food during lean times probably starved to death - Darwinism at its finest. Today, despite the fact that we are surrounded by food, our genetics haven’t changed very much. When you go on a restrictive diet, your brain and body perceive a famine…and the same cascade of hormonal and psychological problems ensues. Food restriction causes food obsession!
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO INSTEAD…
Anti-Diet Wisdom: No food or food group should ever be completely off the table (unless you have a true allergy or extreme sensitivity). The best way to stop obsessing over a food is to be allowed to have it. Additionally, try never to cut calories too low, too quickly. Yes, a calorie deficit is required for weight loss, but going from eating 2,000 or 3,000 calories per day to less than 1500 will be disastrous for both your body and your mental health.
If you struggle with intense cravings, constant thoughts of food, or feel like you lose control around certain “trigger” foods, you need to take my Intuitive Eating Course! I address these issues and help you regain control and confidence with food!
Reason #29 NOT to Diet in 2019: YOUR NAME ISN’T KELLY BAILEY, SO WHY EXPECT MY DIET TO WORK FOR YOU?
Well, maybe your name is Kelly Bailey (apparently it’s a pretty popular name), but unless you and I are identical twins who share the exact same DNA, we’re pretty unique in every other way…including our dietary needs and preferences.
How many times have you heard or read something like this: I’ve got a diet that will solve all of your problems!!! It’s the egg and avocado diet. It’s super simple. All you eat are eggs and avocados. What? You don’t like avocados? You’re allergic to eggs? Well that’s just too bad because this is the egg and avocado diet and it worked for me, so it’ll work for everyone.
Most diets are designed by someone who doesn’t even know you. Most diet plans are created by fitness professionals, doctors, or dietitians who are swayed in one particular direction or another - they read an article or a study about Diet X and decided it’s the best thing ever - or they want to sell you 563 additional products and supplements that complement their “proprietary” meal plan. At best a diet can serve as a framework, but people are often too reliant on these “cookie cutter” measures, which causes them to ignore the signals being sent from their body.
In my years as a nutrition coach and trainer, I have yet to meet two people who flourish on the exact same diet. This is why I no longer write meal plans, and why you should be skeptical of them. No doctor, dietitian, health coach, or nutritionist can tell you when, what, or how much to eat. They don’t know your likes, dislikes, allergies, sensitivities, home situation, or eating schedule.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO INSTEAD…
Anti-Diet Wisdom: You are the only one who can truly know what foods work for your body, when to to eat, and how much. So start paying attention to how you feel before, during, and after meals! Most of us are eating on autopilot, never making the connection between hunger, satiety, and how certain foods make us feel. When you begin to tune into your body it will tell you exactly what, when, and how much to eat!
Want help re-learning your body’s signals? Check out my intuitive eating page!
Don’t Diet in 2019 - Reason #28: You might find yourself double-fisting donuts in a closet.
YOU’RE JUST A DIET AWAY FROM AN EATING DISORDER.
Donuts. My love and my arch nemesis. Donuts are not low carb, low fat, or low anything else. During my dieting career I wouldn’t allow myself to have donuts…but boy did I want them, think about them, dream about them. I’d also frequently binge on them…lots of them. I was either not allowed to eat donuts…or eating massive quantities of them. There was no in between.
Interestingly, I never had this problem with donuts - or any other food for that matter - until I became focused on my weight and appearance and started doing strict diets and crazy cleanses.
Restrictive diets often cause more problems than they solve. It’s a bit like being in a relationship with a man you love, but who is only using you for sex: you try to stay away because you know he’s bad for you, but then he calls, you cave, and you get all you can while the opportunity is open. The next day you feel really awful and guilty, and “commit to quit”…until next time, anyway.
Sounds a bit like the relationship we can develop with food when we’re dieting, doesn’t it? Whether it’s donuts, pizza, chips, or pasta, that lover’s gonna come calling again…and if you’ve been ultra-restrictive, it’s going to be hard to resist the siren call of that cheesecake.
Research shows that extreme diets are one of the fastest ways to develop an eating disorder and/or dysfunctional habits around food. So if you’ve been dieting and suddenly find yourself alone in a closet with a large pizza and two-dozen donuts, you’ve got a problem…one that is most likely caused by self-induced starvation or having too many “food rules”.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO INSTEAD…
Anti-Diet Wisdom: Binges and other “weird food behavior” are not shameful acts…they are cries for help from your brain and body. They are the “canary in the coal mine” letting you know that something isn’t right! In many cases binge behavior and food obsession will subside if you simply allow yourself to be more moderate with food. If you want a donut have a donut and be done with it! You are allowed.
Keep in mind that if you’ve been very restrictive for a long time, it can take just as long, or longer, to normalize your eating behavior - especially with “trigger foods”. The first few times you allow yourself to have a “forbidden food”, you may very well binge or overeat! Remember, your brain and body are trying to get as much as they can because they “know” you may restrict again. The key: don’t restrict again. If you overeat, eat again the very next time you’re hungry…and if you want the “forbidden food” again, eat it. You must prove to yourself - to your body and brain - that you can have it…any time you want it. I promise that the urge to overeat tapers off when you know you can have it! I hardly ever think about donuts any more, and now I can eat just one and be satisfied.
Special note: if you feel you are struggling with an eating disorder, you should seek professional help!
Blog Author: Kelly Bailey, IIN certified holistic nutrition coach, and NPTI certified personal trainer
Learn more about the author here.