By Jessica Beardsley, MS, RD, LDN.
I just read an interview of a researcher that has spent decades studying eating habits and dieting – and she very adamantly states (in her new book) that diets don’t work.
After reading her interview I partially agree and partially disagree with her.
How Diets Work
The researcher outlines that people go into starvation mode when they diet by eating less calories and this in turn leads them to be hyper-aware of food, more hungry, and their body’s metabolism slows in reaction to less food/calories.
She admits that diets do work in the first 6 months – and many dieters can lose up to 10% of their body weight. However dieters are not usually able to keep the weight off – and this trend is blamed on poor will power. The researcher concludes that it is pointless to diet and not necessary to try to be at a lower ‘set point’ weight then the body is meant to be at.
However, I believe that is not the whole story.
Yes I think ‘starving’ yourself is not a good thing, nor is it sustainable. However, it is too simple to say ‘diets don’t work’ when there are ways to eat healthier, improve body composition and more importantly improve overall health (cholesterol, insulin responsiveness, blood pressure, immune response, energy, etc). In addition, maybe the focus on weight is the wrong goal.
The word ‘diet’ has negative connotations. To many it means restriction, starvation, “good” foods that are allowed, and “bad” foods that are off-limits.
But to a dietitian, a ‘diet’ is simply a pattern of what and how we eat. We all have a ‘diet.’ Even my dog is on a ‘diet’ – his diet is whatever he eats!
What is the answer to ‘dieting’?
Eat a variety of foods – and everything in moderation!
- Can you eat ice cream? Yes.
- Should you eat a gallon at a time? Probably not.
- Should you eat broccoli every day? Only if you like it – otherwise, choose a green vegetable that you enjoy and eat that instead.
A healthy pattern of eating is only sustainable when you enjoy your food and feel satisfied. That means eating to the point of being full, but not overly full, stuffed, or uncomfortable. This may take time to practice and this is where mindfulness comes into play.
Too many of us eat while we’re working on the computer, watching TV, driving in the car, or chatting at a party. Usually in those situations we are not even aware of what and how much we put in our mouths. And what’s the point of eating if we’re not even going to enjoy it?
Mindful eating means taking time out to sit and observe our food and eat it thoughtfully. People who are successful at mindful eating take stock of their hunger before they eat and several times during their meal or snack to observe their hunger and fullness feelings. They stop eating when they start to feel full. This is not normal practice in US culture – but hey, why not be counter-cultural?
THE BOTTOM LINE
Should you go on a ‘diet’? Short answer: No.
Should you try to eat a healthier variety of foods and possibly eat slower to increase mindfulness? Yes, absolutely!
Take time to enjoy your food. Enjoy your friends and family. No dieting necessary.
[…] I’ve Heard Diets Don’t Work: A Dietitian’s Thoughts via Cancer Dietitian (Insightful post on why most diets only work in the short-term and what a better alternative to ‘dieting’ is…SPOILER ALERT: mindful eating!) […]