It’s New Years Eve, and with the new year comes the inevitable onslaught of diet ad after diet ad, a friend/family member/co-worker is starting the latest diet, an influencer sharing with you THE way to attain your body goals being shoved into our faces. If you are a living, breathing person with any access to the internet/cable/streaming/socials/etc. then you have likely seen at least one of these things.
Because of the culture we live in, it can be incredibly difficult to appreciate, love and care for our body’s. Particularly for those that have a marginalized identity, or one that doesn’t “fit” our culture’s idea of what beauty “should” be. We live in a fat phobic, weight stigmatizing culture. I.e. one that is not kind to those in body’s that don’t fit what our idea of “beauty” or “health” is.
So if you are thinking about starting a new diet in 2023, regardless of your identity or size, I want you to know I empathize with the pull and intrigue these diets have. How could you not? Our culture and healthcare system is not kind to body’s that don’t fit the idea we have of “health” or “beauty”.
The thought of finally fitting into the size/body of what culture finds acceptable - it is an incredibly strong current that is almost irresistible.
But I want you for a moment, just a moment, to pop your head above the current and hear me out when I say that there might be another way.
I want you to reflect for a moment. As I ask you to reflect on these questions, know that when I say “diet” I am including any “plans”, calorie/macro counting, and “lifestyle changes” (i.e. WW and Noom).
So here we go. I want you to ask yourself…
Is this the first diet you will be trying?
If not, what number is this?
Are you planning on “getting back on track” with a diet you have tried already in 2022?
Will this be the first, second, third, fourth, or more times you have needed to get “back on track” with a particular diet?
Now that we have reflected, let's talk more about the diet industry, and the truth behind why this may not be the first time you will be trying a new diet or "lifetyle change" in 2023.
There are reasons the diet industry is worth a billion dollars…
Diets rarely work for the vast majority of people. Now you might be thinking, “but diets work! I/they lost X amount of weight on Y diet.” This is undeniably true. Research shows that any calorie controlled diet can/may most certainly illicit weight loss in the short term (~1-6 months, maybe 1 year if they are lucky). But here is the issue (and why the diet industry is worth a billion dollars) - for the vast majority of people, research shows almost all the weight is regained within 1-5 years. The issue doesn’t stop there, though. Research also shows that about ¾ of those people (that regain weight) will gain more weight within that timeframe than they started with prior to the diet.
I just need more willpower…
This is the next logical thought process that comes after “failing” a diet, and yet another reason the diet industry is worth a billion dollars. “If only I was more self-disciplined” or “once life slows down I’ll have more time for this diet” or “Maybe a different diet will work better for me, I didn’t have enough willpower for this one” and the list goes on with the many ways we tell ourselves that we failed.
What if I told you that it’s not that simple?
What if I told you that there are strong, physiological mechanisms that occur within you that actively fight against a diet?
What if I told you that the diet itself is what has failed, not you?
What if I told you that BMI is bogus, and gives you little to no information about your health? What if I told you that losing weight, gaining weight, losing weight, gaining weight (aka weight cycling) is actually more damaging for your health than if you simply maintained your body weight (regardless of where your starting weight was)?
What if I told you there is another way to improve your health, well-being, and improve your self-esteem/care for your body?
More on that to come, so stay tuned.
Written by: Maddi Osburn RDN LD
Weight Stigma: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift http://www.nutritionj.com/content/10/1/9