Why DIETS DON’T WORK And Will Make Your Health And Weight WORSE!

If you are in recovery from an eating disorder then chances are you already know that diets don’t work and in order to fully recover you must let go of all dieting and restriction.

But because diet culture is everywhere around us and restriction is so normalized these days it’s easy to forget the dangers of diets and why diets don’t work.

So in this post, I want to address some key points on why diets don’t work and will actually make your health and your weight worse!

 

1. Diets have an extremely high failure rate

Everybody knows that diets have an extremely high failure rate. Depending on the source its typically said to be about 95-97%.

But if you look at what happens to dieters long term, like after 5 years, then diets fail 99% of the time.

Arthur Frank, medical director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program, reports that out of every 200 people who start a diet, only ten of them will successfully meet their weight-loss goals. And the odds get significantly worse when you look at the long-term outcomes. Out of those ten people, only one of them will keep the weight off over time. That’s a failure rate of 99.5%!

And the odds get significantly worse when you look at the long-term outcomes. Out of those ten people, only one of them will keep the weight off over time. That’s a failure rate of 99.5%!

A team of experts at UCLA (The University of California, Los Angeles) analyzed every study that followed dieters over a two- to five-year period. Every single published, long-term dieting study was included. And NONE of them showed that diets produce any long term success with weight loss or have health benefits.

And one of the UCLA researcher, Tracy Mann, said that the results of their data were conclusive: “Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss, or health benefits, for the majority of people.” 

Yes, we can all lose weight by dieting and restricting but it will only be a short term result, and in long term, especially if we look at what happens to dieters after 5 years then about 99.5% dieters gain weight back. If this is not enough proof diets don’t work then I don’t know what is.

2. Diets make you gain more weight

Diets are very ineffective at producing any long term weight loss but they are of the best predictors of future weight gain.

The UCLA researcher Tracy Mann also said in her study that most people would be “better off not going on a diet at all. Their weight would be pretty much the same, and their bodies would not suffer the wear and tear from losing weight and gaining it all back.” Initially, she explained, many people lose five to ten percent of their body weight. But the majority of people regained any weight that they had lost.

The UCLA team concluded that “one of the best predictors of weight gain over the four years was having lost weight on a diet at some point during the years before the study started.” 

So not only do diets fail at producing (or maintaining) weight loss, but they actually make you gain weight!

Or another example: one of the largest and longest clinical studies done on diets, the Women’s Health Initiative. Where more than 20,000 women tried out a low-fat diet and reducing their calorie intake by 360 calories per day. And after almost 8 years on this diet, there was NO change in their weight from where they started and their abdominal fat had actually increased.

Diets push your set point weight up because dieting triggers your body’s starvation response where one of the mechanism is that your body starts to prefer storing more fat to protect you from starvation.

And in the study, the weight gain happened despite the fact that the lower calorie diet was maintained! 

So you just eat less, feel worse and gain more weight back later!

And this cycle never ends! There will NEVER be a point where you have lost the weight and can start to eat normally again without any negative effects or rebound weight gain.

Diets don’t work and the restriction will never ever end, unless you choose to step out of it and to fully recover.

And if you think these results were only correlated to low-fat dieting then…

  • After twelve months, Atkins dieters were eating 289 fewer calories compared to when they started the diet…
  • Zone dieters were eating 381 fewer calories…
  • LEARN dieters were eating 271 fewer calories…
  • and Ornish dieters were eating 345 fewer calories.

They were all eating less than before but they were steadily regaining weight over the last six months of the first year. And this happened despite also increasing their exercise! 

They all ate fewer calories, increased exercise and still ended up gaining the weight back!

Diets don’t work despite you are doing everything they tell you to do!

And there was conducted this 5-year study on teenage twins.

The dieting twin who had gone through just one intentional weight loss episode was nearly 2-3 times more likely to become overweight, compared to the twin who didn’t diet. And the risk of becoming overweight increased by each diet and weight loss cycle.

Dieting automatically increases your risk of gaining weight in the future. And in fact it’s one of the best predictors of future weight gain according to the researcher Tracy Mann.

Dieting automatically increases your risk of gaining weight in the future. And in fact it’s one of the best predictors of future weight gain according to the researcher Tracy Mann.

And it is said that as many as 66% of people who attempt weight-loss with dieting end up gaining more weight than they lost.

So people who start a diet will gain back the weight after 5 years, and over half of them gain back even more weight than they started with!

3. Diets trigger the body’s starvation response

Dieting is a form of starvation for your body. Your body doesn’t know you are “just dieting” but your body thinks you are actually starving and this is extremely stressful for the body.

And this stress triggers the body’s starvation response.

Your body goes into a survival mode where it actually starts to adjust certain body processes to fight for survival and to keep you alive for longer.

For example, your metabolism slows down – your body doesn’t want to burn more calories when you are eating less. It actually wants to conserve energy as much as possible. So when you are eating less calories, you will actually burn those calories slower and this is where many people might see that despite decreasing their calories significantly the weight loss just slows down.

Some even find that they keep gaining weight despite eating fewer calories than when they first started dieting.

And to gain weight back after dieting you don’t even need to be overeating, but even normal eating with a suppressed metabolism will cause the weight that was lost to come back.

So the failure rate of dieting is so high, not because people don’t have enough willpower to diet but because our bodies were designed to fight weight loss.

Or another example of your body’s starvation response is experiencing food obsession and urges to binge – when you eat less it might feel doable at first, especially when you are a first-time dieter, but over a period of time, you will get more and more obsessive thoughts about food and more intense urges to binge. This is another body’s intelligent way to fight starvation and to help you survive. Your body doesn’t want to eat less. Remember, eating less is extremely stressful for the body and it signals a huge stress response. And this actually intensifies your cravings for food and also changes your brain chemistry that makes you obsessed with food.

In other words, the restriction is the best prediction for out of control craving and urges to binge.

The restriction is the best prediction for out of control craving and urges to binge.

Diets don’t work not only because it’s not an effective way to lose weight but also because it messes up your whole body!

4. Diets don’t make you healthy

We tent to think that weight loss equals being healthy. But this is not the case.

The low rates of “dieting success” we hear is most often about the weight loss. But those successful weight loss stories do not include health outcomes – like how having to maintain that lower weight is affecting the person’s physical and mental health, or how it’s affecting the person’s everyday life, social life, family life, and other things.

We all know that having lost weight is not where it all ends. Its just a the START of it.  You need to maintain your restricted eating and the levels of exercise you did when you lost weight for the rest of your life or you will gain the weight back. This very often means a person has to dedicate the majority of their life to following food rules and restrictions. To constantly monitor their eating, to worry and obsess about food and their weight. Which by itself is linked to increased stress that is not good for your health. And not even talking about how losing weight can negatively affect someones physical and mental health.

Diets don’t work because of how much damage it causes to a persons health and weight.

For example, many people think that when they diet, eat less and exercise more then the body loses weight just from their fat tissue. But it’s not so simple.

In the absence of adequate energy, our body uses catabolism (destruction of cells throughout your body) to survive. Eating less makes us lose weight, not “by selective reduction of adiposis [body fat], but wasting of all body tissues…therefore, any success obtained must be maintained by chronic undernourishment.” – George L. Thorpe, MD, American Medical Association

When you under-eat or diet, your body will literally start to eat itself to get energy.

Your body will cannibalize your organs, bones, and other body tissues to survive. It will not only take energy from your fat stores, as dieters think but from your entire body. This is why dieting will never result in health.

Your body will cannibalize your organs, bones, and other body tissues to survive. It will not only take energy from your fat stores, as dieters think but from your entire body. This is why dieting will never result in health.

Underfed people experience lower energy levels, apathy, dizziness, intolerance to cold, slower metabolism, preoccupation with food, intense hunger and cravings, decreased sex drive, general irritability, and depression, among other characteristics.

These are just a few examples of starvation symptoms you may experience:

Physical starvation symptoms:

  • Slow metabolism and always feeling cold
  • Loss of a healthy period or irregular period
  • Binge eating, loss of normal hunger cues
  • Digestion problems, food sensitivities, bloating
  • You may find yourself easily gaining weight when you eat to your fullness
  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Hair loss, brittle nails, dull skin
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

Mental starvation symptoms:

  • Food obsession
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Depression and mood disorders
  • Cognitive disorders
  • Increased negativity, outbursts of anger
  • Poor concentration and brain fog
  • Body image issues, lower self-esteem

These symptoms can be a result of starvation that dieting causes to your body. And the dieting doesn’t even have to be extreme. Even just a few weeks of dieting can already trigger some of these symptoms.

Not to think even long term effect of diets because many people don’t diet once in their lives just for a week. But often they go through many cycles of dieting. Yo-yo dieting. Losing weight, gaining weight, they try different kinds of diets. With each attempt, it just stresses out the body even more and triggers even more starvation symptoms.

Yo-yo dieting is linked to increasing rates of obesity, diabetes type 2, insulin resistance, cancer, bone fractures, heart disease, higher blood pressure, inflammation, increased mortality and as we talked about before, long term weight gain.

Yes, we can all lose weight by dieting, by eating less and starving our bodies, but a lower weight doesn’t make you healthy. Diets don’t work and are extremely stressful for the body and come with a long list of negative side effects long term.

5. Diets lead to disordered eating and eating disorders

As we talked about before that diets can trigger many negative symptoms with your eating. Things like food obsession, binge eating, and overeating and just generally messed up hunger cues and feeling crazy around food.

And this doesn’t happen because you lack willpower or are a failure but diets trigger our body’s biology to fight the starvation it causes.

Dieting can trigger food addiction and emotional eating symptoms.

Many people who have now recovered from diets say that the primary reason for feeling addicted to food or like you are eating emotionally is actually caused by food restriction.

When we restrict food we start to want it more, it results in binge eating and increased cravings which result in feeling guilt and shame around eating which results in more restrictive behaviors and we end up already in a very disordered eating cycle.

I also thought I am just addicted to sugar and eating emotionally, but as I fully recovered and stopped all restriction my food addiction and emotional eating symptoms magically disappeared.

And now I haven’t restricted in the past 5 years and been fully recovered. I have also went through stress and various emotions and I still haven’t had any food addiction or emotional eating symptoms. Because I no longer restrict.

Dieting can also be the first step towards an eating disorder.

“Dieting is the number one risk factor in the development of an eating disorder”. – Eating Disorders Victoria

“Disordered eating behaviours, and in particular dieting are the most common indicators of the development of an eating disorder.” – The National Eating Disorders Collaboration

The National Eating Disorders Association reports that 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting and that 20-25% of those individuals develop eating disorders.

Me and many of my clients have been dieters before we developed full-blown eating disorders. It typically starts with some form of restriction or a diet.

It is clear that dieting is already on a spectrum of disordered eating. And disordered eating is already on a spectrum of eating disorders.

We don’t have to wait until things get very extreme to get help and realize something is very wrong. If you feel your eating is simply not normal, you diet, restrict, experience food obsession, binge eating urges or other starvation symptoms discussed earlier then one thing is clear that more restriction doesn’t help! Diets don’t work and won’t make you healthy or solve your problems. It can actually BE a huge part of the problem and only make things worse long term.

Based on what we discussed here today I would say that dieting is a socially accepted form of self-harm. Because knowing what we know about diets and its side-effects today it’s simply not ethical to suggest someone to diet.

Dieting is a socially accepted form of self-harm. Because knowing what we know about diets and its side-effects today it’s simply not ethical to suggest someone to diet.

Conclusion

If we look at diets in this context, with everything we discussed…I would say that diets have a 0% success rate and a 100% failure rate since it’s not making you healthy…actually I would say it has such a high risk at making your physical and mental health worse.

And dieting doesn’t just make you gain back the weight you lost, but often makes you gain even more weight long term because it triggers your body’s starvation response.

And dieting is extremely stressful for the body and it results in many negative health side effects that we discussed.

Plus, it can be one of the first stepping stones towards disordered eating and even eating disorders.

If you want to know more about why diets don’t work, how to start your process of recovery from disordered eating or eating disorders then please check out my book “BrainwashED: Diet-Induced Eating Disorders. How You Got Sucked In And How To Recover.” Or check out my online courses.

I also recommend reading books “Intuitive Eating” And “Health At Every Size” to recover from diets, start eating normally and have a weight neutral approach to health.

If you wish to work with me one one one, then I offer 12-Week Recovery Coaching where I can help you go through your recovery step by step and offer support and accountability. Read more and apply HERE.

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