Five reasons not to diet in 2018, and what to do instead

1. Diets don’t work. Anyone who says they have found the proven way to lose weight and keep it off is selling snake oil, and counting on repeat customers. When you restrict calories enough to drop below your body’s natural set point weight range, your body will push back, causing you to regain weight. Over time, repeatedly losing and regaining weight (yo-yo dieting) may leave your health in a worse place than if you never dieted. This is a bitter pill, especially if better health is one of your motivations for losing weight.

2. Weight does not equal health. People can be healthy or unhealthy at both lower and higher weights. Even in research that shows an association between weight loss and improved health, it’s unclear whether it’s the weight loss that’s responsible for better health, or the behaviors people adopt in an effort to lose weight, such as better nutrition and regular physical activity.

3. Dieting gets in the way of lasting change. In other words, it doesn’t help you develop sustainable habits. When you treat nutrition and physical activity only as a means to weight loss, you’re not likely to eat well or be active if your attempts don’t lead to the results you want – and you’re more likely to return to old habits even if you do lose weight.

4. Dieting takes up mental bandwidth. Because most people feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day, why spend precious time obsessively logging your food and tracking your calories or macros? Why exhaust yourself worrying about whether the food at a restaurant or party fits your diet rules or beating yourself up because you ate food that’s not “allowed”? You may think that weighing less will free you from body image concerns, but dieting to improve body image is futile, because any newfound self-esteem will evaporate when you regain the weight.

5. Restriction can lead to bingeing. Dieting and food restriction have been shown to increase the risk of binge eating. When you feel deprived, you’re more likely to overeat once you stop restricting. This restrict-binge cycle is the opposite of a moderate, balanced, peaceful approach to food and eating.

Giving up one habit without replacing it with something else can create an uncomfortable vacuum that may suck you back into the diet culture. Here are four things you can do to move toward health and away from dieting.

 

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