An Antidiet Dietitian Shares 5 Reasons Why Diets Suck and Why You Should Ditch Them Forever
You don't have to be involved in the antidiet, intuitive eating world to know that dieting messages are everywhere. Registered dietitian Dalina Soto, MA, LDN, shared that sometimes they're disguised as "lifestyle" changes, or maybe you're told to simply cut out certain food groups. When people go on restrictive diets, she said they'll discover that they don't work, "but somehow we all want them to work. We want to be the successful ones," and we work so hard to make it happen.
Soto explained that when we fail, we feel like crap, but it isn't our fault. "The diet and weight-loss industry banks on you failing so they can profit on you for years. They want you to continue to buy their shakes, or the frozen meals they can mail to you weekly," she said, adding that whatever diet you follow, "you're never in control, they are."
In case you're thinking about going on another diet, or you're currently on one and feeling miserable, watch this video to learn five reasons why diets suck. POPSUGAR asked Soto to explain each reason, so read on and you just may feel inspired to ditch that restrictive diet forever!
Reason 1: Restrictive Diets Make Your Body to Think That It's Starving
"When your body senses restriction, it thinks you are starving. It doesn't matter that you are eating 'healthier,' as many people will say," Soto said. "At an instinctual level, your body senses something isn't right and thinks it's starving." Your body wants to protect you from starving. She explained that this increases cravings and causes bingeing, which makes you overeat, which is why dieting can actually cause weight gain.
Reason 2: Restrictive Diets Increase Cravings
When you restrict certain foods like sugar, bread, or chips, you end up thinking about and craving what you can't have. Soto added that your body will also crave what it needs. "I often hear pregnant women say how they crave a juicy steak when iron is low," she said. So if you restrict carbs, for example, you'll crave sugar when your brain and body doesn't have enough.
"Glucose is our main source of energy and your body will increase your cravings to make sure you get it, and it doesn't care what form it comes in, it just needs it," she said. That's how the restrict, crave, binge cycle happens.
Reason 3: Restrictive Diets Cause Binges
People think they're binge eating because they get home from a stressful day and eat a ton of cookies or an entire bag of chips. Soto explained, "More often than not, this is a reaction to restriction." If you haven't eaten enough during the day or you're restricting certain foods, your body is just trying to make up for the lack of energy during the day.
"A primal need to eat kicks in and you go for what is going to give you quick energy (like carbs or sugar), because your body is super smart," Soto said. It wants to protect you against what it perceives as a famine, so it drives you to eat a lot because it's not sure when the next "famine" might be. Often times, binge eating will stop when you give your body enough calories and the foods it wants.
Reason 4: Restrictive Diets Are Not Sustainable
This cycle of restrict, crave, binge is not sustainable. You can't go through life not eating enough calories or giving up the foods you love (hello, birthday cake!). And when you (inevitably) fall off your diet, you think you are the problem, Soto said. The self-hatred of lacking willpower and not being good enough sets in, and encourages a downward spiral of trying again, over and over. But "it's not your fault. It's your body's biological way of keeping you alive," Soto said.
Reason 5: Diets Affect Your Mental Health
The thoughts of self-hatred and believing you lack willpower can make you feel like a failure and make you feel depressed, like something is wrong with you. Soto added, "Plus the restriction of calories also does a number on your mental health, as shown in the Minnesota starvation study.
The important takeaways to highlight from this study are that after the 'semi-starvation' period of six months where the 36 men ate 1,570 calories per day (3,200 calories a day was normal), the participants reported experiencing depression, apathy, decreased sex drive, decreased strength and stamina, as well as reduced body temperature and heart rate.
They also displayed symptoms of obsession with food: dreaming and fantasizing about food, reading about food, reading cookbooks, talking about food, and savoring their meals with ritual-style eating that prolonged mealtime. This is what dieting does to us!
Ditch Dieting and Embrace Food Freedom
Now you know why restrictive diets suck, why they don't work, and why we seem to always "fail" on them, so what can you do? Soto said to embrace food freedom, and one way to do that is through intuitive eating.
Start off slow, do what feels comfortable to you in regards to letting go of rigid food rules, seek out support, and know that gaining weight could be possible. But eventually you'll experience the pleasure of food while not being fixated, overwhelmed, and stressed out by it, and that will feel so amazing!