Did You Fail The Diet or Did The Diet Fail You?

New year, new you.  Sound familiar?  Just like so many new year resolutions (where most are to lose weight), it might surprise you to know that 95% of weight loss programs result in failure to keep the weight off after 12 months.  Those are wildly unsuccessful rates.  So, what keeps people going back for something that doesn’t work?  And, if these “guaranteed” training programs are unsuccessful, where do we turn?

The diet industry suggests that a successful program means that you will lose weight, but there is no afterthought as to how sustainable this weight loss is. I would contend that a successful weight loss program is one where weight is lost and is kept off.  If this measure of success is used then, as mentioned above, 95% of diet and exercise programs fail.  Close to EVERY PERSON that loses significant amounts of weight through diet and exercise alone will regain that weight plus more within 2 years. 

In any other industry, if a process has a 95% fail rate then the process would be scrapped or dramatically improved, yet we are constantly fed the message that if the diet didn’t work then, somehow, this must be our fault.  Just like its evil step-sister, the beauty industry, the diet industry feeds off profits made from feelings of inadequacy, self-hatred and shame.  And, we keep going back because we believe somehow the next time will be different.  We blame ourselves; if only I tried harder, if only I had more willpower; rinse and repeat.  The cycle is vicious and endless. Lose weight, gain weight, lose weight, gain weight – all the while our self-love and confidence swings up and down like the scales. So I ask the question – did you fail the diet or did the diet fail you?

There are numerous studies that the diet industry conveniently ignores which show that restrictive dieting practices, such as those that encourage calorie counting and fasting, are associated with increased weight gain and disordered eating. Health authorities come to the party screaming that obesity rates are climbing and chronic disease is at epidemic proportions, whilst encouraging you to diet to reduce or prevent these consequences. So, if not dieting then what? (Which is actually the name of a fantastic book by Dr Rick Kausman about this very subject)

Let’s look at it logically and without all the emotion weight brings. The concern around obesity is the very likely result of chronic disease.  So let’s do something out of the ordinary and separate weight from health for a moment.  HEALTH is relevant.  SIZE is not important. 

Have you ever noticed that most advertising for weight loss suggests that you must dislike yourself enough to want to change? If we start approaching our vital lifestyle factors, like food and exercise, with an opposed perspective than what’s normally encouraged – that we love ourselves enough to want to function at our best – then we have a chance to make real and permanent positive changes, irrespective of what size we are.  I know a great many size 16’s and above that are far healthier than some size 8’s, because of their lifestyle habits and their mental wellness.  Even whilst healthy, some naturally bigger-framed women often feel they are too big because of the beauty standards that we are exposed to by the media.    We have been conditioned to put body appearance and health into the same basket but this is not the case. We are all unique and healthy looks different on everyone. 

Believe it or not, all of our life, the only thing our bodies want is for us to maintain a healthy balance, known biologically as “homeostasis”.  Because of this, we already have all of the inbuilt mechanisms in our body to maintain health.  We have hormones that tell us that we are full, and we have hormones that tell us when we are hungry.  Observe young children eat, and you will see that they simply stop when they are full regardless of how yummy it might taste.

Beyond this, our bodies will respond with energy and vitality when we feed it wholesome and nutritious foods, and adversely respond with sluggishness and disease when we feed it food that opposes this.  So, what has got in the way of this innate way of being?  An abundance of food and food-like products – particularly ones that light up pleasure centres in the brain – combined with restrictive dieting practices when we are “on a diet” have meant we have completely lost touch with the way our body feels and is supposed to work.  On top of this, the caloric content of foods are focused on over the nutritional content, and we label foods “good” and “bad”.   This in itself sets up a cascade of negative emotional connotations and connections with food, which confuses our body and mind even further.

If we can take the time to note how foods affect our bodies functioning, honour our fullness and hunger signals and practice mindful eating then good health will result, which for many overweight people will mean a reduction in kilograms.  Note that weight loss is merely a result of good health. This is called intuitive eating, which is a non-dieting approach and, like all new things, it takes practice.  We have been so conditioned to eat for weight loss that it takes time to for us to rewire our habits. Studies show that non-dieting approaches such as what we teach at Verve Natural Health, have far greater positive health effects than the same ole same ole that the diet industry spouts out.  And, surely you’re ready for a new approach to the same problem you’ve been facing.  As Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Food for thought – literally.

Ps. If your desire to lose weight is fuelled by the idea that it will make your life much better and you much happier, think again. This is another myth that the diet industry pushes, discussed in depth here

By Wendy Burke (Naturopath, Nutritionist & Personal Trainer)