I Quit Dieting!
This is why I did it, what I did instead, and what happened after.
I didn’t struggle with food, body image, or dieting as a kid. When I was a teenager, I remember other girls dieting, and I vaguely remember being dissatisfied with certain parts of my appearance – namely the dark hair on my arms. But for the most part, I never dieted, and I didn’t think too much about my body or what I ate.
When I was 18 all of that changed. I went to college, was on my own for the first time, met a guy, fell in love, and gained 20 pounds. The guy with whom I was in love was an avid fitness buff. He had high expectations for his own physical appearance…and mine. For the first time in my life I was truly self-conscious about my body and weight. I went on my first diet, lost the 20 pounds I had gained, plus another 20 pounds. I was borderline anorexic. Not long after my stint with anorexia, the binges began. I eventually regained all the weight I had lost, plus extra.
I wish I had known then what I know now about dieting…
In less than a year I went from being a relatively confident and grounded young woman, to a human-like shell of a person with disordered eating habits, food obsession, and a complete fixation on physical appearance. Little did I know that I would suffer with these emotionally draining and disturbing binges, body obsessions, and yo-yo weight fluctuations for twenty more years.
I really thought there was something wrong with me. I believed that I was somehow genetically or emotionally inferior. I thought my willpower was broken. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I now see that:
- My body – even at 20 pounds heavier – was still fine and healthy, no matter what my boyfriend thought.
- Dieting caused my disordered eating patterns, binges, and obsession with food.
- Had I never started dieting in the first place, I would not have experienced years of yo-yo weight fluctuations, binges, and loss of control around food.
Why You Should Quit Dieting Forever
Would you hire a builder to frame your house if almost 100% of the houses he had built previously fell down within one year? Probably not. So why are we so eager to jump on the diet bandwagon when diets – all of them – have a failure rate of about 95%? You read that right: 95% of people who lose weight on a diet regain it within one year. Nearly 100% regain all the lost weight within five years.
Here’s the thing: I’m not saying diets don’t work. All diets work. They all cause weight loss…while you’re on them. But not a single diet – especially the very restrictive ones like Atkins, Keto, low carb, and Paleo – are shown to cause long-term weight loss. What’s more disturbing is that yo-yo weight fluctuation is actually linked to higher mortality! That means you are actually healthier staying at a heavier weight and not dieting at all!
Further evidence that you should quit dieting: The Biggest Loser effect
On the hit show The Biggest Loser, participants lost staggering amounts of weight in relatively short amounts of time on semi-starvation diets. Most of them gained back some or all of the weight, and some became even heavier than they were before the show.
Post-diet studies of The Biggest Loser participants showed a disturbing trend: not only did most of them regain the weight, but their metabolisms were reduced by up to 40%. Even more disturbing was the fact that their metabolisms never rebounded. Metabolism remained significantly lower even after they began eating normally, and even after they regained the weight! Participants also reported higher-than-average levels of obsession with food and body.
The takeaway message: diets may cause more harm than good. So quit dieting!
How do I know if it’s time to quit dieting?
Chances are good if you’ve read this far, you’re already pretty sick of dieting or the diets just aren’t working anymore. Here’s the simple “True/False” intake questionnaire I give to prospective clients to help them determine if they’re ready to quit dieting:
- I frequently eat until well beyond comfortable fullness.
- I have no idea how to tell when I’m hungry and/or when I’m full.
- If there are cookies/chips/candy in my house, I can’t stop thinking about them until I’ve eaten them.
- I think about food a lot.
- I am frequently very restrictive with food, but eventually lose control and binge.
- I feel guilty about eating, especially if I eat “forbidden” foods.
- I feel like I lose control around food, especially in certain situations, with certain people, and/or when eating certain “trigger” foods.
- I tend to overeat in the evenings and/or on weekends.
- I eat in secret and/or don’t like eating in front of others.
- I’ve tried many diets without lasting success.
- My behavior around food and/or feelings about my body are disturbing to me and causes me emotional distress.
If you answered “True” to more than three of the above statements, it may be time to step back and evaluate whether continuing on your current path is in your best interest.
The Final Straw
After 20 years of yo-yo weight fluctuation, crash dieting, beating down my body with intense workouts, and hating myself in general, I couldn’t do it anymore. My “fitness identity” – the “thing” I had built my business around – was in crisis. I was trying diet after diet, cleanse after cleanse. All of them ended in binges. I was either “fasting” or eating out of control. My weight was on an upward trajectory. How could I keep teaching women to diet when it wasn’t working for me?
To make matters worse, my obsession with food, dieting, weight loss, and my body was affecting my husband and my daughter. I no longer did fun things with them. Workouts, food prep, and thinking about food and my weight were more important. My obsessions with food and my body were sucking my life away. Mostly I feared that my daughter would have to go through this agony.
I quit dieting. Here’s how I did it.
I decided to take a month off of dieting and intense exercise. By this point I was so fed up that I no longer cared if I never lost another pound. I didn’t even care if I gained weight. I just couldn’t keep living a lie.
A month went by, then another, and another…until I’d gone a year without dieting and extreme exercise. During this time I didn’t track weight, calories, macros, points, steps, or hours logged at the gym. I threw out my scale and tape measure, un-followed a bunch of social media #fitspos, and began paying attention to my body and keeping a written account of what I did and how I felt. I read some books about a thing called “intuitive eating”, and more books and articles about radical body acceptance.
Over the course of a year, my life completely turned around. My eating behavior normalized and so did my weight. The best part is the absence of food and body obsession. I began to find little things I liked about my body. I’m trustworthy around Oreos and Halloween candy. I learned that I wouldn’t gain a thousand pounds if I didn’t exercise. Donuts and chips can be in my house and I can forget about them. Just a few bites of mac and cheese and I can say “Wow, that’s rich! I’ve had enough!” The binges stopped. Life is fun and interesting once again – baking with my daughter, planning camping trips with my husband, getting excited about things that used to excite me!
I am free.
My mission: To help other women quit dieting too
I’ve worked with a lot of women over the past five years as a fitness trainer and certified holistic nutrition expert. Ninety-nine percent of these women didn’t need another diet, detox, or cleanse. They need to re-learn how to feel their hunger and satiety signals, and to trust themselves around food again.
I’m so glad I chronicled my year-long journey because it allowed me to put together a comprehensive and step-by-step course to help other women become “intuitive eaters” and improve body confidence and self-image. The course is completely online and includes 12 weeks of self-guided readings, videos, and activities to help you learn and practice the fundamental concepts of intuitive eating and body acceptance.
I encourage you to quit dieting – even if just for a month – and see where it leads you! If you need help or are interested in my course, please check out my intuitive eating page!