YOUR BODY ISN'T BROKEN - THE TRUTH ABOUT WHY DIETS DON'T WORK.
There’s nothing more frustrating than losing weight only to gain it right back again.
I should know. I spent the majority of my teens and twenties losing the same five to ten pounds over and over.
I was either on a diet or I was off. Up five pounds or down. My life was ruled by calorie counting, food log apps, yes/no lists, and strict juice cleanses -- which were promptly followed by junk food binges.
There was a lot of disappointment and frustration. Lots of oreos. Lots of guilt.
I thought I was doing everything right by cutting calories and working out like a maniac. But by the end of the week I was so hungry and exhausted I would throw my hands up and say screw it. Pass the queso. I’ll start again on Monday.
I talk to so many women on this same miserable rollercoaster every day. They’ve tried everything but the scale keeps swinging. Diet after diet - nothing sticks.
Repeat this cycle long enough and it begins to break your spirit. You start to wonder if your body is broken. You think you’ll never be able to have the body you want.
THAT'S A LIE.
One of my main goals for this blog is to challenge the old-school restrictive dieting rules that are still so prevalent in our culture and media.
As a mom of a pre-teen girl growing up consuming that media, I’m passionate about using my platform to redefine what healthy living looks like for women today.
Most of all, I’m hell-bent on getting you to stop dieting.
DIETS SET YOU UP FOR FAILURE.
We all know diets work...as long as you follow the rules. And yet no diets work, because 9 out of 10 women who lose weight on a diet end up gaining it back (and then some) when the diets over.
Starting a diet necessarily means that at some point, you’re going to stop the diet.
Think back to the last time you were on your latest kick. You went totally gung-ho, cut your calories and ate rice cakes and cottage cheese like it was your job. You worked out every day for 2 weeks. Lo and behold you lost 5 pounds!
Your favorite shorts almost fit again which motivated you to lose even more. You felt like superwoman! Who cares if you’re hungry? Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
The next week you doubled down, cut your calories even lower and added in an extra mile run after dinner every night. You got on the scale expecting to see another 5 pound drop...except...hold up...One pound?!
Disappointed, but not defeated, you pulled on those cute little shorts and met your girlfriends for Moms' Night Out. You looked at the menu before hand and pre-picked the salmon salad.
Dressing on the side. Just water with lemon, please.
Everything was fine...but then the bread basket came. OHEMGEEITSMELLEDSOGOOD. You started bargaining with yourself. Just one piece. I’ll work out extra hard tomorrow.
And then you lost your cool.
One piece turned into four. You already blew it so you got the ravioli and hell yes you wanted to see the dessert menu. Who wants another glass of wine?
This is all made up of course, but I’m betting it was a death spiral from there. You got on the scale the next morning and saw you’d gained 4 pounds in a single night.
Totally depressed and burnt out, you didn’t track calories or workout for a few days. You fell back into your old habits and the rest of the weight came back in no time.
The next week you started texting your friend about doing a juice cleanse together. Or maybe Whole 30. “Alexa, what’s the most popular diet book on Amazon right now?”
Okay, I digress. But I’ve lived and heard this story so many times.
Writing it out like that really highlights the insanity, huh?
WHY DIETS DON’T WORK
First, let’s define what I consider dieting.
You’re on a diet if :
You’re intentionally restricting food intake to lose weight.
You’re reducing and counting calories or macros to lose weight. (including Weight Watchers Points)
You’re adhering to a strict list of foods you can and can’t have for the purposes of weight loss alone.*
You’re following a generic 1200 calorie meal plan you found on Pinterest.
You’re eating in any restrictive way you find stressful and can’t see yourself sustaining forever.
You’re consumed by thoughts of food, constantly hangry, mean to people, and hate your life.
*Following a certain diet because of ethical/moral/religious beliefs or due to a food intolerance is different than cutting out food groups for weight loss. Removing gluten, dairy, etc from your diet to test for a sensitivity is not what I’m talking about here.
Dieting is a stress on the body. When you over-restrict calories for too long, your brain pretty much freaks out.
Due to the sudden drop in food intake, your brain will slow your metabolism in an effort to keep you alive. A lower metabolism means less fat burning. The brain will also flood your body with cortisol (the stress hormone linked to belly fat) and you’ll likely begin to crave sweet and fatty foods - things you wouldn’t even normally eat.
I’m talking gross stuff like Nachos BellGrande and day old gas station donuts.
Not that I would know. Anyway...
If you can somehow gather enough grit to push through and ignore your appetite, things still get worse. Long term calorie restriction leads to muscle loss and hormone dysregulation. When you start eating “normally” again, the weight will come back fast and furious and your metabolism will be wrecked.
DIETS LEAD TO OVEREATING.
Our bodies are biologically designed to be fed - better yet, they’re designed to be nourished.
As women, we are genetically and hormonally made for reproductive health, and getting super-skinny-super-fast is completely at odds with that hardwired goal.
We’re not supposed to fight not to eat.
We’re also not designed to exist off only a handful of foods. Eliminating food groups for a few weeks doesn’t typically do any damage, but over the long run we may become deficient in essential nutrients.
This is no bueno for any stage of life you’re in, but it’s especially not helpful if you’re trying to make a baby.
DIETS PROMOTE FOOD ANXIETY
You might start to avoid certain social situations or stop going to lunch with your co-workers because you don’t want to be tempted or lose control.
Special occasions like weddings and vacations - events you should be able to enjoy to the fullest - are the cause of dread because you’ll never be skinny enough in time or you’ll have to pass on the wedding cake.
Passing on the wedding cake is no way to live life my friend. No way to live.
Or - and this was my personal M.O. - you look forward to vacation like an opportunity for a balls-to-the-wall binger. Vacations for me were nothing but an excuse to fall off the wagon, HARD.
When you stop trying to exist around strict dieting rules and learn to give your body the nourishment it needs, you’ll discover you actually can be calm around food.
Calm around food. Can you even imagine?
You can pass on the bread basket. You can eat the cake. You can go on vacation without hell to pay when you get home. You can go to a dinner party and not stuff yourself like it’s the Last Supper.
This is liberation.
DIETS DON’T TEACH YOU ANYTHING
Diets teach you zilch about your body except to resent it.
You're not defective.
Your body just isn’t supposed to be able to sustain the kind of abuse that five-pounds-a-week weight loss requires.
HOW TO FINALLY GET OFF THE DIET TRAIN.
There is a way to lose weight without cutting out everything you love, relying on sheer willpower, and dreaming about raw cookie dough.
It’s not an overnight process. It might take you a few months or even years. One step forward, a few steps back.
And that's okay.
But you can’t let speed be the enemy of constructive change.
No one understands better than I do how challenging it can be to break the diet mindset and ditch the perfectionism and guilt around food. It took me a long time to get to the underlying issues of my emotional eating and confront my habit of binging. I didn’t just wake up one day and everything had magically changed.
That’s a process that a single blog post can’t cover.
OWN YOUR STUFF.
Remember when I said my mission was to challenge the old-school diet rules? Inevitably that means I’m going to say some things that aren’t popular. Things you probably don’t want to hear.
It also means I won’t let you off the hook for being in crappy health.
As women we believe the lie that being thin will solve all of life's problems.
That doesn't mean you get to not care about your body.
It doesn't mean you get to keep putting off losing the weight if you need to.
Yo-yo dieting isn't just miserable for you. It's actually miserable for your kids, your husband, and everyone else who loves you.
You can't possibly live your best, most energetic, happiest life with the number on the scale constantly weighing on your mind.
We have to stop ignoring, justifying, rationalizing, and excusing ourselves for why we're miserable in own bodies and not doing anything about it.
We think we're hiding it, but everyone can tell.
I know. Ouch.
But I stand strongly for this.
And since this is my blog, I get to be blunt and tell you the truth about things.
Nothing worth having comes easy. If it took you years to get yourself into this mess, it’s going to take you some time to get out of it too.
FORGET ABOUT FAST WEIGHT LOSS.
Another little truth bomb you probably won’t love to hear is that slowing down your weight loss is the key to long term success.
I know. It’s so not sexy and it’s so not cool, but it’s helpful just to accept it right here and now.
It’s one of the first thing I tell my clients. If they’re expecting to lose weight in any other way than a sustainable 1 to 2 pound a week time frame, or skirt around the soul work, they better go find another coach.
I have seen some of my most brilliant, smartest friends fall victim to the latest fad in fast weight loss. Straight up lies - things they know are too good to be true - but they still spend their money on because the sales page put the tiniest seed of hope into their minds.
Oh, this drink powder will block twenty percent of the carbs I eat and make my body burn fat rapidly? Hmmm...that sounds like total crap...I'll try it anyway!
Would you rather lose and gain back the same ten or twenty pounds by crash dieting over and over and wasting hundreds of dollars only to be right back where you started this time next year?
Or... would you rather take a few months to slowly let those pounds melt away without much sacrifice or struggle. All the while, learning new habits, relaxing into the lifestyle, and learning to love and appreciate your new body so you never have to worry about the weight coming back ever again?
I mean, hopefully I know which one you picked.
UNTIE YOUR WORTH TO THE SCALE.
The scale is a dirty, soul-crushing liar.
You will NOT feel better about yourself when you are twenty pounds lighter.
You will NOT be happier when you fit into a smaller size.
Your confidence will not magically appear when your cellulite disappears.
You are more than just a number.
If you’re honest with yourself, you know that the same ole B.S. and unresolved issues will just be waiting for you no matter how much weight you lose, unless you begin the work to love and accept yourself where you’re at RIGHT. NOW.
You can’t hate yourself thin. You can’t punish yourself skinny.
You can’t lose ten pounds on a crash diet and also expect to be the kind of girl who is able to inhabit that new body and maintain it in just two weeks.
That girl has ISSUES. She needs some more time.
DITCH THE PERFECTION.
Let’s be real. Self-compassion is really freaking hard. Loving yourself enough to go after what you want isn't easy in and of itself. Being compassionate enough to not beat yourself up when you inevitably fall short is a skill that no one really teaches us.
As a recovering perfectionist, I know this all too well.
Finding true self-love and self-compassion is all about loving the parts of you that seem unlovable.
Which doesn't seem natural. We hate those parts of us. Failing sucks.
In her classic book, A Return To Love, Marianne Williamson says it perfectly. "There's only one despair worse than 'God, I blew it.' and that's 'God, I blew it again.'"
Learning self-compassion is a worthy pursuit. Your babies are watching.
They see how you treat yourself when you fail. They see if you get back up and try again.
I just ate that cookie...deep breath...it’s okay. I love myself anyway.
I skipped my workout...deep breath...it’s okay. I love myself anyway.
I just yelled at my kids because I was so damn hungry and acted like the biggest asshole to my husband...deep breath...it’s okay. I love myself anyway.
I know it feels utterly ridiculous. It’s uncomfortable. We feel like we deserve the self-criticism. We’re weak. We are such a freaking loser for eating that candy bar. We just keep blowing it.
Not so loving.
The recognition and acceptance that simultaneously pursuing self-love, self-esteem, and weight loss will take time, hard work, and is a soul journey that will never truly end is where the mindset shift occurs. It's where you will have your biggest transformation.
Taking responsibility, deciding what you want, and committing yourself to chip away at it one day at a time is so much less stressful then straight-jacketing yourself to a strict set of diet rules.
I’M HERE TO HELP.
I made lots of mistakes before I convinced myself thoroughly that what I had been doing over and again wasn't working - and was never going to start working.
I know about self-loathing.
I know all about feeling confused, alone, and desperate for help so I could just move on with my life.
The women I coach learn how to ditch their diet for good and create a plan that feels wholesome, balanced, and realistic long-term for them.
There is no diet dogma being shoved down their throats. No one-size-fits-all plan to stick to.
They lose weight at a steady pace while still maximizing fat loss and protecting their metabolism.
They finally understand what it’s like to have vibrant health, tons of energy, and still be able to enjoy the foods they love without feeling guilty.
At the end of our time together, they feel confident in their ability to maintain their new lower weight and lifestyle.
I would so love to help to you do this too.
If you’d like to know more about coaching services, you can click on the work with me page. I have spots opening up in September and I would love for you to join me.
In the meantime, please reach out. I love reading your emails and answering your questions.
With love and unending gratitude,