Happy new year! January has officially arrived. Typically with the new year comes New Year’s Resolutions. Even if you decided not to kick off your 2020 with a new diet, detox, or cleanse, you're probably being inundated with tons of weight loss-centric messaging that may have you questioning your choice. The dieting industry has master marketers who are making the industry what it is... a worth of $72 billion dollars. We are bombarded on social media, billboards, through co-workers, and family. Diets and “lifestyle programs” are appealing with their catchy slogans, quick weight loss promises, or the control and structure we feel we need. Let’s talk about three reasons you may want to rethink your January diet plan and one way you can focus on health without starting a diet this year. Cheers to a happier, healthier you!
DIETING IS A FORM OF STARVATION
This sounds extreme, but hear me out. We can all agree our body’s number one goal is to keep us alive, correct? Picture caveman days, our bodies adapted to survive through famine and drought. There wasn’t always consistent food. In 2020, we no longer have to hunt and gather our own food, however, our bodies don’t know that and a diet is equal to a famine in terms of survival. Our body must compensate to keep us alive when we are not getting the carbohydrates or calories we need. In “famine”, as our metabolism slows, brain chemicals kick in to make us think/obsess about food. Our body then holds onto its fat stores and shuts down non-essential systems like our reproductive systems and mood regulator (ever been hangry?). This is why it’s harder and harder to lose weight each time you diet because your body is holding onto its fat stores and lowering metabolism to help keep from dying. I’ll repeat. Our BODY WANTS TO KEEP US ALIVE. Our body is not the enemy. It’s goal is to protect us. The diet industry is the real enemy. Please copy and paste this part somewhere and keep it with you all throughout January.
DIETS MAY CAUSE YOU TO OVEREAT AND BINGE
I have so many clients who come into my office thinking that their binging is purely emotional and they are “emotional eaters.” Throughout the session, it is often found that their binging is a biological reaction to deprivation. As mentioned above, our brain will release chemicals to make you think primarily about food when in a state of “famine” or on a restrictive diet. The chemical is called neuropeptide Y (NPY). NPY is secreted by the brain when we’re not getting enough calories and/or carbohydrates (our brain’s primary fuel source). NPY increases your drive to eat, delays satiety and stimulates food intake with a preference for carbs. NPY is likely the reason those clients I was telling you about were craving carbohydrates, not because they were “emotional eaters”. Because NPY delays satiety we feel like we can eat a lot of carbohydrate foods all at once, which can feel like a binge. This is scary, understandably, to many clients, however, I remind them that more “rules” or diets will worsen the problem. This is not an issue of control. It is literally a chemical survival mechanism our bodies have to keep us alive, well, and in a state of homeostasis (or balance).
DIETS TYPICALLY INCREASE STRONG CRAVINGS
Has a diet program ever told you that you’re addicted to ABC food? Though it may feel that way, digging into the research shows the science is very limited in supporting that food addiction can be a real diagnosis. The basis of the food addiction theory model is that food shares common drug pathways in the brain and food can activate reward neurons. However, the researchers fail to consider the studies that show those reward/pleasure centers light up even more when a food is being consumed that has been previously restricted. So when a food is off limits, like cake, your brain is going to register that cake as even more pleasurable than if it wasn’t restricted. As humans, we are driven by our unmet needs. In other words, if I am in a session with a teenager and put a blue pen in front of them and say, “You can touch anything in the room except this blue pen,” what is going to happen? They are going to be thinking about that blue pen the whole time and many of them will touch it. Same idea with food. If you tell yourself a certain food is “bad” or off limits, that is going to be the food that you’re thinking about and craving the most. Anything off limits creates this allure and appeal. So if you think you’re addicted to [insert food of choice here], it’s likely that you’re not truly addicted; it’s the dieting and restriction of that food that is actually causing you to think about it and crave it.
OKAY, I’LL TRY A “NON-DIET” APPROACH THIS YEAR... NOW WHAT?
If our bodies don’t want “diets”, what can we do instead? Here at Lemond Nutrition we have dietitians who practice Intuitive Eating, a book and nutrition philosophy by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN. Intuitive eating helps an individual become attuned to the body's natural hunger signals rather than external guidelines (a diet). According to the book, many people who think they are eating carefully are actually dieting. Diet culture is so pervasive that many people have adopted rules about eating that prevent them from eating enough. Through the 10 principles, the authors of Intuitive Eating guide readers to give up dieting and learn to honor their hunger.
If you find that you are preoccupied with thoughts about food, reflect on your eating patterns and experiment with increasing your intake by satisfying your hunger and see if your preoccupation changes. The dietitians here find it our joy to help guide our clients to understand and connect with their bodies in a way that is satisfying and honoring. If you’re ready to ditch dieting once and for all, call our office for an in-person initial consultation or join one of our support groups!
No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition.