Y’all thought I retired the Friday 5, huh?* Thought the Friday 5 went the way of the Weekend WTF (that, if y’all keep sending me baconnaise and bacon lube photos, I might have to bring back for real), huh?
Oh no, baby. It’s here to stay.
Before I got on the path that eventually worked for me, I used to be a perpetual dieter. Once, it was the tea diet. Next, it was the mashed potato diet. I was always “on a diet.” Eating salads that consisted of….whatever was in the salad bag I bought from the grocery store, miserable and unhappy. (Obviously, I know better now.)
However. In the journey to claim the body I want, and on the path of becoming certified, I learned a few things about the way the body interacts with food. I got to truly see why our choice to use dieting and restriction as our means of weight management is actually far more harmful than it is helpful.
I bet you want me to tell you, huh?
Okay, let me stop being silly. Five things I’ve learned… the hard way… from my own personal experience:
1) We define “diet” and whether or not a diet “works” incorrectly. It’s not enough for a diet to just get you to a certain size – you could starve yourself and get down to a certain size. The standards are too low. Could you starve yourself forever in order to maintain that size? No, you couldn’t.
Your diet is “your eating lifestyle. But for some reason, dieting – in the way that we understand it – says that you take a “sabbatical,” if you will, from how you usually eat in order to shrink down to the size you want… only for you to reach your goal size and go back to your old eating habits. A successful diet is not simply one that gets the weight off; it is whether or not you can live on it forever. A diet is simply “how you eat.” Temporarily switching diets to lose weight, only to go back to the daily eating habits that caused you to gain the weight in the first place… is cyclically foolish.
2) It turns our usual treats into forbidden fruit. That cupcake that you’re obsessed with immediately becomes The Bad Boy Your Parents Warned You To Stay Away From. Your desire for it damn near doubles. You crave it. You yearn for it. And when you get it, it might as well be an orgasm. It feels like the world disappeared, all because you finally got that thing that you’ve been denying yourself for so long.
Listen. Damn all that.
Restriction is dangerous because, coupled with point 1, it’s double cyclical. You restrict yourself from the things you obviously enjoy, you binge on them and overeat, and before you know it? You’re putting the weight back on, and now you need to go on another diet. Isn’t it far more helpful to try to learn how to successfully moderate your intake of your beloved treat, and find a healthy way to fit it into your life?
3) Dieting – and yoyo dieting in particular – actually damages your metabolism, in ways we didn’t originally recognize before. If you’ll remember, in the third portion of Weight of the Nation, there was a lot of time spent on one particular point: if a person who was once 210lbs, diets down to losing 45lbs and becomes 165lbs, their metabolism – and, by metabolism, I’m referring to their daily caloric burn – will actually be lower than someone who has been 165 for years. I have a hypothesis as to why.
When people diet, it’s usually via caloric restriction which can be detrimental to muscle. When people seek to lose weight, there’s rarely any differentiation between losing fat and losing muscle. When people venture out to lose weight, it’s usually through excessive cardio exercise, with little regard paid to weight lifting or strength training in general. If, as you’re losing weight, you’re losing the muscle you already have and not building any more?
Remember two things: 1) the amount of food you can eat without weight gain decreases as you lose weight; and 2) every pound of muscle you carry will burn 2 to 3 times as many calories per hour as every pound of fat you carry, which means losing a pound of muscle is going to be two to three times as detrimental to the amount of calories you burn per hour (and, by extension, per day.)
So, if you’re dieting down to lose 45lbs with little regard to muscle development, this contributes to why your metabolism is going to be lower than someone who’s weighed that amount for years on end.
4) Dieting, as we understand it, puts our focus in the wrong place. The question shouldn’t be “what can I do to lose this weight;” it should always be “what did I do to gain this weight?” Self-reflection is always necessary for improvement, and I’m pretty sure that none of us actually enjoy that feeling of failure that comes with yo-yo dieting. Self-reflection also helps us catch weight gain before it spirals out of control to a point where you look up and realize you have a triple-digit amount of weight to lose. The need to reflect on who you are, your daily habits, and how they contribute to weight gain never goes away; it only stacks up, like unpaid bills. And, much like unpaid bills, the longer you wait, the more you’ll have to pay.
…and self-reflection is a flat-out requirement for even identifying an emotional eating habit that you might’ve picked up, let alone treating or defeating it.
Though I don’t believe in weighing yourself daily, it is important to take stock of it and regularly see if you can identify where any drastic changes might come from. Take 10 minutes a day to overlook your planning, your preparedness, how your previous day went, and what you can do to make it better today. It makes a massive difference.
5) Dieting, and the way it is promoted, contributes to the belief that the most important thing is that you’re simply not fat anymore; it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re healthily losing whatever weight you have. Just… stop being fat. And the marketing for damn-near every diet that has ever existed has always included the speed of weight loss – “How to lose 10lbs in 2 weeks!” or “Lose 7lbs in 7 days!” or, my favorite, “Lose 200lbs in 6mos!” (uh, I think that’s called divorce.) – and takes advantage of those who already feel the pressures that come along with being fat-shamed.
Diets and their pushers profit off of people – some, not all – who’ve been pushed to deprive themselves in ways that are psychologically unhealthy (see point 2 above), physically unsound (see point 3 above), and bound to leave you miserable.
It turns the actual weight loss into some kind of prize; a gold medal for suffering successfully… which, conversely, turns those who are still fat into some kind of lazy bums who couldn’t work as hard as you.
Dieting sucks. We all can admit that. But what good is it, if we’re simply restricting ourselves in insensible fashions and not actually changing the environment and habits that contributed to the gain?
Focus on what’s important, and watch your body thank you for it.
*If posting has felt scarce, it’s because I’d been extra-involved at Mini-me’s school lately. My bad, y’all, but the munchkin has to come first!