Today is International No Diet Day – a day which aims to raise awareness of size diversity, weight and size discrimination and the harmfulness of dieting and the dieting industry.

Why does International No Diet Day exist? And why is the idea of giving up dieting an important one? To understand this, it helps to begin by investigating the false promise of diets.

The false promise of diets

Think about what you’ve told yourself (or what you’ve been led to believe) going on a diet will give you.

In essence, diets condition you to believe that you’ll lose weight – and therefore:

  • you’ll get more attention from others or,
  • you’ll get less attention
  • you’ll be happier
  • you’ll be healthier
  • you’ll move more easily
  • you’ll look better in clothes
  • you’ll look better naked

Now let’s unpack each of these promises…

False Promise #1: You’ll lose weight

The truth is DIETS FAIL! They fail for more than 80% of people who try them (and some researchers say it’s upwards of 95%). And many people try them over and over again. Most people put on all the weight they’d lost within a few years. And many people put on more.

So you may lose weight temporarily, but it’s rare that it’s permanent, if it’s via a diet. I’ve written some other posts that look in more detail at why diets don’t work long term: part of it is to do with the wiring in our brains, and part of it is to do with the disconnection with ourselves, that diets encourage.

Let’s look in more detail at some of the promises related to weight loss…

False Promise #2: Attention – more or less

I know we live in a thin-obsessed culture. But my own experience is that my size never determined the attention I got from the opposite sex.

It is true though that friends and family would comment on my body as I lost weight, and stay politely silent as I put it all back on again. That made it all the more difficult when I’d suddenly heard again ‘Oh! You’re looking so well!’ or ‘Wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight!’ or my worst: ‘well done!’ Most people are well-meaning. Most people do not get the impact of commenting on someone else’s body. Most people think it’s what you want to hear – that they’re acknowledging you for achieving something you wanted. Or, if you’ve put on weight and receive comments about that, the commenter likely thinks their comment is helpful to you in some way.

I know there are also those who just spout their judgements. Those who think being in a larger body is a crime akin to racism or theft.

The truth is this: you’re not in control of what comes out of anyone’s mouth or how they look at you. You’re only in charge of what you make it mean.

That is it. It’ll help to learn how to manage your mind.

False Promise #3: You’ll be happier

Your happiness has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR WEIGHT.

Once you have the basics covered – meaning enough food, clean water, shelter, warmth, connection with people etc. your happiness level has to do with what you tell yourself and what you believe.

I was once talking to a client who was telling me about her weekend. She and her partner had some people over to watch a match on TV, and had prepared a lot of snacks. She overate and she was unhappy for two days after that – only because of what she was telling herself.

And then she stepped in. She intervened on her own behalf and told herself the truth about the situation and the truth about herself. She started speaking kindly to herself again, and challenged her negative thinking.

And she said ‘it was like magic’ how differently she felt.

She was the same weight.

The fact that she’d overeaten had not changed.

What changed was her thinking about it. And consequently, her feelings changed too.

I repeat: BEING THIN WILL NOT MAKE YOU HAPPIER. But because you TELL YOURSELF THINGS ABOUT BEING THIN, you end up feeling happier.

Like: Now, I’m worthy. Now, I matter. Now, I have a right to belong to the human race. Now, I’m lovable.

The truth? These things are true no matter the size of your jeans or the number on the scale. Period.

False Promise #4: You’ll be healthier

This is what is true: thinness does not guarantee health and fatness does not guarantee ill health. If your health is important to you, then engaging in health promoting behaviours will give you the best outcome. Weight loss is not a behaviour; it’s an outcome.

I once had a client who kept reminding herself that because she’s no longer restricting food, her menstrual cycle has normalised and her acne has cleared up even though she’s eating carbs and sugar!

False Promise #5: You’ll move more easily

If you struggle to do up your shoes, or go for a walk, then losing weight may well make your life more enjoyable and comfortable. However dieting is highly unlikely to lead to sustained weight loss. What you’re better off doing is working on increasing your stamina, strength and flexibility at your current weight. That will improve your ability to move and bend.

Many people ‘feel uncomfortable’ at the weight they are because their clothes are too tight. Buying clothes that fit usually sorts that out!

False Promise #6: You’ll look better (with or without clothes)

‘Better’ is a value judgement. There’s no objective standard by which ‘better’ is measured.

‘Better’ is measured through cultural beauty standards (which change all the time).

What you mean when you say you’ll look better, is that you’ll fit better into the socially accepted norm of body size. But that norm is just a cultural mindset. Different cultures have different beauty standards: it isn’t an objective measure.

When you say you’ll ‘look better,’ what you’re reinforcing to yourself is the belief that as you are, you’re not good enough.

And that belief is absolutely not true.

Because your size does not determine your value.

Where to from here?

I hope I’ve debunked the mythical promises of diets, and that you’ll ditch the diets not just on this one day, but always!

I want you to know that there IS a way to make peace with yourself, your body and food, and it’s not by dieting!

The way to make peace with food is by learning how to eat instinctively, and by unpacking the reasons why you want to eat when you’re not physically hungry.

?>