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. I wonder how much of this we will see in the mainstream media? Probably not very much and not only because there are other big news stories. Mainstream media just isn’t that interested in the harmfulness of dieting. 

In this post I want to take a look at the false promises of diets.

The False Promises of Diets

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

  • 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
  • what else?

Let’s look at some of these promises:

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 why do we keep coming back to it again and again? I suggest it’s because the dieting industry makes us certain promises – some overtly and some more subtly.

Let’s look at some of the promises we’re made about losing weight:

2. Attention – more or less

We’re promised more positive attention from people and less negative attention. More compliments, perhaps more people looking at you, less invisibility, perhaps more romantic attention; less shaming – in public or in private. 

3. You’ll be happier

For most of us, our happiness has NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR WEIGHT. I can definitely understand that people on the extreme ends of the weight spectrum, whose lives are threatened and severely limited by their weight will be suffering a lot more because of this.

For the most part, once you have the basics covered – meaning enough food, clean water, shelter, warmth, connection with people, being physically and emotionally safe etc. your happiness level has to do with what you tell yourself and what you believe.

I remember a client telling me about her weekend. They’d had some people over to watch a match on TV, and had prepared a lot of snacks. She ate past a comfortable fullness and she was unhappy for 2 days – only because of what she was telling herself about it.

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 eaten more than was comfortable had not changed.

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

I repeat: BEING THINNER 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

Now I’m attractive

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

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.

A client told me how she keeps reminding herself that now that she’s not restricting her food, her menstrual cycle has normalised and her acne has cleared up even though she’s now eating carbs and sugar!

5. You’ll move more easily

If you struggle to maintain good hygiene because of your size or to 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 to work 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!

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.

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.

So now what?

I hope I’ve debunked the mythical promises of diets, and that you’ll ditch the diets not just on this one day, but for life! 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! It’s by learning how to eat instinctively, and by enquiring within when you want to eat and you’re not actually hungry. Eating when not hungry is also a NORMAL thing to do sometimes, when you are lucky enough to have access to as much food as you need or want. It’s not a bad thing to do. However if it’s something you do a lot, as a way to distract yourself from difficulties in your life, as your first answer to anything that’s hard, then learning how to take better care of yourself will lead to a more satisfying and juicy life. 

Ready to heal your relationship with food?