Battle of the Bulge: Four Reasons Not to Diet
Obsessed with current cultural ideals of ultra-thin beauty, overweight Americans are encouraged, frequently under the guise of better health, to “correct” their bodies through masochistic dieting, sometimes dangerous exercise routines and surgery. But even with all the money spent on weight loss, we’re still, on the whole, fat. What is a person to do? Here are four reasons not to choose the option of a highly restrictive diet:
- Dieting doesn’t work. People perceived by others to be overweight are often criticized for simply being “too lazy” to put in the work to lose weight and get healthy. But in reality, the research into what happens once people lose weight is not encouraging. Nearly 100% of people who do manage to lose weight through dieting gain back everything they’ve lost within three years. With that success rate, why do we still promote dieting at all?
- The shame isn’t worth it. If you’re someone who has dieted in the past only to regain what you’ve lost, you’ve probably felt ashamed of yourself for what can feel like a step backward. But given the odds of success described above, gaining weight after you’ve dieted is generally in line with the natural rhythms of your body. Even if you do want to change the way your body feels or looks, there are more effective methods you can draw from that have a much lower chance of leaving you feeling bad about yourself.
- You won’t live longer. Even if dieting doesn’t mean you’ll keep the weight off, there’s a chance that “cleaning up” your diet will make you healthier overall, right? Researchers have actually found that people with Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) in the “overweight” to “mildly obese” categories have the lowest mortality rate, while people on both extremes of the weight spectrum have the highest mortality rates. Being ultra-thin, then, is not the safeguard it is thought to be.
- Health is personal. When it comes to the complex biology of our bodies, the unique composition of factors that interact to create your individual health outcomes are infinitely more complex than the sweeping claims made by one-size-fits-all diet programs. What healthy looks like to you will be different from what it looks like for your neighbor.
Learning to accept the strengths and limitations of the body you have is a prerequisite for accepting yourself and feeling at home in your own skin. If at that point of acceptance you want to change your lifestyle by getting more active or changing what you eat to eliminate junk and include more fresh items, particularly fruits and vegetables, then go for it! Part of being healthy is about loving who you are. Obsessiveness is the path to eating disorders, which truly will destroy both your health and your self-image. Love who you are today and treat yourself well with nourishing food, enjoyable exercise, and quality sleep. That course will give you the best outcomes.