By Natalie Bickford, MS
Why Dieting Doesn't Work
It’s that time of year again when everyone is reflecting on the past year and making goals and resolutions for the year ahead. Many of those goals revolve around health and diet. We start seeing tons of advertising for cleanses, detoxes and diets that promise weight loss. Our friends, family and coworkers are all trying a new trendy diet. It’s hard to avoid the constant bombardment of these dieting messages.
Instead of falling into this trap, we want to encourage you to make a resolution to cook more at home and, as a result, eat real, unprocessed food. Instead of trying to lose weight by going on a diet and restricting yourself, resolve to eat more vegetables with every meal or to plan your meals ahead every week. These kinds of resolutions will have a much longer lasting effect than trying a new restrictive diet.
Read this inspiring letter from a fan.
Why Dieting Doesn’t Work Long-term
Dieting doesn’t work long term, period. There has been a ton of research on this topic and it all shows the same result. Dieting can produce short-term weight loss but can actually cause weight gain in the long term along with other harmful effects. We should be trying to create sustainable habits that aren’t based on diet or restriction, like cooking more (not eating less).
There is no one size fits all diet
There are so many different diets out there - Paleo, vegan, gluten-free, keto, whole 30, low-carb, etc... The list goes on and on. The problem is that everyone’s dietary needs are different. Some people may feel better eating a vegetarian diet whereas others have trouble digesting plant-based protein and need a more animal protein heavy diet. This is why listening to your body and figuring out what makes you feel the most energized is way more effective than following a specific diet.
Unhealthy weight loss or gain
When you go on a diet, you are restricting yourself from eating certain foods that are supposed to help you lose weight. This may have a initial weight loss effect, but once your body gets used to being in a restricted state, your metabolism starts to slow down, your body holds onto fat and starts shutting down other non-essential systems like reproduction. This is why many female athletes who don’t consume enough calories lose their menses. All of a sudden you have a slower metabolism than what you started with and other health issues.
We don’t like to think of cravings as something bad or something that you should ignore. It’s your body's natural way of telling you it needs something. For example, if you’re training for a marathon and feeling really tired all the time, you may start craving red meat. This is your body’s way of telling you it needs more iron to support your training.
However, when you tell yourself you aren’t allowed to eat a certain food, it causes your brain to think about that food even more. This causes unhealthy cravings that can lead to overeating and bingeing.
A Poor Relationship with Food
A major issue with dieting is the negative relationship it creates with food. It turns food into the enemy instead of a nourishing source of energy. It makes us stress out about everything that we eat. This is a recipe for disordered eating patterns that can have very negative long-term effects.
Lack essential nutrients
Many diets restrict foods that are sources of nutrients our bodies need to thrive. For example, the paleo diet restricts legumes/beans, grains and dairy, which are all great sources of calcium, protein, B vitamins, fiber and other minerals.
Cook More By Planning Ahead
Instead of demonizing food, let’s celebrate it! Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures and working on ways to eat more real food and improve your relationship with food is one of the best things you can do for your long-term health.
We have a post that covers all of our pro tips on how to cook more. One of our favorite tips that will set you up for success is to plan out your meals every week.
Take time at the end of the week to plan out your meals for the next week. Most of the battle of cooking and eating real food is figuring out what to make. After a long day of work, the last thing we want to do is make more decisions. If you’ve planned this ahead and done some prep, you don’t even have to think about it!
Our new Run Fast Eat Slow Meal Planner is the perfect way to kick-start your meal planning goals. It gives you a weekly meal plan template, pages for making grocery lists and meal prep plans, and you can even track your weekly running miles.
Find out how I used our meal planner to plan my meals for the week and create a meal prep strategy.
Cheers to Cooking More in 2020!
Natalie is a nutritionist and personal chef in Portland, OR who specializes in women's health and sports nutrition. She loves creating simple, nourishing meals and recipes to fuel your life. Find Natalie at nataliecooks.com.