The surprising dangers of dieting

by | Jan 9, 2021 | Intuitive Eating, Eating Disorders, Health at Every Size | 0 comments

You are probably thinking one of two things right now. One is that when I say the dangers of dieting, you think that I mean only fad diets that are *drastic.* Two is that you think you think I only mean diet pills or supplements. Let’s start with a few statistics:

The U.S. weight loss market is now worth a record $72 billion.

62% of women and 29% of men are trying to lose weight.

58% of women and 51% of men exercise to control weight.

95% of all dieters will likely regain the weight back within 5 years.

First, let’s look at how much the diet industry in the United States is currently worth: a whopping $72 BILLION. If you are wondering what is included in this number it is:

Diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, health clubs, commercial diet center chains, multi-level

marketing diet plans, OTC meal replacements & diet pills, medical programs (weight loss

surgery, MDs, hospitals/clinic programs, Rx diet drugs, bariatricians, VLCD programs),

low-cal frozen entrees, and the diet books & exercise DVDs market.”

Think about how much money you or your friends and family have spent on products similar to those listed above over the years. Now, think about how many of them worked. And when I say ‘worked,’ I mean they used the product or strategy and to this day they are still ‘successful’ in maintaining their goal, while still having a healthy relationship with food and their body.

I do not share these statistics to be the bearer of bad news. I share them to help set the stage for what I am about to share with you: Dieting is harmful. There are inherent dangers of dieting that affect our overall health and wellbeing.

The majority of people who have dieted and lost weight will eventually regain the weight (and possibly more). This is called weight cycling, or more commonly known as ‘yo-yo dieting.’

“Across the weight spectrum, the strongest predictors of weight gain in adolescents are

dieting and unhealthy weight control behaviors, after controlling for binge eating, breakfast

consumption, fruit/vegetable intake, physical activity, socioeconomic status, and initial BMI.”

If you are wondering what kind of negative outcomes can occur from weight cycling, here are just a few (source):

  • Increased all cause mortality
  • Increased cardiovascular disease mortality
  • Increased congenital heart disease mortality and morbidity
  • Decreased levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind)
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Increased chronic inflammation

I know what you are thinking: “So, what are we suppose to do? Just lay around and eat bonbons all day?!” No, not exactly. But, I do have another “radical” idea. First, let’s work on healing our relationship with food and our body through the Intuitive Eating process and body image work. Still not sold on Intuitive Eating? Well, there are currently over 120 studies to date that show that this process *works.* It also pairs well with the Health at Every Size approach, which is outlined in the image at this source. (We will go deeper into HAES in another upcoming blog post).

By learning and practicing Intuitive Eating and having a positive (or at least neutral) body image, we can begin to focus on actual health-promoting behaviors and not on how much you weigh. We can focus on *adding* things to your life instead of taking them away. Restriction and rigidity will never work (look at this Ancel Keys starvation study to see the effects of restriction).

We have to find flexible ways to maintain our health that are not weight-centric. This would look like us working together to look at the whole picture of your health and what feels right for YOU.

What are your priorities? What do you deem important? What would eating well look like for you? What is joyful movement for you? As well as keeping it all in the context of any nutrition-related diseases you have been diagnosed with. And most importantly, we would be sure to discuss self-care and how you speak or think about yourself, your body, and the food you eat.

This is not a process that can be done quickly, nor does it have a definitive endpoint. It is something that I will help you to develop the skills for and then you will be able to continue working with these skills for the rest of your life.

Don’t continue to let the dangers of dieting affect your life.

(All sources are linked throughout this article).

xoxo, Courtney


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Vickery Wellness | Dietitian Nutritionist | Athens, GA Atlanta, Georgia

Hi, I’m Courtney

I’m a Registered Dietitian, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Nutrition Therapist, and Yoga Teacher. My mission is to help others find food freedom and body acceptance!

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