Is one of your reasons for losing weight to feel better about yourself?
There is an ever increasing body of research that shows us that dieters generally have lower body image satisfaction, lower self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety, depression and disordered eating patterns than non-dieters. If you’re an experienced dieter, this will most likely resonate with you.
Dieting has now been shown to be the number one risk factor in the development of an eating disorder.
The Eating disorders Victoria website states that “68% of 15 year old females are on a diet, of these, 8% are severely dieting. Adolescent girls who diet only moderately, are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who don’t diet, and those who diet severely are 18 time more likely to develop an eating disorder.”
The website also states that “Between 1995 and 2005 the prevalence of disordered eating behaviours doubled among both males and females”. I would take a stab and say this has only increased further over the past 10 years with our culture being more fixated on diet trends, dieting and weight than ever.
Dieting has also been shown to be a risk factor for weight gain. The authors of a recent study looking at the effects of dieting on body weight reported “It is now well established that the more people engage in dieting, the more they gain weight in the long-term.”
If you’re an experienced dieter, this will most likely make sense to you.
Therefore, if the pursuit of weight loss leads to you going on a diet, but there is clear evidence that dieting negatively impacts how you feel about yourself and even leads to weight gain, then should you be dieting in an attempt to lose weight and feel better?
The really hard part is that much of the medical world keeps telling us we need to lose weight to be healthier (despite the above evidence); and at the same time the weight loss industry keeps selling you the promise of weight loss and a happier you.
Regardless of what view you take, the bottom line is that as a culture, we have been dieting for well over 50 years, yet less than 5% of dieters have managed to keep the weight off long-term and most are now heavier and unhappier.
Why do we, and much of the medical world, keep ignoring this blatantly obvious fact? I understand why the weight loss industry ignores this fact, after all, what would become of them if we stopped dieting?
In suggesting we need to stop dieting or pursuing weight loss, by no means am I suggesting we shouldn’t worry about how we eat or our health. Absolutely we need to stop and think about what we eat and how much we eat, and absolutely we need to look after our mental and physical health, but not though dieting or weight loss.
Instead, we can improve our eating habits and overall health through:
- Learning how to get back in tune with our appetites
- Eating food that nourishes our body and truly satisfies us
- Letting go of food rules that typically lead to over-eating “forbidden” foods and feelings of guilty around food that further drive over-eating
- Identifying reasons for non-hungry, emotional or boredom eating and learning to manage this.
- Moving our bodies daily in ways that we enjoy
- Being socially connected
- Doing at least one thing we truly enjoy (pursuing a talent, type of work or hobby)
- Ensuring adequate sleep and relaxation time
In pursuing these goals rather than weight loss, your body may start to let go of any extra weight it doesn’t need.
If you struggle with your eating and weight, you may need help from a professional skilled in this area who does not promote dieting or weight loss. If you suspect you may have developed a disordered pattern of eating or an eating disorder, please seek help from a dietitian or psychologist trained in this area.