If you watch any daytime talk show, walk through the health section of a bookstore, or simply believe the conventional wisdom, the answer to losing weight is clear: Go on a diet.
Diets have been around as long as there has been eating, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that things really started to “take off.” Dieting stopped being a way to lose weight and instead became big business. A multi-million dollar industry sprung up around the concept of dieting, with marketing promising that losing weight was easy, so long as you FOLLOWED THE DIET. But despite the diet industry’s success making boat-loads of money, it’s success in actually helping people lose weight has been considerably more limited.
Do Diets Actually Work?
Ask yourself this: have you ever actually been on a diet that worked? I don’t mean a temporary weight loss; I mean a diet that keeps the weight off and makes you healthier?
The diet industry has a way of getting into your head. If you “fail” and gain weight while on a diet, it wasn’t the dieting system’s fault. It was “yours.” This blame game has been going on for decades, and countless people have internalized it. This has lead to feelings of failure, stress, and hopelessness.
There are statistics that say that 95% of diets don’t really work long-term. Ask yourself this: if there was a product on the market that didn’t work 95% of the time, is that the fault of the people who bought it? Or the fault of the people who created it.
The reality is that most diets are flawed right from the start. Not only does dieting not work, but it can also lead to eating disorders. Those who diet moderately are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder, and those who diet in the extreme are 18 times more likely.
So, why don’t diets work?
The Reason Most Diets Don’t Work
How much self-control do you have? I don’t mean in short-term sprints, I mean over the course of weeks and months.
A reality of being human is that most people have a limit on the amount of self-control they can exert over time. Eventually, the tank runs dry. Denying yourself forever takes an incredible amount of self-discipline. And even if you manage it, that kind of exertion can result in you not having enough self-control for other, more important things.
Sure, when you first go on a diet, you might start to experience weight-loss. But you can also experience a loss of sleep, fluctuating moods, irritability, depression, poor concentration, gastrointestinal distress, and physical weakness. Even if you have superhuman amounts of self-control, trying to maintain a diet when you are a sleep-deprived, depressed mess is almost impossible. You know what this kind of situation does? It creates STRESS.
STRESS and Overeating
I don’t think I need to layout a connection between stress and overeating.
When you’re stressed out, eating genuinely makes you feel better. Studies have shown that the fattier the food, the happier it will make you feel when you are filled with overwhelm. That’s why it’s called “stress eating.”
When you go on a diet, you are essentially creating ideal conditions for stress eating. You’re going to feel worn down, hungry, your self-control is exhausted, and you would do just about anything to feel better. What diet is going to be able to withstand that onslaught of basic human desires? If you’re stress-sensitive, it’s going to be even more difficult.
What’s the Solution?
So if dieting doesn’t work, what will? Good question!
I personally believe that it isn’t natural to deprive yourself of what you want in the long term. Imagine that you are going out with friends for dinner. They all get pizza; you get a salad. Watching them enjoy that pizza is going to drastically up the likelihood that you’re going to end up eating a pizza alone in your living room later that night.
To break through binge eating, you can’t just deny, deny deny. My belief is that a moderation mindset towards food is the gateway to healthy eating. But it IS only the beginning.
So the next time that you see a “100%, surefire fad diet that will definitely help you get control of your binge eating,” maybe stop for a second and consider the source of that information. The dieting industry uses some very obvious marketing jargon to sell their products. And we all know that we shouldn’t trust everything we see and hear! Sure, some people may find success on these diets, but chances are that the vast majority of people are going to end up feeling like they failed, even though THEY didn’t. If a fad diet doesn’t work, it likely isn’t your fault. It’s the diet!
To learn about some of the other reasons that we binge eat, and ways that we can change those behaviors, check out my book, Break Through Binge Eating! Click here to check it out!