Trish Brimhall, RDN, CD, CLE, says one of the most common New Year's resolutions is to diet. And while the expectation of a New Year's diet is to end up slimmer, trimmer and happier, the reality is a much darker and dangerous outcome.
Trish says 95 percent of all diets fail long term and 75 percent of women perpetuate unhealthy thoughts and behaviors about food and their bodies.
In addition, approximately half of girls ages 9-10 are dieting and 30 percent of adolescent males report dissatisfaction with their bodies.
Even young kinds, five and six year olds, are developing ideas about dieting.
Dieting leads to:
• Increase in anxiety, depression and body dysmorphia
• Distrust of one's own body signals and cues such as hunger and fullness
• Loss of lean muscle mass increased need for body to store fat
• Lower metabolism
• Fatigue, lethargy, difficulty concentrating or focusing
• Increased risk of disordered eating behaviors
• Increased cravings
• Decreased confidence and self-trust
• Damaged relationship with food
So what is a person to do? Trish says, "If you really want to feel better, have more energy, and better health (notice I did not mention losing weight since weight loss is not always synonymous with improved health for everyone), focus on the positive and play to your strengths rather than focusing on the negative and punishing yourself with restriction and deprivation. I always say that addition is a much happier state than subtraction, so add in some behaviors and habits that make you feel healthier and happier."
For example, instead of saying no more soda, go with drinking two more bottles of water at work or ordering water first at a restaurant – that will improve your hydration and naturally leave less room for soda without the deprivation.
Instead of cutting out all sugar and sweets, try adding in more fruit by taking it for snacks at work or having some fruit after a meal. No one banned the chocolate, but the portion size and frequency will naturally change with the addition of a healthful and enjoyable habit.
Instead of telling a person who loves meat to cut out all animal protein, instead focus on adding in two vegetarian meals per week.
Whatever your health goals are, avoiding the negative, deprivation-based diet mentality is a must. And remember that if those changes aren't gradual and happy, they won't stick.
Trish says, "Don't buy in to the evil-genius marketing of the diet industry that sells failure and guilt – guaranteeing repeat customers. Go with positive addition rather than negative subtraction."
When it comes to diets – there is a lot of information that is marketed as healthful or when in reality it ends up doing more harm than good.
Trish says, "And due to the temporary, damaging results of dieting, I always give a 3 word take-home lesson: "don't diet ever". Now, that doesn't mean to never change or improve your eating or nutrition habits. It means to not approach those changes from a dangerous diet mentality."
Here are some things that can help you recognize a diet:
• Strict rules – whether with food groups, food combinations, portion sizes, timing, etc.
• More rules around eating
• Absolutist language "always-never", "good-bad"
• Skipping meals – means you are entering restrictive territory and not paying attention to your own body's signals
• Skipping food groups – eliminating whole groups of food makes it harder to meet your nutrient needs and often leads not just to potential deficiency but deprivation
• Extremes – even when it comes to healthy eating, too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing. Obessession even with healthy eating is problematic and form of disordered eating known as orthorexia.
• Promoting one food or food group as "super" or "superior" giving it an almost magical status – no one food or food group is that powerful. Good nutrition is a symphony not a solo.
• Relying on buying their food or supplement
Trish helped us bust these diet myths:
• Intermittent fasting or OMAD (one meal a day) – rigid rules with timing, restriction and not respecting your body's hunger cues. Plus it can be inconvenient for your schedule as well as those around you (social events, travel, etc).
• Raw food, paleo, etc. – restricts food groups or food preparation methods. Potential for nutrient deficiency, decreased energy, loss of favorite foods and not sustainable long-term.
• Keto, new-keto, or high protein or fat – again with limiting or cutting out certain food groups and harder to get the right balance of nutrients. Your body is designed to run on carbs – and that includes your brain and central nervous system. Plus, keeping a healthy gut and microbiome means a good diverse source of fiber so you don't want to limit those food groups.
• No sugar – recipe for cravings and binges, but also can lead to eliminating wonderfully healthy foods that are rich in natural sugars such as fruits. Again, absolutist language, rules and restriction – not a happy place.
• Super foods/Immunity diets – no one food or nutrient is magically superior and for some this can feed that orthorexic obsession with healthy eating.
If it looks, walks, sounds, feels or tastes like a diet – it is, so just steer clear. Your dieting behavior doesn't just damage your own relationship with your body and food, but those around you as well – children and adolescents especially.
Instead, take time to get to know your food – explore more flavors, tastes, recipes and cook more. Cooking is a great antidote to dieting and one of the best ways you can improve your health and your relationship with food.
Learn more from Trish at nutritiousintent.com.