Why Diets Make Us Fatter

Diets do not work.

They are simply temporary fixes – or bandaids – to a deeper issue. There is always a deeper reason that we overeat, undereat and deal with our emotions with foods. It has nothing to do with the foods; except that it helps us deal with certain issues. It’s really just our “drug of choice”.

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The problem only grows worse because the diet industry feeds (pun intended) on this fact. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that is counting on our emotional eating issues and confidence struggles in keeping us caught in the yo-yo dieting cycle. It all starts because we want to reach a desired weight or body image (for me, it was always about having abs, after giving birth to 3 kids). So we find the latest diet craze and decide that this time, we are going to achieve our life long goals and begin our new crash diet.

Sound familiar? There are about 54% of the U.S. population who are trying to lose weight at any given time…like right now. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that includes diet supplements, diet books, packaged and processed foods that promote the desired weight loss.

But the weight loss results usually don’t stick around long enough for us to enjoy. We will usually regain the weight (and sometimes more) and repeat the process again and again. The typical “dieter” tries at least 4 new plans each year. The mentality we share is to get on and get off of any diet as quickly and as painlessly as possible, right? I know this totally describes my past issues and struggles as a self-proclaimed “dieter”. The only way for lasting success to happen, is to follow a sensible plan that we can sustain as a new lifestyle plan.

So I repeat again, diets do not work. They are not meant to stick. There is another way. It’s called “balance”.

Here are the steps to finding your own balance:

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1. Stop finding comfort in foods

This one was a biggie for me. I’d get stressed out, for any reason at all, and turn to food for comfort. It was my drug of choice. And the biggest problem with using foods as a drug is that we can’t just quit “cold turkey”…we need food to live so how to get past this problem? Find out what the root of the issues are first. Where did the stress start; and how do you usually deal with that feeling of stress? Once this has been established, we can then create a plan of action to work on instead of diving into the pantry and refrigerator. I like to make a list of strategies I can turn to instead of foods. I can then find one of the items on my list and enjoy this time of distraction instead of eating my way through the kitchen cabinets. My favorites? Spending time with my family; going for a walk (even just 10 minutes outside can change our outlook) and checking in with my challenge group on Facebook. I know when I surround myself with those who struggle too and who are working on similar good health habits; I tend to feel less isolated and can move forward with more confidence.

2. Reset your goals

Life is full of events and needing to “look our best”, am I right? Summer vacations, weddings, and reunions are just a few examples of why we would typically start a new “diet” to slim down for. But again, once the event has passed, we return to our old habits of eating whatever and whenever and turning again to foods for comfort and solace. When we are focusing on quick weight loss again and again; our bodies become less interested in responding because it’s not quite sure when it’s going to get more foods and quality calories again. Remember, our bodies do not want to die. (and that’s pretty cool, in my opinion!) If short term goals are your problem, create longer term goals instead. Create milestones of smaller achievements like joining a walking club, or signing up for your first 5k and then looking for a new challenge once that is achieved. This keeps life more interesting and we take the focus off of the scale and put it into our successes and long term journey.

3. Ditch that scale!

I know that when we begin a new diet, the whole point is to weigh less on the scale. We focus all of our success on what that silly scale registers at on any given day and time. I’ve been guilty of feeling absolutely ecstatic about my success when I was eating close to nothing and working out most hours of my day; only to fall to pieces if the scale registered just a half a pound more than the previous “weigh in”. That’s unacceptable to me now. I have since gotten rid of my scale and I do not measure my success in that device any longer. I find that taking weekly or monthly pictures of myself is a great way to see actual shifts in my body. I enjoy the simple act of seeing my inches shrink as I measure my body’s results every month too. (and bonus; as this difference equals less body fat too!) Just learning that our body can fluctuate on the scale in more ways than we can predict. Some examples are, how much water we are retaining; how hydrated we are; what time of day we are weighing in; what time of the month it is…and so on. Research actually shows that women who focus their success solely on counting calories and restricting their foods are more stressed out and have higher levels of cortisol, which only leads to more overeating. I like to empower myself in choosing a plan that makes me feel my best and eating the foods I enjoy without feeling deprived or ravenous. This makes it easier to stick to the plans and see results longer term.

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4. Don’t be afraid to share with others

Tracking what you eat every day can help you lose up to 2X the amount of weight as people who just guesstimate it. But I’m not just talking about writing it down on paper. Social networking and challenge groups that I run every month, gives us something we can’t get from just a food diary. We get that virtual support of others who are dealing with their own struggles alongside of us. It’s so much easier for me to pass up my weekend treats when I know that there are a group of other women who are staying strong with me. I know this is the #1 reason I can stay accountable to my goals in the past few years.

5. Pick up the pace on your motivation

Our motivation can also yo-yo along the way. It’s at these times that we need to refocus on our goals and long term results when we contemplate skipping our workout or decide we aren’t as excited about our progress as before. Have you ever heard how endorphin highs can help us feel like we took a “happy pill”? It’s true and can be realized wether we jump into an activity or surround ourself with positive energy.

These are some basic areas to get started on ditching the nasty diet syndrome for good. Like I mentioned above, the monthly support groups that we hold are responsible for motivating me (and many others) and keeping me on track without the previous up and down yo-yos that would occur without any fun and structure.

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