Why you should give up dieting


It sounds counterintuitive but dieting is a waste of time. Research has shown, time and time again, that when people follow restrictive diets, 80% of people regain the weight lost [1) and end up increasing their weight even more.

Research in the area of weight regain has actually gone so far as to track weight gain 5years post gastric bypass surgery. A surgery that poses a permanent physical restriction on food intake and absorption, leaving patients in a semi-starved state, which is not too dissimilar from fad dieting. In 50% of gastric bypass surgery patients, weight regain was observed within 24months post surgery [2].

In other words weather you fad diet or opt for bariatric surgery, weight regain is almost guaranteed. This is because the mental issues surrounding weight gain aren’t addressed, leaving patients with a self-sabotaging state of mind.

Dieting is very different to healthy eating. Despite what people believe, they are not synonymous with one another. We need to reclaim the narrative about healthy eating and physical health. Both are mutually exclusive to dieting or reaching an ideal body weight. You can be physically healthy and eat healthily, despite a BMI outside of normal “healthy” range. There are large variations in weight ranges and health; BMI is not a good predictor of how healthy someone is. This is because BMI does not account for activity level, fat distribution, gender, race and age. It’s too simplistic.

Research papers show that the common relationship between weight loss and health is confounded. In a paper titled “Long- term effects of dieting: is weight loss related to health?”[3] found that changes in health status like heart disease risk, cholesterol and blood pressure, were due to lifestyle changes made, not the weight loss itself. This is why we see overweight people in the population who eat well and exercise but do not have health concerns related to their weight. In addition, researchers have observed an obesity paradox in cardiovascular disease patients, where mildly obese and overweight patients have a better prognosis to their leaner counterparts with the same cardiovascular disease. [4]

Why am I saying this? Well, because I believe we are too fat phobic, personally and as health practitioners. We have bigger, more important things to worry about.

Unfortunately, the weight loss industry is a billion dollar industry that is the only one that thrives on failure. It’s a vicious cycle of dieting and weight loss, binging and weight regain. Dieting tries to override our biological drive to eat and maintain a body weight that comes naturally to us. It is further perpetuated by societal standards of beauty and health messages that are not only outdated, but have been proven incorrect in recent years.

In addition, marketing of goods such as clothing, perfume, cars, cosmetics, and now junk food also creates the perception that our bodies need to be skinny, small and attractive to be worthy. We live in an era were the only acceptable weight is to be “skinny” or “thin” and our bodies need to be fixed.

Doing this through restrictive dieting not only guarantees weight regain, it also plays havoc with your mental health. More specifically, your sense of self-worth and self-esteem. It creates body dissatisfaction, whilst simultaneously inflicting disordered eating patterns and sometimes even nutrient deficiencies. None of which is healthy.

Weight acceptance is an integral part of healing your relationship with food. Body dissatisfaction is so intertwined in food choices. For a lot of people it’s hard to talk about eating healthily without addressing how they feel about themselves. When your identity depends on how you look or which diet you’re on, that’s problematic in moving into a sustainable healthy eating pattern.

Dieting isn’t sustainable because it gives “bad” foods an allure, a pedestal to sit on whilst you crave and dream about food, only to binge eat and overindulge at a time of weakness. Leaving all the psychology behind, statistics tell us dieting is destined for failure.

A well-known researcher in this area, Professor Traci Mann from the University of Minnesota, wrote a book called Secretes from the Eating Lab, published in 2015. I took advantage of the book launch and interviewed her on my podcast about her views on dieting. Dr Mann went so far as to say “It is immoral to make people diet” and “instead of dieting, those who are overweight and obese should aim to reach their leanest liveable weight”. She believes that the outcome of dieting on health and weight is so poor, it’s not worth dieting at all. People should aim to make smaller lifestyle changes and not even concern themselves with weight. You can listen to more of the podcast here.

Why is labelling your food “good” and “bad” is bad idea?

What is perceived as a “bad” food choice for some can result in feelings of guilt, self-aberration, loss of self-confidence and in the end, usually more eating. One of the biggest driving factors with our negative feelings towards our weight and food obsession is the belief that being thin is healthy and being thin equates to happiness and beauty.

Weight acceptance is being happy with your body weight and who you are right now. Weight acceptance is about keeping up with healthy living, just not obsessing about weight loss. There is a degree of respect we should give the lovely machine we walk around in all day. Love and care for your body, and it will reward you with a lifetime of happy living. Believe it or not, weight acceptance usually leads to some gradual weight loss because the guilt and binge eating stops. Make simple changes to your diet that are not going to create food obsession or make you preoccupied with weight loss.

What does it mean to eat healthy?

Healthy eating is eating for your needs, eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. It has nothing to do with how much kale you eat or the superfoods in your green smoothie.

Healthy eating is having a positive relationship with food where you are able to say ‘no’ to food when you are not hungry and have the courage to choose what you want to eat at the time. This is called intuitive eating.

You can sum up food choice in just a few words; eat only what you need and choose mainly plants. The rest is up to you.

People do have individual health requirements, tastes and cultural food preferences. Who is anyone to dispute and argue the way someone should eat? There are many ways to eat healthy it all comes down to moderation of all types of food. Give food respect, and remember we are supposed to eat partly for enjoyment, as well as nourishment. It’s our misuse and overindulgence that causes problems.

Eating healthily without focusing on weight loss will give you renewed mental strength and more time to concentrate on important things. It will also give you more physical energy to get things done.


[1] R.Wing and S.Phelan. Long-term weight loss maintenance. 2005 America Journal of clinical nutrition.

[2] D.Magro, B.Delfini, B.Pareja et all Long-term weight regain after gastic bypass: A 5-year prospective study.

[3] J.Tomiyama, B.Ahlistrom and T.Mann Long-term effects of dieting: is weight loss related to health? 2013. Journal: Social and Personality Psychology Compass. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0tv27311

[4] CJ Lavie et al Obesity and prevalence of cardiovascular disease and prognosis- the obesity paradox updated. Jan 2016 Journal of progressive cardiovascular disease.


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