Reading the title of this article, you likely fall into one of two camps. Either you’re the type of person who thought something like “Ugh, I totally could have written this,” or “12 is way too low of a number.” Or you’re one of the lucky few who are blissfully unaware of what it’s like to even be on a diet and are reading this out of sheer curiosity.
Whether you’re trying to stick to a New Year’s Resolution you made, just decided you need a change, or are genuinely interested in getting healthier, you’ve probably ventured (not so) happily on a trip into Diet Land. Once or twice.
It’s no surprise! Likely the word “diet” has a Greek or Latin origin, but for those who have been on the diet merry-go-round a couple of times, the first three letters of the word speak volumes.
So, let’s come together and vent about all the ways diets really are the worst.
1. YOU’RE HUNGRY ALL THE TIME
That’s in all caps because it is basically just so darn obvious. No further explanation needed.
2. All you can think about is food
We all know that when we are told we cannot have something, we usually want it even more (Google “scarcity principle” to understand why). And this is entirely true with food. The second you tell yourself “No!” you become fixated. Distractions can help, but only for so long. If you’re not careful, a good ol’ gorge-fest could be in your future, potentially derailing you and throwing all your hard work out the window. See? Diets suck.
3. You’re not the most pleasant company
Now, this isn’t always the case, but if you are limiting the quantity of food you eat, you’re probably suffering from a well-known phenomenon which occurs when people become a wee bit hangry. This usually coincides with your social circle diminishing to only those who really love you enough to able to withstand your ragey, food-deprived state.
But why is it that we get so darn moody? It’s mostly because the limitation of calories causes your blood sugar to drop, and for some, this makes all the socially-condoned behaviors you learned in kindergarten rapidly become a thing of the past.
4. Sugar withdrawal = no fun
Let’s talk more about mood and food. If you have been reading this site for a while, you will have likely learned that it is very possible to develop an addiction to sugar. There are a whole host of reasons for this, but the main one is that, like drugs and sex, sugar lights up the pleasure and reward centers of your brain through a complex series of pathways (but thankfully not to the same extent).
The end result of this is the production of dopamine and serotonin – the warm and fuzzy feel-good hormones. When you cut sugar — as most all diets require — those mechanisms are removed and you are left desperately craving more sugar to help yourself cope and feel great (read: human) again. That being said, it is possible to wean yourself off sugar, but it takes time, dedication, and a plan of attack for when those cravings strike – because they will.
5. Diets make promises they can’t deliver
Way back when, diet used to be a word to refer to one’s way of living in terms of food consumption – basically a style of eating. Whereas now, as we all know, diet usually equates to changing your eating habits (often drastically) to achieve some desired result. And as any of us know who have tried a diet or two (the Boston Medical Center says there’s 45 million of us in the U.S. per year givin’ a diet a go), very rarely are we able to stick to them for any length of time.
The hard-earned results you may achieve from your efforts usually disappear soon after your willpower leaves the building and unfortunately, you miserably find yourself back at where you started.
6. Diets can encourage weight gain
Wait, what!?! Isn’t weight loss one of the main reasons you GO on a diet? How can this be?
Well, in many diets, calorie deprivation is the name of the game, and when your calorie levels get too low, your body turns to your muscles for fuel instead. And as many of us have heard, having a solid amount of muscle mass helps keep your metabolic rate up and running – meaning food is more readily turned into energy instead of being stored as fat.
So, when you restrict your eating too far, you might be dropping weight, but unfortunately, it’s composed entirely of the l-b’s you’re aiming to gain.
7. Diets can spawn unhealthy relationships with food
As mentioned in point two, diets can really mess with your focus. When you try, and alter your regular habits by removing ones you might really enjoy – like eating all the cookies — you often become a bit fixated on trying to make the new way of life stick. When it comes to dieting, and all the different ways you can eat or not eat, it is easy to see that you can become preoccupied with food if you are not careful.
The term “orthorexia,” although not classified in the DSM-5 as an eating disorder, is a term which has become more frequently used to describe an unhealthy obsession with “eating clean.” Ready access to social media feeds, online recipe blogs, and celebrities touting the latest and greatest fat-cure only exacerbates this issue further. Being aware of your thought patterns around food is helpful, and if you see yourself becoming too consumed with what you’re consuming, it might be time to step back and reassess.
8. Your savings might dry up
We all know that healthy foods like fruits and veggies can put a dent in your grocery bill. Although, you can easily spend a chunk of change on a couple of bag of chips if you’re not careful. But when dieting gets really pricey is when you need to go out and buy stuff not readily available in your local grocery store.
You all have that friend on your Facebook feed going on at length about some magic protein powder or supplement they use, but rarely do they talk about how much they’re shelling out each month to keep this “habit” going. Some might say it’s worth it if the weight disappears as easily as the money does, but is it something one can do/buy/maintain for life? Likely not.
9. Diets can be dangerous
The purpose of food, in simple terms, is to fuel the body’s biological functions which keep us alive and able to go about our daily lives. Unfortunately, the myriad of ways people use food go far beyond that, so our relationship with it can get messy (see emotional eating).
But when we tread into certain fads – may they be too restrictive or cause us to overdo it on a particular food item or group – we can actually harm our health because the body isn’t getting the proper balance of nutrients it needs. And if we have pre-existing health conditions, this can get even dicier. It’s best to speak to a nutrition specialist to learn what to do for your particular situation and goals.
10. Dieting can be lonely
Limiting temptation is one of the most frequently used tactics by dieters trying to keep themselves in line. This might mean not buying treats at the grocery store or ignoring that bag of popcorn with extra butter at the movies you so dearly love. But for those deeply immersed in their diet (see point seven) this might also mean avoiding socializing with friends and family for fear of going off course.
Or you may begin to say no to a restaurant or party invites because you might not find diet-friendly food options. And if you’re super picky, things might evolve to the point where friends stop including you because they’re at a loss of how to accommodate your dietary restrictions. And let’s be honest, no one wants it to get to this point.
11. A lot of good brain power is squandered
If you stop to think about how much you’re thinking about your current diet (and all the diets that came before), you’ll see that you’re expending a LOT of valuable mental energy. Imagine what you could be doing with that brain power if you weren’t trying to calculate the GI of that potato!
You could learn a new language, volunteer, or read that book collecting dust on your bedside table. Or, you could take a course, file your taxes on time for once, or heck, even call your Mom! The possibilities are endless, and ultimately, inspiring!
12. Diets aren’t sustainable
If we’re honest, it’s as simple as this: diets are the worst because they’re too hard to maintain. And it isn’t because you suck, or you don’t possess enough willpower. If the diet is too restrictive or way off how you normally approach eating, you won’t be able to stick it out for any length of time. Then you’ll either give up or move onto the next fad – to only be disappointed again.
And this is the very reason that health experts promote healthy lifestyle changes because those small, incremental shifts you make in the pursuit of health and well being are the ones which have the greatest chance of sticking around for the long haul.
Lauren Brown MSc. WWHP, is a certified Health & Wellness Coach who loves teaching about all facets of health and wellbeing. Much of her time is spent in workplaces, helping empower employees to get healthy through the wellness programming initiatives and educational sessions she delivers. Please see www.inspiringhealth.ca for more information.