Recently a friend asked me why I am so much against diets. Do I truly think that there are no benefits at all in any diets? And do people who are eating competent never follow an eating plan, not even when necessary to manage a disease like diabetes or high blood pressure?
What is the freaking point of giving up dieting?
That is such an excellent question! And I feel this cuts deep into my posts about becoming truer to yourself. This question has allowed me to realize that I cannot tell you who your truer you is — only you can do that. And perhaps your truer you needs or wants to be on a diet.
Now, before you throw tomatoes at me, allow me to elaborate.
Do I believe that diets have no benefits whatsoever? No, I don’t. There are many diets that bring considerable benefits. For example, Ketogenic diets have been used and studied extensively to relieve seizure disorders that don’t respond to medication. Low FODMAP diets are excellent for people who suffer from irritable bowel syndromes and other intestinal problems. And of course, a gluten-free diet is essential for people with celiac disease.
Are there any diets that are effective in the long term for weight loss? No.
The diets I mentioned above have been promoted also as effective for weight loss or to “better health”. In reality though, there is no definitive research about that.
For example, the Ketogenic diet does cause weight loss — but that is nothing more than a side effect. When the body doesn’t have enough carbs to burn to produce energy, it has to start producing its own. This is done by using proteins, either from food or from muscles. The production of carbs this way causes heavy loss of water. Yeah, all that amazing weight loss? It’s just water. If that’s what you want more than anything else, then a Ketogenic diet might be right for you. But there’s a price to pay.
Diets come with benefits but they also come with costs. The costs of dieting are very often, too often overlooked. But here’s a price list of dieting:
Separating food and eating from emotions is impossible. Food has a nutritional as well as an emotional value. Knowing that you will bee fed and your hunger will be satisfied brings a sense of comfort and trust. The good taste of your favorite food brings pleasure.
Diets also come with a heavy emotional load. Not being able to eat what you want can cause a sense of being trapped, which can cause anger and frustration. Slipping on the eating plan can result in guilt. Fear is a common reaction of not knowing if your hunger will be satisfied.
Competent eaters think about food only when shopping and planning to eat. They don’t need to worry about having to avoid foods unless they have to because of allergies or other medical concerns. Aside from foods that they cannot eat, anything is acceptable and the more variety, the better.
Following a diet instead requires strictness, commitment, and self-control. While on a diet you are more likely to obsess and worry about food most of or all the time. This could result in anxiety and perfectionism. Slip on the diet and your self-esteem might also plummet.
Life means more than just what and how much you eat. The life of a competent eater does not revolve solely around food and their body. Having permission to eat whatever you like, as much as you want means that you can explore the meaning of other areas of your life, such as family, career, and the expression of your true self.
When going on a diet, your spiritual health might take a hit. The diet can be so consuming that every action, every thought, every plan can end up being about what and how much to eat. How are you supposed to decide what to do with your life if you’re busy thinking about your diet?
Only you can answer this question. Sometimes, dieting might bring benefits that outweigh the cost. If you need to go on a Ketogenic diet because you suffer from seizures that cannot be controlled with drugs, then the price might be well worth it. If eating gluten products makes you very sick, then a gluten-free diet is essential for you.
Is it possible to select a diet for non-medical reasons, such as moral reasons or just because you want to? Of course. But you have a better chance of reducing these costs once you have learned to trust yourself, stop fearing food, and feed yourself reliably.
What I can do is provide you with information that is hard to find anywhere else and help you make an informed decision about what’s right for you and how to become a truer you. But in the end, if you decide to keep on dieting or not, that is up to you.
I was thinking yesterday about my journey from undiagnosed eating disorder, to Post Traumatic Stress…29 January 2018