She looked at me with desperation in her eyes and said, “If I eat like this, I’ll lose weight, right?” I said, “You should” without much confidence at all. This was after her first question of, “What is the best diet for me?”
You see, I’d been a Dietitian for a while and hadn’t had much success at all helping clients lose weight. I felt a lot of shame about that. Weight loss is part of what I, as a Dietitian, am supposed to be good at…right?
When I wasn’t, did that mean I was a bad Dietitian?
The Promise of Dieting
Trying to be a “good” dietitian, I believed in the false promises of diets.
Diets promise a new life. When you lose weight, you’ll be popular, all your troubles will melt away, you’ll make more money, and on and on those who promote weight loss say.
They also say that all of your medical issues will be gone – whether or not that has been proven to be the case (because this is in dispute).
I’ve since learned better.
The Reality of Dieting
In reality, diets leave you feeling like a failure, feeling deprived, and usually with more weight than you started with before starting the diet.
You may feel like you can’t show your face to family and friends because you told them all about the great new diet you’d be starting. And, maybe they saw you lose weight. Now, they’ll ask what happened. They may even make disparaging comments: did you give up? What happened?.
You feel like a failure. The reality is that diets almost always fail.
When I Got Out of Dieting
I got out of dieting for the final time a couple of years ago. I went through menopause and put on some weight. I’d heard the ads for one of the new weight loss apps and thought I’d give it a try – both out of professional curiosity and looking for help.
Not only had counseling others on weight loss not worked, my personal weight loss journey hadn’t worked. (Full disclosure, the only weight loss that had worked was Weight Watchers in the 90’s when I lost about 10 pounds. And, it stayed off for a long time because it was a weight my body liked being at, not because of counting calories, following a strict workout plan, or eating a prescribed menu or eating pre-packaged food.
Anyway, I tried this app for 2 weeks. It told me I needed 1,200 calories a day, which I KNEW was far too few. I’d tried to eat that few calories before and was always starving. But, I thought, “Hey, I’ll try it again.”
Well, after weighing myself daily, logging my food, and starving for 2 weeks, I was seriously pissed off and hungry. The scale hadn’t moved. If anything, it had inched up. WTF?!?! So, I gave up and ate until I was full.
And, this is my normal diet pattern. This is how it ALWAYS happens for as long as I can remember (except for the one exception). I went through all the feelings of diet failure:
- Blaming myself
- Blaming my body
- Blaming my family, parents, and genetics
- Basically, blaming ME!
Because it couldn’t be the diet’s fault. It is never the diet’s fault – right?
As I worked through the diet blame game, I thought, “There has GOT TO be a better way.”
Why Diets Don’t Work
Turns out, my personal experience with dieting reflects more current research about diets: they don’t work.
Diets don’t work because our bodies are complex, smart systems designed to survive and adapt. Losing weight, for most people, isn’t about calories in vs. calories out.
In no particular order, here’s a list of some of the things I’ve found that impact weight loss more than just calories :
- Other health conditions (PCOS, diabetes, hypothyroid, etc.)
- Healthcare bias
- Weight stigma
- Food sensitivities
- Food intolerances
- Things we don’t even know or understand yet
Even if your body is working well, it is smart enough to say, “she’s cutting my calories, I’m going to slow down the work I do so I can keep living” and burn less calories.
This list above is why when someone comes to me and asks if I can help them lose weight, I tell them “No.” There are just too many factors to consider that I’m not an expert in and are out of my professional scope to be able to promise results.
Life After Diets
You know what I can promise results with though? Helping you understand how your body works and learning to work with it rather than fight against it.
After my last diet failure, I started looking around and found Intuitive Eating, again. I say “again” because when I first became a Dietitian, I stuck my toes into Intuitive Eating. After my last round of dieting, I knew I couldn’t do it anymore and couldn’t put my clients through it anymore.
As an Intuitive Eater I eat when I’m hungry and I eat what my body asks for. Sometimes I skip breakfast because I’m not hungry. Sometimes I have a HUGE breakfast of migas. Lunch is usually around 11AM, an afternoon snack, followed by an early dinner. I listen to what my body asks for and when it asks.
Now, when someone asks, “What’s the best diet for me?” I reply, “That’s a complex question.”
Then, if they want to talk further, we sit down and go deeper. They learn about how their body works, how food works in their body, and more so they can eat in a way that helps their body work great in a long term, sustainable way. Which is much better than a diet.
If you’re tired of feeling like a diet failure, and trust me it isn’t you it’s them, set up a time to talk with me. We can work through what’s going on and figure out if Intuitive Eating is right for you.