44 Compelling Reasons to Stop Dieting Now
A version of this post originally ran on Green Mountain at Fox Run’s blog, where you can find other great articles on related subjects.
Forty-four years ago, in 1973, a registered dietitian named Thelma Wayler took over an empty dorm room at Vermont’s Green Mountain College and quietly started a revolution.
Like most visionaries, Thelma was way ahead of her time. She realized what we’re all coming to recognize now: that diets and fads were not the key to ending struggles with food and our bodies. So she started a different kind of self-care retreat for adult women that was based on science and freedom of choice: Green Mountain at Fox Run.
Today, Green Mountain at Fox Run still exists. It is a cozy, comfortable retreat center, set in the idyllic mountains of rural Vermont, where women learn how to eat mindfully, move joyfully, and think positively — evolving into a happier, healthier life.
Based on the principles of mindfulness, Green Mountain at Fox Run’s philosophy represents a triumph of fact over fiction — of freedom over fear.
And based on these past 44 years of working with women to reach their healthy weights and live fuller lives, we don’t think it could be said any better: Diets simply don’t work.
Worse yet, diets usually have the exact opposite effect you’re seeking. As a matter of fact, over 90% of people who go on a diet end up gaining the weight they lost — and often, more — within three years.
People don’t fail diets. Diets fail people.
So, to mark over four decades of Green Mountain’s non-diet approach to ending weight struggles, we bring you 44 compelling reasons to stop dieting now.
1. Diets are a temporary “fix,” not a sustainable way of living. When was the last time a diet “worked” for you permanently?
2. Diets promise one thing — weight loss — and usually deliver another: weight gain. Of course, weight gain in and of itself is fine; it can even be healthy! But this is some serious false advertising.
3. Diets tell you what you can’t have, not what you can have. This creates an unhealthy relationship with food, wherein we separate nourishment into categories of “good” and “bad.” Talk about stressful!
4. Diets don’t recognize individual differences, such as metabolism, genetics, or diet history. There is no one-size-fits-all healthy diet. Anyone who tries to tell you that one exists is lying to you.
5. Diets teach you to ignore what your body is telling you, like with hunger and fullness cues. We don’t need external rules to regulate what, how, and when we eat. Our bodies are built to give us that information.
6. Diets make you feel that you are bad for wanting food that is coined as “bad,” even if your body needs it. We have food cravings for a reason. Nothing needs to be off limits.
7. Diets make you feel deprived and unsafe. When your body thinks it could possibly be dying (why else can’t it get the energy it needs to function?), it puts you in a state of emergency.
8. Diets make you doubt your body, your abilities, your strengths, and your willpower. You are the not the problem here. The problem is trying to trick our bodies into doing something they’re not made to do!
9. Diets cut you off from what is pleasurable. There is nothing wrong with enjoying food — no, not even bread or sugar. The experience of eating food is just as important to human life as the nutrients.
10. Diets often mean putting your life on hold for weight loss, which may never happen. And even if it does, is almost always temporary. You don’t need to wait until you lose five, ten, fifty pounds to live the life you imagine for yourself. You can #BeHerNow.
11. Diets are a misplaced attempt to feel in control when other things in your life feel out-of-control. If something is causing you stress or anxiety, tackle the trigger — not your body!
12. Diets allure you, like a lottery ticket. “This is the one that will work” — when we know that no diet, or restricted eating plan, will work. You’re not going to “hit it big this time.” Throwing money into weight loss does nothing for you — and everything for the companies peddling you their nonsense.
13. Diets ignite a rebel response (think of it as the rebellious inner child) and actually make you want to eat more, making the statement “You can’t tell me what to do!” And remember: They’re called the “terrible twos” for a reason.
14. Dieters report being more stressed than non-dieters. And it’s no wonder! On top of everything else we need to worry about in this world, do we need to add our every caloric intake to the list?
15. Yo-yo dieting increases the likelihood of developing health problems. It’s a common misconception that weight, in and of itself, is an issue. The real issue is that many people in larger bodies have been on and off diets their entire lives — which hurts our bodies.
16. Diets are hard work that offer little to no results. Why not put our focus and energy into self-improvement or changing the world?
17. Diets ruin your relationship with food. When you assign moral value to food, believing that some foods are “allowed,” while others are “sinful,” we’re unable to enjoy the beauty of eating. It becomes a purely quantitative experience, and we miss out on the quality.
18. Diets distract you from enjoying other important aspects of life. Have you ever been so stressed out about how to deal with a holiday meal that you don’t even experience the memory-making of time with loved ones?
19. Time spent thinking about, planning, and trying to stay on a diet could be spent on a new skill, hobby, or talent. What’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn to do? Sing? Play chess? Read fifty books in a year? Set a goal or take on an activity that nourishes you.
20. Diets can cause obsessive thoughts about food, which may result in eating more. When the one thing you want is pizza, but you won’t let yourself have a slice, you’re bound to eventually eat half a pie (or more!) in one sitting, thinking, “I’ll never get the chance to have this again — I may as well enjoy it!”
21. Diets don’t let you enjoy the here and now because you think in terms of “When I’m _____, then I will _____.” What have you missed out on in your day-to-day life because you’re waiting for a day (and a body) that may never come?
22. Diets trash your metabolism. Each time you diet, your metabolism drops more quickly in preparation. It’s saying, “Here she goes again.” Your body doesn’t know the difference between a diet and a famine. If it thinks food is scarce, it knows how to ready itself for the tough times ahead.
23. Diets trigger increased self-judgment. When all we can focus on is our bodies and our intakes, we easily become more critical of our every move.
24. Diets make you feel hungry even when you’re not — through an increase in the hunger hormone ghrelin. Have you ever noticed that when you’re on a diet, you feel like you’re more obsessed with food than you’ve ever been? It’s not all in your head. It’s hormonal.
25. Diets turn you into an emotional hot mess — including loss of focus, moodiness, and “hanger.” There’s a T-shirt you can be that says “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.” Accurate.
26. Diets fight your body; they don’t support it. Regardless of whatever your new weight loss program is telling you, you are not gaining health when you succumb to the seduction of a diet. You’re more likely to be losing it.
27. Diets increase our inner self critic. You know the one — the voice in your head that beats you up, tears you down, and makes you feel like you’re not good enough. Some people have compared this voice to an abusive partner — for good reason.
28. Diets promote perfection. Life isn’t perfect. And people aren’t perfect. You will never be able to reach a more “perfect” you — because once you hit your first goal, you’ll only create another one. And another one. And another one.
29. Diets promote one ideal body shape and size. Over the course of history and across borders, beauty standards have changed. But regardless of the ideal en vogue, the idea that one body is better than others is BS.
30. Diets tell you that you aren’t okay as you are. But you are. You are enough. As is. Right now.
31. Diets are a one-size-fits-all approach for very individualized issues. No eating or movement plan is right for everyone. We all have different needs, and our wonderful bodies deserve to be treated as the unique vessels that they are.
32. Diets make you feel “bad” when you aren’t “being good.” Listen. There are many, many worse things that you can do in this life than eat a slice of cheesecake. Okay?
33. Dieting is often an unhealthy road to what we think is “better” health. Health-supportive behaviors are different from diets. Rule #1 of taking care of your body: fuel it.
34. Diets don’t fix your life. Often, we choose to go on diets because of something else that we think is wrong in our lives. Maybe we think that if we were thinner, we’d have more luck at love. Or maybe we think that our weight reflects our work ethic, and that if we could look different on the outside, we might get the promotion we’ve been eyeing. But diets don’t fix our lives. If anything, they make them worse.
35. Diets camouflage the real issues. Focusing on our intake can make us feel like we’re working toward something. But it also allows us to ignore our actual problems.
36. Diets are a promise you make to yourself that you cannot keep. And that’s no fault of your own!
37. Diets make you think the problem is you. We start to think that if only we had more willpower or self-control, we’d be able to stick to a diet. But that’s not true. We can’t stick to diets because diets hurt our bodies.
38. Diets tell you that you are only as important as your reflection. You have so much more to offer the world than your body.
39. Diets don’t teach you how to eat — they teach you how to restrict. We hold this silly idea that our bodies don’t know how to nourish themselves. But that’s a basic instinct that we’re all born with. We don’t need help with it.
40. Weight gain after dieting can change body composition, result in belly fat, and subsequently, health problems. Yo-yo dieting in and of itself can lead to the exact issues that we’re trying to avoid.
41. Diets are a punishment for something you didn’t do wrong. Living fully in your body isn’t a sin. It should be a celebration.
42. Diets take away your autonomy — your right to choose. And no one, not even yourself, should take that away from you.
43. Diets can lead to disordered eating habits. 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. And 20–25% of those folks progress to partial- or full-syndrome eating disorders.
44. Diets suck. Period. Need we say more?
We’re sold through diet culture — a society that normalizes and rewards caloric restriction for weight-loss intentions — the idea that eating less means living more, that we’ll be happier and healthier at the end of a successful diet. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Health and happiness doesn’t come from eating less or exercising more. They come from reconnecting with our body’s intuition — practicing mindfulness in eating, finding movement that brings us joy, living in a way that fulfills us.
To start learning more about how to incorporate these values into your life, you can check out these pieces that we’ve published:
- Why Diets Don’t Work — And What Does
- Defining Healthy Weight: What It Is and What It Isn’t
- How I Finally Gave Up Dieting
Need something more personal? Come visit us at Green Mountain at Fox Run!
While we wait for your arrival, let us know in the comments: What is your favorite reason not to diet?