If you’ve ever been on a diet in your life, then I don’t need to tell you that diets don’t work.
They’re not meant to.
Because if they did, then all the weight loss companies and calorie counting apps would go out of business overnight.
But they don’t. They continue to grow each year, and make more and more profits, from more and more customers.
Because diets don’t work. You’ll here me saying that a lot in this article.
Lucky for me, I grew up with a mum who had a really healthy relationship with food and her body. No foods were labelled “bad” or “off-limits.” She ate everything in moderation, she never deprived herself of anything, and she never counted calories or stepped on the scales.
And children pick up on those things—especially daughters from their mothers.
So if you watched your mum diet hopping, yo-yoing with her weight, and obsessing over food, then there’s a really high chance you’ll have adopted those habits.
And there’s an even higher chance that those habits around food and weight aren’t working for you; and are keeping you trapped in a toxic relationship with food.
I find it painful to watch so many girls and women go through life battling with food and their bodies. And it doesn’t have to be this way.
When you make peace with yourself, and with food, you’ll realise you don’t need a diet. You’ll realise that all those diets you followed were only fuelling and profiting from your toxic patterns with food, and keeping you from that inner peace.
Here’s why diets don’t work
Your body is not designed to sustain weight loss over a long period of time. Most of the time, reducing or religiously controlling what you eat isn’t helping your body, and your body wants to thrive.
On top of that, dieting conflicts with our body’s intuition around eating and nourishment.
Remember, the human body has developed and evolved over thousands of years; at this point, it knows what it needs, and no five year old weight loss company could possibly know better.
1. Diets don’t address the root of the problem
The biggest problem with slimming diets is they only deal with symptoms (weight gain or fluctuation) and not the root cause of those symptoms (why you’re eating excessively).
It’s the same when it comes to treating mental health problems like depression. Sometimes anti-depressants are necessary, because they prevent a person from harming themselves or others. But taking anti-depressants never cures someone from depression.
Because they only tackle the symptoms of depression, and not the root cause of why someone is depressed. And I whole-heartedly believe that when we find the why and tackle it, we have the power to heal someone.
What we eat is really important. But drastically changing or controlling what we eat doesn’t address the underlying beliefs and stories we have that are currently influencing our eating habits.
2. Diets promote an unhealthy relationship with food
Any diet that encourages a person to view foods as “good” or “bad,” and calorie count, is encouraging you to have an unhealthy relationship with food. Because food is not good or bad.
And when you see it this way, you’ll be in a constant battle between wanting to lose weight, but also needing to give yourself enough energy to support yourself through the day.
Food is nourishment. And slimming diets don’t teach you how to properly nourish your body, through a healthy, balanced approach to all food.
3. Diets will slow your metabolism down, and can make you gain weight
Diets don’t work because they’re a catch-22.
You’re controlling and reducing what you eat because you want to lose weight. But if you don’t do this in a healthy way, you’ll end up slowing down your metabolism.
This is because your body needs fuel (food) to keep its metabolism going. And if you’re starving yourself of the nourishment you need, then your body goes into survival mode. Anything you eat will end up being stored as fat as a safety reserve for later, because your body doesn’t know when its’ next meal is coming.
On top of that, if your body isn’t getting enough food, then hormones will kick in that encourage you to eat. This includes making food taste better so it’s harder to ignore, and so you eat more of it than you usually would.
So you think you’re helping yourself lose weight by going on a diet, when actually you’re increasing your changes of gaining weight—which becomes even harder to lose.
4. When you buy into dieting, you buy into societies body ideals
Stop and think why you want to lose weight so badly.
Is there a chance it’s because you feel pressured by society to look a certain way?
It’s difficult for girls and women to escape the ideals and messages that we’re ambushed with from the day we’re born.
You should be thinner.
Your breasts should be bigger.
Where’s your thigh gap?
Why don’t you look like the women in our magazines and on TV?
The media teaches us to be insecure, then exploits those insecurities. This is why women buy most of the things we buy. Clothes, make-up, botox, breast implants, diet teas and lollipops.
If you feel pressured to diet because you think you need to meet these ridiculous expectations, instead of a need to be healthier, then you’re allowing society to control you and your happiness.
And nobody wants that.
5. Diets aren’t fun!
Diets don’t work because they suck. Anyone who has been on a diet knows that to be true.
You’re almost always depriving yourself of something. There’s a list of foods you have to avoid like the plague. And you have to obey the rules, leaving you feeling like you’re in school again. You screw with your body’s natural rhythm. You’re restricted when you want to eat out with your friends. Achieving a calorie deficit is all you think about.
And you enter into this unhealthy state of tension around food, which effects you every single day.
This creates unnecessary stress in your body, which never feels good. Plus, stress causes cortisol and adrenalin to rise, which actually reduces our body’s capacity to burn calories, which makes losing weight difficult.
Are you starting to see that diets don’t work?
And it doesn’t matter. Fuck diets.
Because you can replace them with steps that actually work in the long run, and leave you feeling healthier and happier.
But you’ll never hear these tips from weight loss companies, because they have no intention of solving your problems. Because if they do, you won’t need them anymore.
Diets don’t work, but here’s what really does
1. Find the root cause of your current eating habits
I’ve done a lot of learning, inner work, growth, and healing myself over the past five years. I also work one to one as an empowerment coach with women.
And when we trace back any struggle or obstacle we’re facing—whether it’s food, sexual dysfunction, mental illness, or a lack of confidence or self-love—it usually originates from our childhood.
And most of the time, we don’t even know about it. A lot of the trauma we experienced as children exists deep in our subconscious; far away enough from us to not know it’s effecting us, but close enough to always be influencing our daily lives.
Chances are, if you trace it back enough, you’ll figure out why you have an unhealthy relationship with food.
Maybe someone called you fat at school, so you started to use food as a source of comfort, and you never stopped.
Maybe your parents showed you love through food, and that’s how you learned to show yourself love too.
Or maybe you saw your mum constantly dieting, fluctuating in weight, and criticising her body; and you now look at food and your body the same way.
Find the root cause of your current eating habits, and you can begin to solve the real problem.
2. Accept yourself as you are today
This is very easy to say, and much harder to do in practice. But until you learn to love and accept yourself as you are today—regardless of your weight—it won’t make a difference how much weight you lose.
If you’re constantly at war with your body, then any positive changes you create in that negative state won’t last.
Why would they?
Because we don’t take care of something we don’t really like or care about.
And being critical of your physical appearance will not change when you reach your desired weight, so you have to start by re-writing the belief that your worth and value is tied to your physical appearance.
I promise you, it’s not. The media will do everything they can to convince you otherwise, but don’t you dare believe them.
Learning to fully accept and love yourself is what will motivate you to create real, long lasting changes, and treat your body with the love and respect it deserves.
3. Make peace with all food
When I say make peace with all food, I mean ALL food.
That includes burgers, ice cream, sugar, pizza, chocolate, cheese, butter, doughnuts, carbs—all food.
Because there are no good or bad foods. And while it wouldn’t be healthy or loving to eat fast food three times a week, you don’t need to live a life where fast food is bad, or off-limits. If it’s something you naturally end up cutting out of your life because it doesn’t make you feel good, and you want to make healthier choices, then that’s great. But there’s no need to view it as the enemy.
Food is not the enemy. Diets are the enemy.
4. Remember: what we put into our bodies is a reflection of what we believe we deserve
While in a yoga class setting intentions for our practice, my teacher said something that struck a chord with me.
She said by choosing to prepare and eat a nourishing smoothie after your workout this morning, you’re telling yourself you are worthy of that choice. Your body is worthy of vibrant, nourishing, fresh food.
In contrast, if you’re always reaching for a ready-meal, or something that isn’t fresh or nourishing, it’s because you don’t believe you’re deserving of any more than that.
And this really transformed my thinking, and the choices I make with food now.
I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years. As a general rule, I try and eat as much unprocessed food as possible. That means eating plenty of fruit, veg, whole grains, nuts and seeds. And each day, I try and take a small step toward a healthier lifestyle.
That means having a smoothie for breakfast at least three times a week. Swapping dairy milk chocolate for dark chocolate or cacao. Cutting out dairy milk completely (because I always end up with a stomach ache) and swapping it for plant based milk. Splitting a pizza on a Friday night with my partner, instead of eating a whole one, and eating it with a salad so I’m still full.
But never counting calories, stepping on the scales, or judging myself.
5. Practice intuitive eating
Intuitive eating might sound complicated, but it’s actually really simple.
It means listening to, and trusting your body.
The reason diets don’t work is they teach us not to. They teach us our body is an enemy, out to sabotage us. But this is bullshit.
Your body wants to be healthy, because this is how it functions at its best, and can best support you in your life.
It’s your mind that will keep you stuck in old, unhealthy eating patterns; and this is linked to the root cause which we addressed above.
But you can trust your body. So start doing that.
Eat when you’re hungry. Eat things that taste delicious, nourish you, and give you the energy you need. Tune in to your body, and listen to what it needs right now. It will always tell you.
Sometimes you might really need some carbs, or something sweet, and that’s okay. Other times, what you’ll really need is a banana or a handful of nuts and seeds to give you a boost of energy.
Allow your body to guide you to make healthy, nourishing choices.
6. Move your body in ways that feel good
Somehow, we’ve reached a point where physical exercise is yet another thing we track and measure. We do this with trackers on our wrists, apps, and workout programs, all designed to help us achieve that illusive “perfect” body.
But this has completely removed the joy in moving your body.
That’s right, moving your body is meant to be fun; it’s meant to feel good. So let’s find our way back to that place.
Start trying out new ways to move your body. Hiking, running, yoga, swimming, kick-boxing, dancing, or even training for a marathon.
If you hate the gym, then don’t go to the gym. Life is too short. Think about what you actually want to do. And when you figure it out, do more of that.
And forget about calories and losing weight. Your only goal should be to move your body in ways that feel good to you, and to enjoy yourself.
That doesn’t mean you don’t take it seriously or challenge yourself to push a little harder, but it does mean you stop tracking your “success,” and allow yourself to let go and be present in the moment.
7. Enjoy life today
I think a huge reason why diets don’t work is because they convince you that there’s something wrong with the way you are right now. They make you think you need to be fixed, and that your perfect life is somewhere far away in the distance.
This is what causes so many of us to put our lives on hold until we reach our “ideal” weight.
We say to ourselves, when I lose that two stone I’ll be happy. Then I’ll join a dating app, or I’ll book that beach holiday with my friends, or I’ll finally feel confident in my body.
But anyone who has followed this happiness model knows that nothing out there will ever make you happy if you haven’t done the inner work first. And that comes from going through all the steps laid out above.
Because real happiness is about allowing yourself to be happy today, in this moment. It’s thinking about how you want to feel, all the things you long to do, all the dreams and plans you have, and making a start on them today.
Because that full, abundant life you dream of is available to you today. Believe that. Believe that you deserve it.
Diets really don’t work, and they never have; so ditch them for good today.