In my experience, the below is a typical conversation between me and someone who is on some restrictive diet like a no-carb diet:
- Christabel: Oh, do you have a specific reason why you’re avoiding carbs?
- Dieter: Because I read it’s the only way I can drop this last 20lbs
- C: Actually, that’s not scientifically or anecdotally accurate
- D: No, you don’t know MY body. The last time I lost 20lbs, that was the ONLY thing that worked for me
- C: I’m sure you lost weight because because of the caloric deficit that was as a result of reducing your carb intake and not because you stopped eating carbs. In fact, you can actually lose weight eating all your favorite foods. This keeps you from feeling deprived which in turn keeps you from binging and therefore regaining all the weight you lost back…[and on and I go}]
- D: Nope, not me, I MUST cut out pizza and candy and donuts and fries and all that “bad food”
- C: Feeling defeated, I give up and change the subject
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation. My aim while having the conversation is not to prove how right I am and how wrong they are. I am just usually super excited to help people feel the freedom that comes from achieving your fitness goals while *not* depriving themselves. I am not a prescriptive person, I am not one to say that only one way of eating is the right way for everyone. There is something in me though that will not let me correct erroneous statements. And you know what, the statement that the *only* way to lose weight is to carbs, is an erroneous statement.
I know that I can’t correct every erroneous statement I come across (and that I in fact still have erroneous beliefs). But, I’m usually still expecting some curiosity at least when I share (and provide supporting evidence) that as long as you eat less calories than you burn, you *will* lose weight! That you can eat white rice, white potatoes, flour, fries, candy [insert favorite food item here] and as long as you eat less calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
Nope, no curiosity for the most part and definitely no leap of joy. Rather, what I usually get is the most severe skepticism or this narrative that I don’t know them. That they can’t lose weight without cutting out carbs/fat/sugar/meat completely. That somehow, the law of thermodynamics and the calories in calories out scientifically proven equation does not apply to them. They might even try to convince me that they have hormonal issues that they self-diagnosed by looking at stuff on the internet.
*Obviously, I’m not talking about people who have actually been diagnosed with hormonal imbalances as is the case with PCOS or thyroid dysfunctions*
Being someone who just loves to eat and will take the news that I can eat all my favorite foods while meeting my fat loss goals, I just couldn’t wrap my head around this resistance I encountered when talking to dieters. And even if said dieter buys the science of weight loss and starts counting calories to ensure they’re in a caloric deficit, they often times, still remain resistance to going above the 1200 calories recommended by MyFitnessPal or whatever calorie calculator they used. In those situations, I’d usually say:
“oh you never have to go that low to start off, the goal isn’t to eat the least amount of food possible. In fact, it is the opposite, the goal is to eat AS MUCH FOOD AS POSSIBLE that still puts you in a moderate caloric deficit to prevent non-adherence and burnout*
Once more, I’m usually faced with resistance because they know for fact that they have to eat less than 1200 calories in order to lose weight. I can go on and on where I’ve met resistance when I’ve tried to dissuade people from embarking on unattainable diets. It can be anything from “everything white is bad for you. you should only eat brown rice or quinoa or sweet potatoes” to “I’m not losing weight because I eat meat” to “I must drink this shake and eat nothing else for the rest of the day”…as you can see, the list is pretty extensive.
These experiences had me really perplexed and asking why is it that people will time and time again choose deprivation over moderation and sustainability. Are they not tired of losing and regaining the same 5, 10, 20 pounds over and over again year after year? Then it dawned on me! The diet industry has done it’s job effectively. It is not a $66 BILLION industry for no reason. It has done a fantastic job of convincing most dieters that unless the measures are extreme, they are not going to get any results. Unless there’s suffering, there isn’t going to be any reward. They must be in pain and hungry. If they have a headache as a result of starvation from eating too little calories, it is them “detoxing.”
You see, this is literally their business model. Get people to buy into unsustainable mythologies so they can fail, blame themselves and buy the next diet product. It is this cycle that keeps them in business. So, it’s not that people are dumb and unable to recognize superior methods of weight-loss, it’s that the brainwashing via myriads of advertisements sold by the diet industry has had it’s desired effect – make people buy things that will ultimately lead to failure so that they can blame their lack of willpower so that they can go ahead and purchase the next thing.
What a fucked up world indeed! When I realized that this was what was happening, I stopped being so judgmental of people who would buy into what these snake-oil salesmen were selling. I realized that one of the reason that I intrinsically don’t buy into these things is because I did not grow up in the western world. I grew up where getting three square meals a day was the goal. I didn’t watch television with scores of weight-loss ads. I didn’t have access to weight-loss magazines and such. So, I’m easily able to see through the bullshit. I’m quickly able to realize (even without the science) that intuitive eating that is based around common sense is the most sustainable of them all. Eat everything in moderation, eat when hungry, stop when full, drink a lot of water, eat fruits and vegetables, get in some physical activity daily and then just carry on.
This article is essentially an apology to everyone whom I have judged for buying into the message we’re sold everyday. It is also a plea to said dieters to stop feeding the diet industry. We are not broken, we do not have to starve or deprive ourselves or exercise for hours on end as a way to earn that piece of cake or slice or pie. We are also not broken because we are above some arbitrary number. Yes, if you’ve dieted your whole life, it can feel daunting if not impossible to trust ourselves and our bodies to know what to do. It will take some unlearning…a lot of unlearning. It’ll take a lot of trial and error and above all, it will take patience and time (a lot of time) to unlearn and unpack and relearn.
BUT, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that if you embark on and commit to the journey of breaking free of dietary restrictions, it will free up so much of you to pursue and achieve an epic level of badassery that you cannot imagine. Not to say you’re not a badass right now! It’s just that so many people feel a constant sense of failure because they are not able to adhere to diets that were never meant to be adhered to. Not to talk about so much that we put on hold because we haven’t reached our goal weight…this is another topic for another day.
If there is one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s that there are other ways beyond restriction and self-flagellation and I invite you to seek them out. Research moderate ways to eat (there are many methods) and you’re bound to find one suitable to you and your specific needs, read, learn and practice and give it some time (a lot of time).
The freedom that you gain as a result is worth it.
If you’ve followed restrictive diets in the past or are currently following one, I’d love to know your why. Comment below let’s learn from each other.
Lots of love,