Diets Don't Work. The Diet is Dead.
As a psychologist and psychotherapist, I have come across so many people who are frustrated and feel guilty about their body and their relationship with food. While there are amazing cookbooks and blogs out there communicating the benefits of healthy eating, they are missing the most vital ingredient in the weight loss battle: The mind.
We are constantly told how to lose weight: Eat less, eat healthily and move more. Then why isn’t that working? The rate of obesity is increasing drastically, despite the abundance of wonderful healthy eating advocates.
So it’s time to acknowledge that diets don't work.
Research from UCLA found that up to two-thirds of diets fail, and several studies indicate that dieting is actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain. One study found that people who participated in formal weight-loss programs gained significantly more weight over a two-year period than those who had not. This research shows that the most likely outcome from going on a diet is ultimately to put on more weight than when you started. If people actually acknowledged this fact, then I am absolutely sure they would never diet again!
Diets don't work. Simple. So here are my simple and effective strategies for effective weight loss, without dieting!
1. Enjoy your food
Diets don’t work, so no more limiting or cutting out foods you love. Only eat when you want and make sure it is something you will enjoy eating. You want some chocolate cake? Go ahead! Or a juicy steak? No problem. No more limiting yourself to diet foods which taste like cardboard and are not nutritious.
But likewise no more: ‘I have to eat because its meal time.’
Eat what you want, but you must feel hungry when you decide to eat. Food is delicious fuel, so wait until you hear that message from your stomach saying “food please” before you start eating. (Remember the hunger scale that I shared here, this is a very effective tool to help you develop body awareness and recognise when you are actually hungry).
2. Healthy gut microbes are essential
We are going to hear more and more about the importance of healthy gut microbes in the future. There has been a vast amount of quality studies done on gut microbes which indicate a strong link between poor gut microbes and obesity. So it is essential that you cultivate your gut microbes.
You can do this really easily by ensuring that you eat a diverse diet rich in healthy natural foods. Especially natural pro-biotic yogurt (not the diet kind), traditionally made natural cheese and foods that aren’t pumped with antibiotics or sprayed with pesticides. Aim to incorporate natural full fat plain yogurt into your diet. It must be fruit and flavourings free and must have natural probiotics. I recommend buying one made locally if possible.
3. Eat good quality food
70% of all diseases can be prevented with healthy eating. Our modern diet is comprised mostly of highly processed food which our body can’t digest properly. The key to a happy healthy body inside and out is to eat good quality food and avoid processed foods stuffed with chemicals.
Your skin, nails and hair will glow, you will lose weight, and your doctor will thank you! We now know that fat-free and low-in-fat only mean high in additives, sugar and flavourings. Stop buying anything that has ingredients you don’t recognise or can’t pronounce. Buy full fat milk, butter, good quality traditionally made cheese and natural yogurt. Get comfortable with the idea of making things, sauces, breads, etc. from scratch. As you start to eat good quality food that tastes amazing you will need less of it to feel fuller for longer!
4. Eat artfully and when you think you might be satisfied, stop eating!
When you’re eating, it is important to sit down at the table, be present in the moment and focus on the food you are eating. Take the time to smell it, anticipate it, savour it, and CHEW EACH MOUTHFUL. We are so used to gobbling down our food that we don’t give our bodies time to recognise we are full. So it is essential to eat slowly and artfully, enjoying, savouring and chewing every single bite.
There is no need to eat everything on your plate!
Especially when eating store-bought portions or eating out. We tend to ingest far more food than we need. We eat a deli baguette, which is probably twice the size of what you need, but because it is larger the shop can charge more for it. Disturbingly, we are now being conditioned to eat larger and larger sizes and this is spilling over into our homes.
I encourage you to shrink the size of your plate, maybe when in re-shaping mode, use a side plate, a small cup, glass and bowl. Remember you can always go back for more!
But re-thinking your portion size is essential. Eat what you want but listen to your body and when you have had enough, stop eating! This is a muscle that we need to exercise to develop, as we have long lost the art of eating until we are full and instead eat until there is nothing left.
5. Stop trying to lose weight and feel good in your body now
Fall in love with your body again. Remember a time when you loved your body? Visualise that size, visualise how that felt, take a moment each day to do this. If you don’t remember a time, then pick someone who has a body you admire and visualise it as being yours. Feel the good feelings that come from having this body that you love. Do this daily.
Be kind to your body. Start to respect it and think about all the things you love about it. One of the biggest barriers to weight loss is the psychological barrier. If you think thin you will become thin. Stop looking enviously at slim people. Start reframing how you view your body.
“Thinking thin” will help you make healthy choices and will give you the psychological empowerment (not will power) to make healthy choices in line with this new phase in your life, where you eat artfully and enjoy feeling healthy and beautiful inside and out.
Diets don't work! To learn more about Artful Eating: the psychology of lasting weight loss, an approach where I will share with you the skills and tools to lose weight, enjoy food and achieve your dream body without the pain and restriction of dieting, check out my free training Artful Eating: Reprogram your mind to transform your body.