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by Emily Dawson Nutrition

Ditch the Diet: Why Fad Diets Don't Work!


Diet (Noun): Food or Drink regularly provided or consumed; Habitual Nourishment

Is this the definition you think of when someone says the word "Diet"? Or does this one sound more familiar:

Diet (Verb): “temporary and highly restrictive program of eating in order to lose weight” or "restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight"


As a victim of yo-yo dieting myself, I completely understand how challenging it can be to navigate all of the information on the internet while striving to lose those extra pounds. It can be frustrating and exhausting, to say the least. I would see someone else's success story and immediately begin following whatever diet they claimed to be on, but of course, none of them worked for me. I would only end up binging on "cheat foods" and feeing terrible about myself.


Lucky for me, I was able to escape the Diet Culture by studying Holistic Nutrition. Through my studies, I learned the importance (and saw the benefit) of incorporating a variety of different foods into my diet in order to get the nutrients I needed to thrive. I learned that restricting carbohydrates was actually depleting my body of energy and that limiting fat was resulting in symptoms of brain fog, fatigue and hormonal imbalance. I also discovered the damage I had done to my digestive system by constantly yo-yo dieting and eating processed, “low-fat”, "low-carb" alternatives, and how poor digestion was actually at the root of my ongoing symptoms (like constipation, acne, bloating and weight gain).


However, I know I am one of the lucky ones! So many of my friends, family and clients are still stuck in the same position that I was – Feeling lost, frustrated and constantly looking for the “right” diet to shed some extra pounds. This really hits home for me and I now strive to educate clients about the importance ditching the fad diet and instead, adopting the principles of Intuitive Eating. We focus on finding a balanced, sustainable way of eating that not only makes them happy, but also makes sense for their own, individual body (which is completely different than the bodies of their friends, co-workers, favourite influencers, etc.).


Intuitive eating has helped me maintain a steady body weight for years now. I feel energized, happy and most importantly, I now look at food in a completely different light: It's not the enemy! I understand that food is meant to nourish the body, and instead of restricting myself or following a specific diet plan, I eat what feels right at that particular date and time. Instead of looking at lists of foods that are prohibited (which can feel like torture), I focus on the quality of my food and I never, every count calories. Plus, I still enjoy the foods that “aren’t so good for me” and I don’t feel bad about it!


Unfortunately, the bottom line and sad reality is that Fad Diets always come full circle… because restrictive diet programs just DO NOT WORK for weight loss (or anything else for that matter!)


Here's Why

Fad diets are not sustainable, and once we re-introduce the “bad foods” or raise our caloric intake, our metabolisms struggle to keep up and we end up coming full circle. Plus, are we really going to adhere to the principles of a specific diet program (like Keto, Fat-Free, etc.) for the rest of our lives? Unlikely!


Additionally, the stress of being on a diet can actually cause you to gain weight. Sounds crazy, right?! But reading labels, logging calories and constantly attending to restrictive guidelines is extremely stressful, and when we are under stress, we produce a hormone called Cortisol, which encourages the body to store fat. It also encourages the body to utilize muscle stores for energy… and we definitely don’t want that! Moreover, stress completely shuts down digestion, leading to issues like bloating, indigestion and poor nutrient absorption (and therefore, low energy).

A few other reasons I encourage you to Ditch the Fad Diet for weight loss:

  • Diets are restrictive, meaning they limit important food groups and lack essential nutrients that our bodies need to thrive.

  • Diets encourage a disordered way of eating (restriction, binging) by creating negative connotations around food. They remove the pleasure out of eating.

  • Diets cause digestive distress and can lead to food intolerances.

  • Diets are not sustainable!

  • Being on a diet is stressful and stress has negative effects on the body (hormonal imbalances, low energy, fatigue, poor concentration, bloating, IBS symptoms, poor nutrient absorption...)

Here is what DOES work:


  • Supporting the digestive system by eating foods that are high in fiber (fruits, vegetables, chia seeds, flax seeds, whole grains) and healthy for the gut (fermented foods)

  • Enjoying 5 - 6 smaller meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism and energy up, and to stabilize your blood sugar stable (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks)

  • Nourishing your body by consuming a balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats

  • Including a healthy source of protein at each meal

  • Listening to your body to understand the way a certain food makes you feel

  • Staying hydrated between meals: 2L of water per day is ideal!

  • Appreciating Food: Tasting and enjoying every bite of your meals

  • Enjoying “bad foods” and recognizing that it isn't the be-all-end-all to your weight loss journey

  • Focusing on Quality > Quantity

> Swapping processed foods for Whole Foods (foods in their natural states)

> Swapping refined carbohydrates (white breads, white pastas, white rice) for

whole grains (whole grain bread, quinoa, wild/brown rice, etc.)

> Swapping low-fat products for full-fat products (coconut milk, cheese, milks,

etc.)


If you are reading this post and realizing you have fallen victim to diet culture, let me remind you that it is 100% not your fault and you are simply doing the best you can with the information available to you. Society (and social media) has trained us to strive for a certain ‘look’, and the abundance of information on the internet makes it difficult to navigate what we should and shouldn’t be doing in terms of our diets. There are tons of different websites, blogs, Instagram accounts, etc. that preach the success of different diets. The before and after photos can make it especially easy to jump right in.

I was there and I completely get it. But remember, no one body is the same and the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is to nourish your body with whole foods and find a happy balance that works for you.


Please note: I am not here to tell you to stop a diet you’ve been put on by another health professional. If you are on a particular protocol for health reasons, please do not stray from it without consulting with that professional.

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