Did you know only 5% of people that lose weight by dieting will have kept it off after 5 years? 95% will put the weight back on. That’s a lot, right? So, why spend all that money, time and effort on something that doesn’t work.
I’m no saint, I did it as well. I never felt comfortable in my skin and spent years trying to lose the weight with diet pills, fasting, shakes. I would always put the weight back on. I was what some people called a Yo-Yo dieter. That was until a year ago when I turned Vegan and started seeing things in a different light. So, why don’t diets work?
Reasons not to diet:
In the short term, diets work, you lose the weight and get to the size you want. You eat what you’re told and that’s as difficult as it gets BUT as soon as you start eating normal again you put the weight back on because your body isn’t meant to be in that diet mode. When you diet you make your body think that it’s in starvation mode so when you start eating again you gain the weight quicker than before and possibly put more back on as well. This Yo-Yo dieting effect is something that can harm your health, both mentally and physically.
Confusing your brain and body
Dieting also makes your brain confused and body. You need food to thrive, by limiting the amount you intake your brain takes over and makes food taste better and crave it more which encourages overeating and makes it harder to restrict yourself in the first place. This is because the process of dieting affects your hormones which in turns makes your body and brain react differently towards food. Not in a good way but in a way that makes it even more likely that you will weigh more in a year than when you started out dieting.
By confusing your body and mind it creates a sharp link between you and food which only encourages an emotional attachment to food in the long term. Do you find yourself pigging out when you’re sad? That is an unhealthy attachment to food and can stem from years of dieting.
Allow this behaviour to manifest and it encourages eating disorders such as bingeing or anorexia.
Dieting causes your metabolism to slow down as your body turns into survival mode meaning that you actually lose less weight when you diet than you would if you just chose to live a healthy life.
Missing out on important nutrients
By limiting your intake of what you eat and drink this limits you from lots of healthy food that you should be fueling your body with. Making you deficient in essential vitamins. This can have detrimental and sometimes irreversible effects on your health in the long term which can cause you all sort of issues.
Wanting to be skinny or like the girls in the magazines. This is a common reason for people to diet. So, when you reach your goal weight you still aren’t happy. Why? Because you’re trying to be someone you’re not. That isn’t to say you could never be skinny but this is the wrong motivator to lose weight. You should focus instead on loving who you’re. Part of self-care is to look after yourself which means eating foods that make you thrive and taking better care of yourself. To learn more about self-love I have a post here. Without loving yourself you have no hope of getting where you want to be.
So, stop trying to be skinnier or prettier. No matter what it is. Work on being the best version of yourself.
Stops you enjoying food
For me, this was a big enough reason to look for other options when losing weight. I love food so I was always miserable when I had to diet and eat set foods. That doesn’t mean you can eat what you want because you only live once. It means you can become more in tune with yourself and enjoy eating as many healthy foods as you like, knowing that they will be good for your body and make you feel great. Bad food, processed food, don’t give you anything in the long term.
There’s plenty more research out there on why diets don’t work, this is easy to read one here.
Note – Weight watchers and slimming world, are specific diets that are not as bad as others but still not great. They’re still not ideal but unlike a lot of diets these focus more on healthy eating and filling up on good foods. It’s a step in the right direction but a diet is still not ideal.
So, how do you lose weight without dieting?
Now that we have looked at the reasons not to diet you may be asking yourself, well how do I lose the weight if not on a diet? First of all, a lot of people say not to focus on dieting. Which I do agree with to a certain extent. Don’t call it a diet for starters. I am focused on losing weight to become HEALTHY but my need to feel healthy outweighs the need to lose weight, they just hand in hand for me. I eat what I want when I want and I’ve lost 25 pounds (heading towards 2 stone) in just less than 5 months. Here’s how:
The only thing I do to limit myself is something they technically call ‘Intermittent fasting’ I only eat between the hours of 11 am and 7 pm. Not because of losing weight but because this is how I prefer to eat. I’m not one for breakfast and I prefer to avoid late night snacking by cutting myself off at a certain time. Intermittent fasting allows your body to stay in the fasting stage for longer which encourages your body to burn excess fat.
I think technically Intermittent fasting is considered a diet but I don’t follow it as such. I eat breakfast because I don’t like to. It’s a bonus that it allows me to lose weight but it’s also not for everybody and that’s ok.
In the beginning, I gave myself a helping hand with food by tracking calories. This helps to teach yourself a good amount of food to eat per day. What calories you should have to lose the weight you want. When I got used to it and starting learning to listen to my body I stopped counting calories but carried on losing the weight at a good rate of 1-2 pounds a week. It’s a great way of teaching yourself to recognise your hunger which brings us to our next point.
Listening to your body
Listen to your body and what it’s telling you. This is something that takes time and practice but is so worth it for a healthy lifestyle. Begin by acknowledging when you’re full or hungry. Stopping when you’re full and only eating when you’re hungry. Don’t just eat something because it’s there or because it’s dinner time. This avoids unnecessary calories and allows your body to work the way it should.
I eat healthily, not just for my weight loss but because it’s good for you and it makes me feel good. It makes my mental health better. It makes my productivity better, my mood better. Everything. Eating healthy is the backdrop to every success. As soon as I slip off the rails and have a bad day of eating I feel it for the days after and have to reach for my anxiety medication. It’s also exciting trying so many combinations of foods! Going Vegan has completely changed my way of eating and I love it. If you would like to read more about this then I wrote a post about it here. There’s also an essential Vegan Shopping list here.
We all know that we need to exercise but a lot of us don’t both. Either because we tell yourself we don’t have the time or because we just choose not to. Note the word, ‘Choose’. It’s our choice and we should be choosing self-care and fueling our bodies. This is something that is always a battle for me. I’ve never enjoyed exercise that much and still don’t for the most part but I make sure to do a minimum per week because I know it’s better for me in the long term. Sometimes you do things you don’t want to do because you know it’s good for you. That’s just how life is. Exercise is no different. I try to balance between doing Kettlebells, Cardio and Yoga. Fitbits are a great motivator, I got mine at the start of the year and have been walking 10,000 steps a day since. It’s really given me a boost! So, get moving, go walking every day, take the steps instead of the lift. Get moving!
Treats as a treat
We’ve touched on healthy eating. Now, treats. We all love them but it’s when you have too many that it becomes a problem. There is no set allowance of when you should or shouldn’t be having treats it’s just something you learn when you start listening to your body. You may say no to that cookie because you had a big lunch (even if it was healthy) BUT you may allow yourself to have a pizza at the weekend because you really fancy it and haven’t had any junk food in a while. I’m not saying to avoid junk food, I’m saying, everything in moderation. Learn the meaning of the word ‘treat’ and really enjoy how the treat tastes and how you feel eating it.
Reduce your stress
This is a big task in losing weight and just being overall healthier. Stress can actually lower your metabolism and make you struggle to lose weight as well as it causing so many other problems. This is a struggle for me constantly as I have an Anxiety disorder but it’s not about beating stress, it’s learning how to manage it. You need to learn what works for you in terms of managing stress and choosing healthy habits to help you cope better. Lack of sleep and bad diet are just two things that can severely affect your stress levels. Therapy is a great beginners tool for this step. You can read more about how I manage my Anxiety here.
This is something I have recently begun, I’ve always known meditation is a great tool for lowering stress and allowing you to become more mindful but I have only recently begun this journey. So far, it has helped me a lot with my Anxiety, binge eating and of course my weight loss. By taking more time for self-care and brain training it makes me more proactive throughout the day. I question whether I want that snack rather than just reaching for it.
Sleep & Water
The same with exercise, we all know we need sleep but sometimes we struggle. Heck, some people have Insomnia so it’s always a struggle. No matter what your troubles are Sleep is a vital part of losing weight. It replenishes your body and mind overnight allowing you to wake up, like a reset button, ready for the next day. I don’t know about you but when I’m tired my anxiety levels are lighter which means my stress is higher, this, in turn, makes me more likely to crave and consume unhealthy foods which begin a nasty cycle. The same goes for water. Our bodies are a machine, the sooner you acknowledge it’s easier to become healthy and exercise which in turn makes losing weight a doddle.
Cutting out the nasties
Alcohol, Meat, Dairy, Smoking, Oils. These are just some of the things that can be bad for your health and make it harder to lose weight. Meat is just as unhealthy as smoking and has as much of a chance of causing cancer. To many oils make you put on weight. As does Alcohol. Cut down on the bad foods and replace them with good ones. It’s one of the easiest ways to lose weight without even realising. I live a Vegan lifestyle with minimal oils, I don’t drink or smoke. To many, this sounds like no fun at all but dieting doesn’t sound fun to me. There’s no point dieting your whole life just for the sake of a glass of wine or a slab of meat. You choose.
To sum it up…
All of this may seem like a lot to take in but it’s not if you simplify it. You can do this and if you want to lose weight it just fits in with looking after yourself as part of self-love. Positivity is the root of your tree. So, be positive and start at step one. Choose something from the list and focus on improving that part of your life. It could be as simple as cutting our oils from your diet or it could be as big as going Vegan or exercising every day. Everyone is on a different journey.
All of this takes time to adapt to. It’s not a race, you have a lifetime. Each one can take months to get to where it needs to be. It’s taken me 1 year to get my eating where I want it to be and I’m still battling with exercise BUT I have my whole life to work through the kinks and try my best. I owe it to myself. Part of self-love and self-care is eating healthy, training your body. Just giving yourself what you need to work at your best.
It’s about feeling good, not looking good. In order to do that you must first accept yourself and focus on enjoying your life rather than trying to change things.
Let me know what, off the list, you want to focus on. What is your journey?