Time to Ditch the Diet?
Hey….pssst….I’ve heard rumors that your New Year’s diet isn’t going so well and that maybe you've stopped it all together. Well, I am going to be honest with you…
I am really, really glad to hear that!
The reason is because of some subtle risks hidden in your otherwise noble attempts at improving your diet. Whether you ascribe to Paleo, Primal, low-carb, candida, vegetarianism, veganism, or any other “healthy” diet, you may be setting in motion physical and psychological train wrecks that you didn't intend. Let me explain three such train wrecks.
First, many “health” diets lead folks to actually reduce caloric intake. Now, trust me, I am not a fan of counting calories…this is tedious and an honest drag that sucks all the joy out of eating a meal (let alone the motivation to even make a meal surrounded by scales, measuring cups, and rulers galor). But the reality is that most people unintentionally begin to eat too little in their quest to eat pure, unadulterated food. Going on a diet that limits/reduces food (intentionally or unintentionally) for weight loss or health reasons can lead to a stressed and compromised thyroid function. Thyroid function is literally connected to numerous roles within the body, including your metabolism. A limited food supply turns into a physiology of slowing things w…a…y down. Metabolism is lowered, weight loss arrests, sluggishness sets in, digestion crawls in order to reap all the available nutrients out of every gram of food you consume.
The second thing is that any sort of health program that triggers the message of “Restriction” has the potential to carry with it some unhelpful stress. Too much restriction sends a message to the brain that scarcity exists. This message of scarcity triggers a stress response and protective mechanisms to hold onto weight in the body. Your body begins conserving energy because it thinks you are on a desert island, food is scarce, and it has to hold on to what it has to survive. These stress hormones and signals lead to a break down in health and weight gain for many.
Lastly, I want to point out that when someone “fails” at their diet, they consume a lot of "forbidden" food (a natural response for someone who has been starving, wouldn’t you say), and gain the weight back plus a little more. More and more studies show that going on a diet is one of the best ways to gain weight in the long run. It becomes a cycle: you eat less, hormone messaging gets triggered in the brain to create a famine chemistry, things slow down, the body sends urgent cues (cravings, hunger) to get out of the famine, a person ends up eating a lot with a compromised metabolism from attempted diet, and the cycle repeats.
My overall desire in writing this is to help you to see that a hyper-vigilance in a perceived war of weight and sickness that you sense are lurking around every corner if any “danger” foods are eaten can carry risks as well. I understand that many have serious health concerns and that a more stringent food plan can be beneficial for a time. To those of you in this scenario, I ask that you simply keep this info in the back of your mind to know that when things aren’t working any more with your diet, that it may have nothing to do with the fact that you aren’t diligent enough. It could be a signal that your food regimen needs to change altogether....maybe by eating more or considering re-introducing foods.
In the end, I believe getting off the diet train and trusting our bodies will not lead to a lifetime of simply eating candy, cookies, and chips. A peaceful relationship with food will lead us to something quite different. Our bodies want to be balanced, strong, radiant, active, and fiery in their capacity to create energy. When your body is not functioning this way and sends cues to do that which seems contrary to this type of functioning, it is often an overactive compensatory expression of a need trying to be met.
There is so much more to share as far as this is concerned, but I know I’ve reached my limit as far as a doable blog length. If you want to delve into how to switch out of the cycle of dieting…check out the resources below for further investigation.
Matt Stone’s “Diet Recovery 2”
The Gabriel Method.