“Let’s go on a diet,” my best friend suggested after we gained an unhealthy amount of weight in college.
Something had changed. Buttoning my pants started becoming an exercise in itself, and I noticed this sound, “swish swish,” that was following me everywhere. It ended up being chub rub, otherwise known as my inner thighs rubbing together every time I took a step. Quickly, I declared, too, that I needed to go on a NONE-OF-MY-PANTS-FIT diet.
To this day, when I hear the word “diet,” I immediately think of a structured attempt to lose weight. Though the reasons for dieting vary, the desired outcome is the same. And, in order to succeed, or try to succeed, one must follow very strict rules. Each diet claims to be the best, provides the greatest results, and promotes healthy living. I beg to differ.
See, diet fads come and go. No matter the diet — Weight Watchers, Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, or Nutrisystem, or these crazy cleanses that are circulating (just to name a few) — you must make significant changes and extreme sacrifices to be “successful.”
I had become accustomed to cafeteria dining at the time I gained an amount of weight in which I felt uncomfortable and unhappy. I, routinely, enjoyed several bagels a day, ice cream piled with scoops of candy after each meal, multiple helpings of cereal for breakfast, and snacked incessantly throughout the day and night. Like most people who go on a “diet,” I had created unhealthy eating habits that contributed to my weight gain, and I needed to stop.
So, my friend and I explored our options. The diets that were published in magazines, books, and other media sources spoke to anyone and everyone. The diets didn’t take into account how much I was eating, what I was consuming, or why I was over-indulging. All they did was claim that if I followed the rules, I would lose weight and become healthy. This was the beginning of my food obsession.
And just like many do, I lost weight. I was able to maintain it for awhile. Then, I was so proud of the results that I became motivated to keep eliminating more foods from my diet. I went to the absolute extreme of dieting, and developed an eating disorder. And, once I got back on track (which took intensive treatment), I not only gained the weight back, but I put on even more than when I started.
That’s where these diet fads go wrong. Like most people, I looked for a quick fix to my weight problem. These quick fixes are too difficult to sustain. Therefore, most people revert back to their old ways in no time. Because dieting involves restriction, deprivation, or elimination, many people, like myself, yearn for those foods, and the cravings become too much to control. Emotional eating expert Geenen Roth says, “For every diet, there is an equal and opposite binge.”
We call this roller coaster, “yo-yo dieting,” and I declare each one of these fad diets results in “yo-yo-ing.” Yo-yo dieting has health risks, among many other emotional and physical consequences. It is possible to be successful — but not by cutting out, restricting, or depriving. A person’s “diet” should be a lifestyle commitment to balance, health, and moderation. It shouldn’t be a temporary change, and it shouldn’t be to just lose weight. It should be to create healthy habits that make us feel more energized, happier, and more positive… everyday.
We need to stop criticizing ourselves, and accept ourselves for who we are — no matter the number on the scale. We must empower ourselves to feel healthy and happy. If you have done these fad diets before, like myself, forgive yourself. Start anew. And, create dietary habits that allow you to enjoy life’s greatest pleasures — in a healthy, long-term, sustainable manner.