Imagine for a moment that I have a magic pill for you.
A magic pill, that, if you remember to take it everyday for long enough, is 100% guaranteed to make you look and (physically) feel better you ever have in your entire life. And it will literally make all the fat on your body fall right off.
100% GUARANTEED. Without fail.
Would you take it?
Before I forget, I should mention it has a few side effects…
…it puts you at risk for developing an eating disorder and destroying your mental health
... and increases risk of type 2 diabetes
...and high blood pressure
...and heart disease
...and slows down your metabolism so you'll put weight back on even easier than before you take it
...it’s really big, super hard to swallow and most people often forget or don’t bother to take theirs (and when they don't, it causes abusive thoughts in their brains that make them hate & berate themselves, and live with guilt and shame over food and their bodies. Forever.)
…there’s a high probability it’ll cause bingeing and give you obsessive thoughts about food and your weight that will never, ever go away, even after you stop taking it
… it might give you horrible breath & require buying supplements because it doesn't give your body everything it needs
...it'll destroy your body's internal hunger/fullness cues -- make you feel hungrier and require more food to fill you up & teaches you to ignore your own body's eating instincts
…results are usually only temporary. There's a 95-98% chance you'll regain all the weight within a year or two
… oh, and it's one of the biggest determiners of future weight gain. Like, within 5 years as many as 2/3 of people who take it are heavier than when they started
...and once people start taking it, they usually end up going on and off it literally their whole entire lives while continuing to just get heavier
Would you still take it?
Would you give it to your daughter? Or your sister/mother/friend/co-worker?
I damn sure wouldn't!
But I did. For decades. We all do. That's the truth about dieting and yet, we've been blaming ourselves for it all. The truth is that no matter what diet you try to follow, it will work as long as you're in a caloric deficit. Without fail. If a body is getting less calories than it needs to maintain its current size, it loses weight. It's not nearly as complicated a process as the diet industry wants you to believe.
And you have NO idea how many women I've heard tell me all the diets they've been on in their lives, how much weight they lost on each and how more weight they gained back when they stopped the diet because they're "so stupid" ... or whatever they're telling themselves about why they gained it back.
And I know, prevailing wisdom says, well Roni, it's not the diet's fault that I'm a pathetic food addict who can't stick to anything! The diet really did work, it's my own fault that I regained it.
Listen, I am ALL for personal responsibility, goodness knows we need more of it. Blaming everyone and everything around us for our circumstances is a victim mentality that takes away our power to change them.
I GET that.
Of course, we're the ones that physically put the food in our mouths. And when we look at the effects of dieting on an individual basis, it's easy to look at it that way. We CAN and DO lose weight if we stick to a diet.
But when the "sticking to it" part is what's required for success and the overwhelming majority that are trying not only simply can't, but they're getting a bunch of other nasty side effects dumped on them, it's an entirely different reality.
Because... reeeeally? It is reeeally because the hundreds of millions of people who spend their entire lives struggling with their weight and living in that perpetual "I'll start again Monday" cycle are lazy, unmotivated pigs?
No, it's not. How long are we going to put up with that insulting messaging before we collectively wake up and realize ...hmm, maybe it's something is VERY wrong with the system? If a new drug came out promising to cure depression and it made one or two people commit suicide, we'd assume it was just something about the way it interacted with them and not worry about it.
But if it made 2/3 of the people who took it commit suicide we'd take a good, hard look at the drug and pull the dangerous medication off the market almost instantly. I'm not trying to suggest weight gain and suicide are even close to being the same thing... only to say that it's a "solution" that makes the "problem" worse.
So, WHY are we not looking at dieting the same way?
For generations, diet (and exercise) have been the go-to "prescriptions" for dealing with our "weight problem". I use that phrase loosely because I don't think anyone has a "weight problem". First, weight gain needs to stop being demonized and treated as a problem but also, if we're sticking with our medical analogy, it's the symptom not the "disease". (again, that's not to say it's a disease, just making a point).
And yet, despite (or more accurately, I believe as a result of) the prescription we've been given, our population as a whole has been growing.
Rather than continuing to look at the traditional advice of lifestyle changes, diet and exercise as being the solution that works from an individual stand point merely because it works for 2% or because it works as long as we can stick to it, we have to start looking at the overall results on our population as a whole.
I can no longer fathom how, when the vast majority of people who use this "prescription" are getting heavier and more miserable in their skin over time, we continue to refer to these things as successful.
So what if you lost 40lbs on a diet if you and the majority of other people who tried it couldn't stick to it regained all the weight (plus maybe even 10 more pounds). How is that a winning or successful outcome?
If the majority of people who diet have been dieting for decades and are heavier now than when they started, HOW is that a successful outcome that we should still be recommending to people?!
And it's NOT because we're lazy, undisciplined pigs like we've been taught to believe. I know that narrative is helpful for the diet industry that wants us to give them credit for success and blame ourselves for "failing". It's way more convenient for the multi-billion dollar diet industry if we all just go around believing that. But it's a lie.
The truth is that dieting does not work long term (for the overwhelming majority) because it doesn't take into account the one thing that controls everything in our lives -- our brains. It totally ignores the fact that humans are complicated creatures with complicated brains, thoughts, habits and emotions that drive our behaviors, often on completely unconscious levels.
And while we keep running back to it every Monday, desperately chasing health, happiness and confidence through a smaller number on the scale, it's making our lives LESS happy and healthy.
While everyone in the diet & nutrition world is busy fighting over whose nutrition theories are "right" and how we're "supposed" to be eating, hundreds of millions of people in our population are suffering as a result.
So, why would we continue to take it? And why have we completely normalized it?