Dangers of Dieting: Why You Shouldn't Diet in 2011

Did you know that nearly 40 percent of all New Year's resolutions are related to weight? So if you made a resolution to lose weight this year, you're certainly not alone. In fact, there's about 45 million people jumping on the diet bandwagon with you (along with their shiny new eating plan and exercise routine). You've made this resolution every year for decades. But of course this year is different. This year it's actually going to work.

Never mind that 95 percent of folks who go on a diet don't maintain their loss in the long-term (and nearly half of them gain back more than they lost). That doesn't matter, because most of us are convinced that somehow we'll be part of the 5 percent that succeeds in keeping off the weight after a restrictive diet. Every year we come back to the same resolution because we think we can finally beat those odds. It's almost as sad as watching someone invest their life's savings in a slot machine.

But the biggest problem isn't that dieting doesn't work. Unfortunately, regaining the weight you lose (and possibly even more) is the least of your concerns. The truth is that most people don't understand the dangers of dieting. The health risks you take when you diet are very real, but it's something health officials like to sweep under the rug while spouting off phrases like "obesity epidemic" and talking about how obesity kills.

The Dangers of Dieting

  • Research shows that weight fluctuations are more dangerous than carrying excess weight. A history of weight cycling via dieting is strongly associated with an increased risk for developing metabolic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. This is independent of weight (so it applies whether you're a dieter who is skinny or one who's heavy). This evidence strongly suggests that dieting affects you on more than a body fat level: dieting affects you--and can harm you--on a metabolic level.
  • One study showed that obese women who diet are far more likely to have high blood pressure than obese women who do not have a history of dieting--more evidence that demonstrates the dangers of dieting on the entire metabolism.
    • Weight loss that comes through dieting (especially extreme dieting) always risks losing lean body tissue in addition to fat. This robs your muscles, bones and organs of the material they need to function properly. While some diets increase this risk more than others, it is a risk with all diets that restrict calories.
    • Our eating habits are passed on to our children. Kids pick up on our obsessions about weight and our eating habits. Whether we realize it or not, we often project our own insecurities about our weight and our restrictive eating habits onto our kids. It's hard not to. But research shows that parents who impose restrictive eating habits only encourage further weight gain in their children. Stopping this vicious cycle in its tracks is reason enough to swear off dieting forever, in my opinion.
    • Dieting distorts our natural relationship with hunger and food. When food becomes "good" and "bad," eating becomes a moral issue rather than an issue of nourishment. When we deny our hunger, we forget how to eat for natural reasons and instead develop habits of emotional eating and experience guilt when we eat the "wrong" food. Basically, we forget how to eat. This can result in eating disorders, distorted body image and poor health in long run.

    Suddenly dieting doesn't sound like the path to health and happiness, does it? The dangers of dieting are unfortunately all too real, but millions of people ignore these risks every day.

    The best resolution you can make for 2011 is to stop dieting. It's time to end our unhealthy relationship with food, exercise, and our bodies. There's a better way to improve your health and the way you feel about yourself, and that's something I'll be talking a lot more about this year.

    This post is part of Fight Back Friday.

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