Why Diets Don't Work
Updated: Jan 7
Written By: Alyssa Burke, Balanced Friends
"I am here to tell you this, diets don't work"
I’ll start by saying I was never obese. But I did hold on to too much weight for my small frame. For many years I struggled with weight loss and maintenance. During these years I was always “dieting”, binging, and over exercising. I was obsessed with taking pictures of my progress, weighing myself on the scale, and measuring my body. And it worked to some extent for short periods of time but was definitely not maintainable or healthy for my body or mind. Year after year these pictures were the same transition of extra weight and weight loss. Back to same extra weight and same weight loss. This was hard for me to see. During this time, I had a mindset that it was all or nothing. This meaning that if I “messed up” on my diet and ate a cookie then the whole day was ruined. So might as well eat more cookies and whatever else I wanted. I had to try really hard to lose weight just to gain it back after not following a certain diet plan. I was always in these weird phases of dieting, gaining weight, dieting, and gaining weight. You get that point. I was tired of working so hard to lose weight just to gain it back. This is no way to live. Always being on a "diet" and obsessing over it?! But I know that I am not alone and many people go through this same thing.
I am here to tell you this, diets don't work. For a long term solution. They are not maintainable and it's not a fun way to live always restricting calories and having guilt or shame around eating certain foods. It really wasn’t until I quit “dieting” all together and listened to when my body needed rests days that I started to maintain a healthy weight. This was really hard for me. To tell myself to exercise less and just rest. To tell myself that diets aren't serving me anymore. During this time I was learning a lot about the body and looking at it on a deeper level. And I was also addressing some root causes for why I was having such a hard time maintaining a healthy body weight for my frame. Because, it shouldn't be that hard right?! We have all have a healthy weight for our body type and it shouldn't take so much effort to maintain that. So that brings me to root causes. These are root causes that can make it difficult to lose weight and maintain. There could be any number things that can contribute so that is why I chose to do functional medicine lab testing to see what exactly could be going in my body. I had food sensitives, gut imbalances, poor quality of sleep, excess toxin build up, and hormonal imbalances. I began addressing all of these at a root cause level to help balance my body.
"And yes, you will feel better soon!"
While I do believe we need some form of measurement to check progress but not to the extreme, obsessiveness I was doing. And no amount of measurements and progress can be maintained if there is an underlying cause for the struggle of weight loss or maintenance. I quit “dieting” and started just eating real, whole foods that fueled my body instead of counting every macro or weighing everything I was eating. I started listening to my body and the lab tests as far as exercising instead of over exercising with minimal rest days. I addressed my imbalances at a root cause level. I’ve never been able to maintain a healthy body weight until all of these were addressed. And believe me, I still have my treat meals without guilt or fear of gaining weight. I was so tired of the hard struggle that weight loss can cause mentally and physically.
Fast forward 5+ years and I wish I could tell that unhealthy, not confident version of myself everything I know now. Stop taking so many pictures and stop weighing yourself daily. No, that one cookie didn’t ruin the whole day. No, you didn’t gain 5 pounds over night from a “cheat meal.” Yes, there is a real reason why you work so hard to lose and maintain that extra weight. And yes, you will feel better soon!
*Pictures above are from when I was "dieting" and pictures below are the last pictures I took after I realized there was more to losing weight than just calories in and calories out and started working on my imbalances. I do not take "progress" photos anymore because it created a unhealthy habit for me.