Dieting increases your risk for gaining more weight and is the main trigger for eating disorders
If dieting programs had to stand up to the same scrutiny as medications, they would never be allowed for public consumption.
Imagine, for example, taking an asthma medication, which improves your breathing for a few weeks, but in the long run causes your lungs and breathing to worsen. Would you really embark on a diet, if you knew that it could cause you to gain more weight?
Here are some sobering studies indicating that dieting promotes weight gain:
- A team of UCLA researchers reviewed thirty-one long-term studies on dieting and concluded that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain – up to two-thirds of the people regained more weight than they lost.
- Research on nearly seventeen thousand kids ages nine to fourteen years old concluded, “…in the long term, dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain” .
- Teenage dieters had twice the risk of becoming overweight, compared to non-dieting teens, according to a five-year study. Notably, at baseline, the dieters did not weigh more than their non-dieting peers. This is an important detail, because if the dieters weighed more it would be a confounding factor (which would implicate other factors, rather than dieting, such as genetics).
Studies aside – what have your own dieting experiences shown you?
Biologically, your body experiences the dieting process as a form of starvation. Your cells don’t know you are voluntarily restricting your food intake. Your body shifts into primal survival mode – metabolism slows down and food cravings escalate. And with each diet, the body learns and adapts, resulting in rebound weight gain. Consequently, many of our patients feel like they are a failure – but it is dieting that has failed them.
Moreover, diets can lead to eating disorders, the deadliest of all mental illnesses. Anorexia is often “a diet that went too far” as described by patients and their parents. Not all dieters will become anorexics since Eating Disorders are complex diseases with a multifactorial cause, but all anorexics started the weight downfall when they decided to go on a diet to lose few kilos.
Normal eating including nutritious choices and enjoyable meals combined with an active lifestyle without obsessing about food, weight, shape or even exercise, are the key to maintain a healthy and happy life.
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Carole Chidiac, M.D
Family Medicine Specialist, Medical Director