Food Coach and Founder of The Green Goddess Life. She's Hay House's youngest author and recently became a BBC #BodyPositive Ambassador.
We all have an inkling that diets don't actually work. We might start them with gusto, but pretty soon we're falling off the wagon or completely miserable. Millions of women start new diets in January but 95% of them will have gained everything they lost back within 1-5 years, and then jump back into the diet train "because it works". Here are my top ten reasons why diets don't work, and how the diet industry is keeping you stuck!
It's a temporary fix where you need a long term solution
We've all heard that phrase, "it's not a diet - it's a lifestyle change" but unless you are actually intending to change the way you eat and move for LIFE, it's just another diet. Anything we start with the singular focus of losing a few pounds, dropping a few dress sizes or hitting a 'target weight' is setting you up for failure.
Your body, your weight and your health, is the result of how you repeatedly choose to live - it's the outcome of a certain way of life - your way of life. You need to change that, in order to get a different outcome.
They make you feel like a failure and broken.
This is one of the things that upset me the most. So many diets out there shout about their 'simple' plans and 'easy' methods, but when it doesn't work for you, you feel like a total failure. Every time we fall off the dieting wagon it erodes away at our self esteem and makes us wonder if we're broken, and just can't be fixed! Not true at all!
When you start comparing all those before-and-after photos, and amazing stories of transformation to the statistics, it's pretty clear that the diet industry is the one that's broken - not you.
They are rarely based in good nutrition, and often glorify calories or points
When a diet is created with the sole purpose of losing weight as fast as possible, it's never founded in good nutrition. It often cuts out whole food groups or insists on a very low daily calorie intake that just isn't sustainable!
All calories were not created equal. You could compare an amazing super food salad, full of super greens, sweet potatoes, pumpkin seeds and avocado to a fast food burger, and find that they contain the same calories. Which do you think is better for you?
They take your power away around food, and are totally inflexible
The only way to create lasting change is to take back your control over your food and diet choices. Diet plans don't allow you to do that. Whoever wrote that diet or meal plan, no matter how well intentioned they were, has no idea about your body and what it needs to thrive. They know nothing about your unique situation, your lifestyle, your family or how your body feels when it reacts to certain foods.
Diet plans don't allow for curveballs in your life, or teach you how to eat a balanced diet without depriving yourself to make up for going over your "points allowance". Learning how to nourish your body is the most important thing you can do, because then you will know exactly how to balance a night out with the girls without spending hours in the gym or surviving on salad for days.
Diets don't address the core problems with your relationship with food.
There is a such a huge focus on weight loss, we can often forget that the food is just a symptom. Diets don't address the reasons behind our relationship with food. If you want to achieve true food and body freedom, you have to unravel the reasons behind the emotional eating and bingeing, not just replace it or power through it. Replacing oreos with carrot sticks doesn't necessarily solve the problem - you have to understand why you are emotional eating in the first place.
Diets glorify willpower and discipline and disconnect you from your body.
Wait, isn't a good thing to have amazing discipline and will power?! Very few of us work in a way where just 'powering through' will help when it comes to our food and diet. The dieting world has glorified will power, but really, NOT having any will power could be the best thing that's ever happened to you. Without will power, you have to listen to your body, and tap into its natural intuition. When you listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs to nourish it properly. It's also so much easier to identify cravings as what they really are most of the time - emotional eating.
It's all about the scales.
I used to have a very close relationship with my scales - every day I would get on them, and wait to be told how good I was allowed to feel that day and what I was allowed to eat. One of the big issues with diets is that they rely on your weight to tell you if you've been doing a good job or not. I've sure we've all heard tales of the dreaded weekly weigh ins at diet clubs.
Your scales tell you one thing - your effect on gravity. It doesn't tell you if you've been gaining muscle and loosing fat, it doesn't tell you if you're getting leaner, or feeling more vibrant or if you're getting healthier.
Diets glorify the idea that you have to struggle first, to be happy later.
'When I'm thin, I'll start dating. When I'm thin I'll be confident enough to get a new job. When I'm thin, then I'll finally be happy!' Diets perpetrate this idea that if you 'suffer' for a little while now on this diet, THEN you'll be allowed to be happy later. Sadly, later never comes. There is no later. There is only now. If you're looking a for a diet that will finally propel you into your perfect life, I hate to break it to you, but you will never find it.
Diets have you working towards an arbitrary goal, such as a weight or a dress size.
I'm a total goal setter, but when it comes to weight loss, we're not chasing the body or the number on the scales, we're chasing a feeling. What we really want, is how we think it's going to feel when we get there, not the fleeting moment of achievement - but the lasting good positive feelings of living life in a body you're proud of! You can choose to start feeling that way right now! You don't have to wait, and if you attach your happiness to something external like a dress size, you'll likely never find it.
The focus on cutting out, rather than adding in.
A big word that goes hand in hand with dieting is deprivation! Even the diet plans that promise you can eat whatever you like, will have 'points' or 'syns' attached to certain foods to keep you hemmed in - which ultimately leaves you feeling deprived again. The perfect diet is not dairy-gluten-carbs-sugar free! The perfect diet is one where you're focusing on what you're gaining; health, vitality, nourishment, over what you are losing. Focus on crowding in the good foods that make you feel amazing, and you'll naturally crowd out the ones that make you feel heavy or sluggish. PLUS - no feelings of deprivation, because truly nothing is off the menu. It's all a choice you make - how do you want your body to feel? How will you nourish it with choices that support that?
Follow Mel on Instragram and twitter @IAmMelWells
Mel is the founder of The Green Goddess Life and The Green Goddess Academy http://www.thegreengoddesslife.com/
Her first book 'The Goddess Revolution, Food and Body Freedom for Life' is published on 7th June (Hay House).
For more information on the BBC Body Positive campaign http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/get-inspired/bodypositive