Dieting is a huge industry, a billion dollar industry to be exact. There are thousands of diets out there and new ones that surface every day. Some are extreme such as the "cabbage soup diet" and some are more sensible such as the "local food diet". But all of the diets out there have one thing in common: they do not work. Studies have shown that dieting actually increases your risk of weight gain, decreases metabolism, increases risk of developing disorder eating habits, decreases self-esteem and many other negative consequences. With all of these horrible side effects why do we continue to diet? One thought is that as humans we like to take the easy way out- the quick fix and that is exactly what all the diets promote. Many people start a diet feeling motivated and even euphoric, the thought of following a strict meal plan appears to be exciting. You may say to yourself: "how hard can it be to eat cabbage soup for three week? If I follow this diet I will lose a bunch of weight and then be able to resume my normal life once the weight is gone". Unfortunately, what usually happens is the diet is started and followed strictly for a few days or weeks. It is easy at first, but then it starts to get boring and you miss eating with your family or friends. You cravings start to sky rocket and all you can think about is eating chocolate, candy, cake or chips. The next thing you know you have fallen "off the wagon" and your weight has returned to pre-diet weight or even higher. It is a vicious cycle and a cycle that many of us put ourselves through over and over again. Sadly, each time we start a new diet we expect different results but always end up right back at square one.
The good news is that there is a healthy alternative to dieting. It is called mindful eating or intuitive eating. Mindful eating is about throwing out any food rules that you have (ex. carbs are bad) and learning to take the time to understand how much food and what food your body needs. Mindful eating is about being present in the moment, free from distraction and enjoying what you are eating. When you eat mindfully you learn to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full, a concept that many of us have not experienced since we were children. Mindful eating takes work and patience but once you become mindful in your food choices you will be freed from the everlasting burden of dieting.
This article was written by Nicky Bennett, Registered Dietitian at Alberta Heartland Primary Care Network and reviewed by Dr. Z. Mohamed, President of AHPCN.