With so many different diets to sieve through, its seems like every media platform is giving us the message that we need to be on some form of diet. I myself have tried a few over the years but they didn’t really give me the long term results I was after and I didn’t understand why. It wasn’t until I went to university to study health in order to graduate as a dietitian, that I realised that there is a lot of mis-information out there!
One of the most mind-blowing ideas that I have been investigating of late, is the idea that dieting of any kind, for weight loss, is actually not good for our overall health! On the surface, it would seem that dieting is necessary when you look at the obesity rates in Australia and other countries. So why isn’t dieting working? Despite how common dieting is in developed countries, obesity and unhealthy lifestyles is still incredibly common.
It can be argued that dieting is useful because it has been thought that weight loss reduces the risk of chronic diseases. This is what I have believed from my studies until recently.
The argument that counters this, is that it is not the weight loss that reduces the risk of chronic disease. Rather, it is the change from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy lifestyle that reduces the risks, regardless of the size of the individual. This concept was introduced to me at university, but not expanded upon. I thought it would be useful to look further into this concept in order to form a balanced opinion on this topic.
What I found has revolutionized my thinking around dieting and weight loss. I have been living a lifestyle that is focused on overall health rather than dieting for the past few years, and I have to say that it is a very freeing way to live.
Having a holistic approach to healthy eating means that my focus is not so much on what I can’t have, but on what I need to do and eat to be healthy. This means that I can have whatever I want to eat. I try not to have rules around good vs bad food, but I do consider the health aspect of the foods I choose to feed myself and my family. I know what foods will benefit my health and primarily choose these. I also engage in regular exercise, as I know that exercise improves several aspects of my health. Exercise has many health benefits such as heart health, mental health, reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, helps strengthen bones and muscles, reduces the risk of some cancers, and improves energy levels 
Most people choose to go on a diet to lose weight. This is a fair
enough reason, since we have been told for decades that being over-weight is bad for our health. However recent evidence suggests that dieting to lose weight is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
On the other hand there are people who are on a diet due to specific health reasons such as Coeliac Disease, Diabetes, Kidney Disease, food allergies or intolerances. These diets are important to follow for those that have these conditions as it can either reduce their quality of life or life expectancy by not following them.
So besides those with specific dietary needs, is dieting beneficial?
Contrary to popular belief, there is strong evidence to suggest that dieting is not an effective strategy for health and weight loss. According to some studies, repeatedly gaining and then losing weight can actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and altered immune function  .
A study done in Finland  indicated that dieting, food avoidance and restrictive eating behaviours in normal weight children, were strong predictors of increased weight in adulthood. This means that normal weight individuals who choose to eat restrictively are more likely to gain weight than those who don’t. This study indicates that dieting is more likely to lead to obesity than prevent it. Now that’s some food for thought!
When considering going on a diet, think about your reasons for doing so. Is it for a specific health condition such as diabetes? Or is it for weight loss? Or is it to move to a more healthy lifestyle? If it is primarily for weight loss, you may find it has a detrimental effect on your heath. As difficult as this can be to follow, consider choosing health as your primary reason for changing your eating habits and try to resist the temptation to constantly worry about your weight.
Remember that health is a journey so, get back to enjoying life with a new health driven lifestyle and mindset.
This post has focused on the physical aspects of dieting, so for my next post, I’m going to focus on the mental health aspect of dieting. Stay tuned!
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 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, Feb 13). Physical Activity and Health. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
 Wolpert, S. (2007, April 3). Dieting does not work, UCLA researchers report. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from UCLA Newsroom: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/Dieting-Does-Not-Work-UCLA-Researchers-7832
 Pietiläinen, K., Saarni, S., Kaprio, J., & & Rissanen, A. (2012). Does dieting make you fat? A twin study. International Journal of Obesity, 36, 456–464.