Most people - and women in particular - have been on a diet at some point in their lives. Past studies have concluded that two thirds of Brits are on a diet “most of the time,” women will spend 17 years of their lives on diets, and they also go on twice as many diets as they have lovers.
Atkins, Dukan, Keto, cabbage soup, 5:2… we get lured in by weight loss promises that seem too good to be true - and they usually only work because they all come down to cutting calories.
So then we deprive ourselves and spend anything from a few days to weeks starving and grumpy. We may lose a few pounds but then only put it all back on afterwards when we revert to our previous eating habits.
But now, finally, it looks like the tide is turning, with more and more people realising that embarking on a diet is never a good decision.
“Diets have been around for a long time now, yet not one single ‘diet’ is scientifically proven with research suggesting they have a long-term positive effect on our health, well-being or relationship with food,” Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert explained to The Independent.
“Surely this tells us that they simply do not work.”
“Dieting often includes restriction, be it a low carbohydrate intake, low fat intake or meal replacements,” Lambert explains.
“It’s widely understood that by restricting certain food groups in our diet, in particular carbohydrates, it can often can lead to enhanced sugar cravings which may result in a vicious cycle of binging and restricting. Needless to say, this way of eating also encourages an unhealthy relationship with food which may lead to disordered eating conditions.
“Also, by becoming engrossed in counting calories and restricting our food intake, which is often a requirement of most diets, it means becoming more and more confusion in regards to what it means to be healthy.”
And this is what many of us are finally realising.
After Weight Watchers announced it would be offering free memberships to teenagers aged between 13 and 17 this year, non-profit organisation Project Heal responded on social media with the hashtag #DoneWithDieting, encouraging people to share the reasons they’ve finally stopped dieting.
We’re asking anyone impacted by destructive dieting to stand up and speak out.— Project HEAL (@TheProjectHEAL) February 15, 2018
We’re #donewithdieting because the research tells us that it’s ineffective and dangerous.
Why are you? pic.twitter.com/YVVeggDx7p
For some it was that dieting had led them to obsess over food. For others it was because dieting had landed them in an endless binge and purge cycle.
Over 15 years as an eating disorder treatment specialist, I've heard literally thousands of stories about the onset of disordered eating. The [vast] majority of stories include the "innocent" diet that opened the flood gates to a full blown eating disorder. #donewithdieting— Columbus Park (@columbus_park) February 15, 2018
As a little girl, I watched my mom, over & over use @WeightWatchers program to try to lose weight, never successfully. @ 15yo I picked up those same books & point system guides- this was, maybe not why, but how my eating disorder began #WakeUpWeightWatchers #donewithdieting— Pamela Polizzi, LCSW (@pamelalcsw) February 16, 2018
Riverdale actress Camila Mendes added her voice to the movement too.
I just want to thank you @CamilaMendes. My whole life has been a struggle with my weight. I have always equated my worth to the numbers on a scale. But lately I'm learning that my value as a person is not determined by how I look and your story proves that. You're an inspiration. pic.twitter.com/psliuaOrAF— Reine (@reinemarinas) February 20, 2018
“The key to good health isn’t hiding in a fad diet and the answer certainly doesn’t lie in subscribing to yet another diet or more rules to follow,” says Lambert, author of Re-Nourish: A Simple Way to Eat Well.
At the end of the day, we should be aspiring to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle, because when we achieve that we will gradually reach our healthiest body size and shape.
Teen girls: Do not let your weight stop you from changing the world. Don't let it stop you from connecting and engaging with others. Don't let it stop you from being you.#donewithdieting#wakeupweightwatchers— Christyna Johnson, MS (@encouragingRD) February 16, 2018
“We would do well to remember that health isn’t immediately repairable and weight isn’t immediately modifiable,” adds Lambert, who works with many eating disorder sufferers.
“The idea that some new food discovery or new way of combining food will give you an instant fix to your weight or health problem is misinformed; there is no overnight fairy-tale ending. Weight loss at speed is never a good idea – slow and steady is the way to go.”