How Yo-Yo Dieting is Harming Your Health

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We live in a world that not only shames obesity, but blames it for almost every chronic disease. Whether our doctor tells us we are 10 pounds “overweight'“ or 100 pounds “overweight”, we live in fear that this weight will eventually lead to our demise.

So what are we told to do? Lose weight of course! How? Through DIET and EXERCISE!

More often than not, people embark on a weight loss journey in an attempt to improve their health. Now don’t get me wrong - changing up your nutrition can and will improve your health - IF you change the way you THINK about food. Most people however, tend to engage in restrictive, unhealthy behaviors in order to lose weight though (which remember, was to be healthy - backwards much?)

I’ll cut out carbs. Nothing white allowed. Only protein and veggies. No eating after 6pm. No more sweets. Fast intermittently. Do weight watchers. Go keto. Give vegan a try.

These are some of the ideas we come up with for ourselves or are given as suggestions from friends, family AND DOCTORS.

What if I told you restrictive diets not only DON’T WORK (as in they don’t keep weight off long term) BUT actually NEGATIVELY impact both your PHYSICAL and MENTAL HEALTH?

That’s right - diets ARE BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH!

Today I am going to share the biological, physical, psychological and emotional ways in which diets can negatively impact your health. The following information is adopted from Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch’s book Intuitive Eating; A revolutionary program that works (pg 48-49).

Biological and Physical Damage

Throughout the history of our human existence, human starvation has occurred. In some parts of the world, it still occurs today. In order to survive as a species, human beings adapted during times of famine and learned to hold on to extra energy stores. In order to survive, we needed to store fat. Today, although our technology, access to food and day-to-day lifestyles have changed drastically, this built in survival mechanism has not - and it kicks on when we diet. Which leads to the following:

  1. Chronic dieting teaches the body to retain more fat when you start eating again. Low-calorie diets double the enzymes that make and store fat in the body. This is a form of biological compensation to help the body store more energy, or fat, after dieting.”

  2. “Chronic dieting slows the rate of weight loss with each successive attempt to diet.”

  3. Decreases metabolism. Dieting triggers the body to become more efficient at utilizing calories by lowering the body’s need for energy”

  4. Increases binges and cravings. Both humans and rats have been shown to overeat after chronic food restriction. Food restriction stimulates the brain to launch a cascade of cravings to eat more. After substantial weight loss, studies show that rats prefer eating more fat, while people have been shown to prefer foods both high in fat and sugar”

  5. Increase risk of premature death and heart disease.” Studies have shown that people who’s weight repeatedly goes up and down, have a higher death rate and two times the risk of dying of heart disease (independent of cardiovascular risk factors, and held true for thin and obese people). The Harvard Alumni Health Study shows that people who lose and gain 11+ pounds within 10 years or so, don’t live as long as people that maintain a stable weight.

  6. Cause satiety cues to atrophy”. Dieters learn to rely on external cues/rules to stop eating rather than listening to inner cues of fullness.

  7. Cause body shape to change. Yo-yo dieters who continually regain the lost weight tend to regain weight in the abdominal area. This type of fat storage increase the risk of heart disease.”

Irregular periods, fatigue, dry skin, hair loss, and headaches are other side effects of dieting.

Psychological and Emotional Damage

  1. Dieting is linked to eating disorders.” In one study, by age 15, dieters were 8x more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than non-dieters.

  2. Dieting causes feeling of failure, erodes self-trust, confidence and self-esteem. It can also increase social anxiety.

  3. Loss of control when eating. Continuous restriction and deprivation can trigger overeating when a “forbidden” food is consumed.

As you can see, dieting is harmful in so many ways. You are probably thinking “Okay so what am I supposed to do instead?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Weight gain beyond what is healthy for your body is almost always a SYMPTOM, not a cause. In order to treat the symptom we need to treat what is causing it in the first place. For some that could be stress, a busy schedule or perhaps a knowledge deficit. For many though, dieting is the cause, in which case we need to stop dieting.

Learning to eat intuitively is the answer, for EVERY SINGLE PERSON. Intuitive eating is a paradigm shift on how we approach food. It is looking at nutrition from a completely different frame of reference and getting back in touch with the intuition we were all born with.

Are you ready to get off the merry-go-round that is the diet cycle and become an intuitive eater FOR LIFE? Click HERE to schedule a free 30 minute discovery call to see how my intuitive eating program can help.

I Tried Intermittent Fasting and Here's What Happened

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting

If you haven’t heard of Intermittent Fasting (IF) I would love to come join you in whatever place you are at that diet culture has yet to contaminate. Intermittent Fasting for those of you whole aren’t familiar is a type of diet (or “style of eating”) that restricts the time frame in which you can consume your calories. Unlike most diets that tell you WHAT you can / can’t eat, IF tells you WHEN you can / can’t eat. There are a bunch of different protocols people choose to follow but the most common is a 16:8 fasting protocol. This means that for 16 hours of the day you fast, while the other 8 hours are your feeding window. Many people choose a “feeding window” from 11-7 or 12-8 pm.

16:8 Intermittent Fasting Schedule

16:8 Intermittent Fasting Schedule

Now before I go on, some of you may be wondering - but this girl preaches Intuitive Eating - what is this whole Intermittent Fasting business she’s talking about - how dare she?! And I know…part of me was hesitant to even post this BUT as a health care provider I prefer to have PERSONAL experience with a variety of different eating style so that when my clients inevitably bring them up, I can speak to them. I’m also not here to judge or tell you what to do with your life. We learn through experience and this was mine…

If you guys follow me on the gram (@FeelGoodDietitian), you guys probably know I was a highly competitive bikini bodybuilder that struggled with bulimia and had a bit of anorexia when I was in high school. Needless to say, my previous relationship with food was not the healthiest. These experiences however give me insight into how my current clients feel and allow me to relate at a personal level. So anyways, when I made the decision to give IF a shot, I promised myself I would be as intuitive as possible and approach it from a place of health (that’s what we all tell ourselves right?). I somehow STILL have H. Pylori even after rounds of antibiotics (but that rant is for another blog post) so I still get bloated. My thought behind starting IF was “well I feel pretty bloated in the morning ESPECIALLY if I eat breakfast so let me just try this whole fasting thing and see how it goes.” I should have just stopped right there….

I got myself a book all about IF, started doing more research, downloaded the Zero app to track my fasts and like always I WAS STOKED & READY TO DO THIS (that dieter’s high). As I read through articles and listened to podcasts and YouTube videos I did learn A LOT of about the research out there on the positive health benefits of fasting such as:

  1. Improved blood sugars (which I have no issues with)

  2. Autophagy (which literally means “self-eating” and is the bodies way to cleaning up old cells - basically an anti-aging process)

  3. Reduction of oxidative-stress

  4. Mental clarity

  5. Improved insulin sensitivity (again, no issues here), increase human-growth-hormone and positive effects of gene-expression

Great! I’m all for improving my health. Let’s do this!

So the first week I tried fasting, I started with 13-14 hour fasts because I read that the female reproductive system is super sensitive to famine and anything beyond 14 may cause issues. I’d start my day with water and some coffee (sometimes I’d throw in 1 tsp of coconut oil or brain octane oil - which is apparently not a true fast but relax….) then I’d eat around 11 am. The second or third day I started noticing mental clarity in the morning as well as A LOT of energy, almost comparable to the excessive caffeine jitters. I noticed I was feeling better when I would fast and then during my eating window I didn’t feel as good. So I started pushing my fasting window a bit longer, 16 hours, 17 hours, 18 hours. Apparently the “benefits of fasting” increase the longer you fast so why not right??? (As much as I continue to work on eroding that black-white thinking part of my personality, occasionally it still rears its ugly black and white head). All in all week 1 was fine. I should also mention I got engaged halfway through week 1 so the motivation level was there. As much as I told myself it was for health benefits only, that diet culture tape started playing in my head about how I would look in my wedding dress. I reassured myself however that it wasn’t about the weight loss and was only about health….mhm.

Week 2, perhaps from severe glycogen depletion or my body sensing what I was doing, was not so great. I was starting to feel super hungry all of the time but that voice in my head telling me it wasn’t time to eat yet popped up. I was starting to miss the previous weeks euphoric fasting high I had felt. Trying to align my work, fasting, eating and exercise schedule was an additional stress I did not need. Frustration and confusion came and went but I persisted on.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting

By week 3, I knew this wasn’t going to work out for me. Side note: for anyone out there that has past experience with an eating disorder, restriction of any kind can be INCREDIBLY triggering. Recovering from an eating disorder is so hard to do, especially living in a culture that is basically shoving disordered eating down your throat (pun intended). Now, I’m not saying recovery from drugs or alcohol is easy but you don’t need to consume heroin or alcohol to sustain life. Recovering from an eating disorder is almost like asking an alcoholic to work or live in a bar for the rest of their life. Just like an alcoholic needs to remove him or herself from certain situations and people, as does someone recovering/recovered from an eating disorder. Not only do you need to surround yourself with supportive people that have a healthy relationship with food, but you also need to remove yourself from situations that trigger ED behavior… LIKE RESTRICTION.

By week 3 I was basically starting to freak out in my head, if I ate before the fasting goal I had set was up, I’d be bummed or felt like I couldn’t handle it. I have enough training/experience to know what to do in these moments but I knew this was not a good thing. My desire to eat was heightened, my thoughts started to revolve around foods and hours and restriction. This was when I called it quits.

Just like any other strict diet however, there are things to take away from the experience to use as information and apply to an intuitive eating practice. By no means am I saying you need to try these strict diets to learn how to eat intuitively - I’m more telling you to not beat yourself up if you tried a diet and it didn’t “work”. Learn from it - what made you feel good, what made you feel bad etc. My main takeaway was if I’m not hungry for breakfast and I skip it I tend to feel better throughout the day (Hello “Honor Your Hunger” principle). Did I need to fast for 20 hours to figure this out…..100% no.

Moral of the story; if you have an eating disorder or past history of one, I would NOT suggest intermittent fasting. If you have a history of yo-yo dieting I also do not think IF is the solution you are looking for. Would I suggest IF to most people - definitely not. I think men tend to do better physically and emotionally with an approach like this but if you feel good and your mental state is equally good while you’re doing intermittent fasting, go for it.

What I would suggest is that you start to see nutrition through an Intuitive Eating lens. Rather than labeling your eating habits as IF, or Keto, Paleo, Whole30, why not just listen to your hunger and fullness cues and eat the foods that you enjoy and improve your sleep/digestion/energy/mood. Why not just eat the foods that make you FEEL GOOD (now and later).

Hunger Fullness Scale / Intuitive Eating

Hunger Fullness Scale / Intuitive Eating