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Why Weight-Loss Diets Fail and What You Can Do Instead

Updated: May 11

Body image concerns are extremely common. And are becoming more common.

In fact, so many people are seeking help from the global weight-loss market that the industry was worth over $160 billion globally in 2023.

That is expected to increase to $400 billion by 2032.

As a result, we are exposed to heavy marketing, especially across social media platforms, which promotes weight-loss diets or supplements in order to reach a goal body shape.

These messages are harmful to psychological health, as they promote a culture of restrictive dieting, one that prioritises appearance over physical health and emotional wellbeing. This can lead people to engage in unhelpful weight-centric behaviours.

These behaviours don't actually help with weight loss. Research and population data is now suggesting that dieting doesn't work.

Obesity and chronic health conditions are still on the rise, with one third of Australian adolescents displaying disordered eating patterns in any one year and over 1 million adults living with a diagnosed eating disorder.

In fact, engaging in weight control behaviours like dieting is actually an indicator of future weight gain.

Restrictive weight loss diets do not work in the long term, and have shown to lead to:

  • Low energy levels and chronic fatigue

  • Weight gain

  • Slower metabolism

  • Increased difficulty in losing weight

  • Dysregulated glucose levels

  • Food anxiety

  • Social anxiety

  • Stress

  • Muscle loss

  • Unhealthy hair and nails

  • Low mood

If you’ve experienced any of these signs of undereating or found yourself stuck in a yo-yo

dieting, binge-eating and restrictive cycle, you’re not alone.

And you may be surprised to learn that the true path to authentic health - mind, body and spirit - already lies within you.

The Non-Diet Approach offers an evidence-based perspective that emphasizes self-care, body acceptance, and overall well-being.

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet lifestyle that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It encourages you to rely on your own internal body cues for hunger and fullness rather than external cues. E.g. A growling stomach is an example of an internal cue and signifies feeling physically hungry.

Studies show that Intuitive Eating:

  • Predicts better psychological health

  • Lowers disordered eating behavioursincreases healthy lifestyle behaviours

  • Lowers risk for obesity and eating disorders

  • Lowers body mass index

  • Improves biomarkers such as blood glucose and cholesterol levels

  • Improves body image and self-esteem

In case you’re curious about applying intuitive eating to your lifestyle, we’ve summarised the core principles to get you started.

How to eat intuitively:

1. Reject the diet mentality: Let go of the idea that you need to follow a specific diet to be healthy and happy.

2. Honor your hunger: Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Listen to your body's natural hunger and fullness cues.

3. Make peace with food: Allow yourself to enjoy all foods without guilt or shame. Let go of the idea that certain foods are "good" or "bad."

4. Challenge the food police: Stop labeling foods as "good" or "bad" and avoid judging yourself or others based on what they eat.

5. Feel your fullness: Pay attention to how your body feels when you're eating and stop eating when you feel satisfied.

6. Discover the satisfaction factor: Find pleasure in your food and enjoy the experience of eating. Savor your food and take time to enjoy it.

7. Relieve emotions without using food: Find ways to manage big emotions that don't involve food. Find healthy ways to cope with stress and other emotions, such as playing an instrument, singing, going for a walk, calling a friend.

8. Respect your body: Get more curious about your body and see if you can find something about it that you appreciate. Treat it with kindness and compassion, as you would your best friend’s.

9. Move often: Move your body in a way that feels good and enjoyable, rather than as a form of punishment for what you eat. If you enjoyed a sport or active hobby as a child, think about returning to it. There’s always work to be done around the house like the washing, gardening and cleaning. Pop on a banging playlist to motivate you through it.

10. Honour your health: Make food choices that honour your health and taste buds while making you feel good. This principle encourages you to focus on overall health and well-being, rather than weight loss or other external factors.

Intuitive eating may not work for you if you have trouble turning inwards and listening to body cues. In any case, the best way for you to heal your relationship with food and your body and achieve better health outcomes through lifestyle changes is to work with an Accredited Practising Dietitian who will tailor medical nutrition therapy and advice to your individual needs and preferences.

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