Why don’t diets work?
Diets are too severe: They often oblige you to eat less, which leaves you constantly hungry. They also require that you deprive yourself completely of certain foods you enjoy and eat lots of foods you’re less fond of. At a certain point, you end up abandoning the diet and letting loose by eating all the foods you’re not supposed to eat. Then you end up gaining back all the weight you lost.

Restrictions: When your body isn’t getting enough to eat, it goes into “panic mode” by cutting down its energy consumption. When you resume normal eating habits, your body wants to store everything as fat out of fear of being deprived again (diet). This means you’ll gain back any weight you may have lost, if not more. The more you diet, the more your body will resist by storing up reserves.

• Portions: Everybody’s energy requirements are different, so portions should be different too! Diets often recommend set portions for everyone and aren’t adapted to your specific needs (according to your weight, age, physical activity level, etc.). You’re better off relying on your own signs of hunger (Hyperlien) and fullness (Hyperlien).

Forbidden foods: Diets often deprive you completely of certain foods. It has been demonstrated that the more restrictions you impose on yourself, the more you want to eat the forbidden foods. And when you do eat them, you’ll tend to eat more than if you hadn’t been deprived of them in the first place. So you’re better off eating such foods (chips, chocolate, etc.) occasionally and in moderation than completely depriving yourself of them only to binge on them later on.

Is food the actual issue? Before changing the way you eat in an effort to lose weight, it’s important to ask yourself whether food is really the problem.
  • Would it be a good idea to find a better balance between your diet and your level of physical exercise? It’s recommended that you get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day. How much do you get?
  • Are you really and truly overweight? If not, why is it that you want to get thinner? Do you want to lose weight because your partner said something about your physical appearance, because you want to look like your favourite star or because you’re not comfortable with yourself, or for another reason? Try to figure out if you’re actually overweight or not before initiating any efforts to lose weight. You could speak with a nurse or nutritionist at your school or CLSC to find out more about your healthy weight.
  • What type of relationship do you have with food? Do you eat only when you’re hungry or do you sometimes eat when you’re feeling certain emotions even though you’re not actually hungry? To help you eat healthily, it’s important to identify the times when you might overeat instead of listening to your signs of hunger (Hyperlien) and fullness (Hyperlien ).

Why are diets harmful?
Harmful to your physical health: Diets can cause deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, and this can have a negative effect on your physical health. For example, you may lack energy, have difficulty concentrating, experience digestive problems, become dehydrated or present other health issues—for instance, a girl’s periods may stop.

• Harmful to your mental health: Diets cause you to deprive yourself of food and to ignore your signs of hunger. These behaviours can lead to a negative relationship with food and with your body, and to lowered self-esteem. Eating is no longer a pleasure; instead, it becomes an obsession that takes up a lot of space in your life and can even lead to eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, etc.

Loss of muscle mass: Severe diets melt away your muscles and dehydrate you more than they melt away fat. However, through balanced changes to your lifestyle, you can successfully lose weight gradually, with no danger to your health.

Inefficiencies: Diets don’t lead to long-term weight loss. The body reacts to a lack of food by slowing down its metabolism and reducing energy consumption. So when you begin eating normally again, your body’s reaction is to store the calories in the form of fat in anticipation of being denied food again. Unfortunately, you’ll gain back the weight you lost and perhaps more.

Miracle diet
Allowable foods: Everything! The important thing is to eat a varied and balanced diet. Eating well also means enjoying your meals and discovering new tastes.

Forbidden foods: Nothing! Eat the foods you enjoy on occasion and in moderation. Savour them!

Permitted portions: Based on your appetite! You are your best guide in terms of deciding what portions are appropriate and what will meet your energy requirements. Your signs of hunger and fullness will guide you.

Listen to your signs of hunger: Are you familiar with your signs of hunger? Do you pay attention to them? A rumbling stomach, a hollow feeling in your stomach, or a lack of energy are all signs that your body is hungry. Ignoring these signs will deprive your body of the energy it needs to work properly, and you could end up overeating at your next meal because you’re starving.

Pay attention to your signs of fullness: Your body also sends you signals when it’s had enough to eat to let you know you’ve restored your energy levels. Feeling full but not uncomfortable, feeling less of a desire towards food, and a boost in your energy level are all signs that you are satiated. Did you know that the body needs 20 minutes to send the message to your brain that it’s full? So if you’re in the habit of eating on the run, you could be regularly exceeding your satiation levels. So it’s important to take the time to enjoy your meals and listen to the signals your body is sending you.

Content adapted from the Équilibre Web site (in French only).
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