Did you know that at any given time, more than one third of Americans are on some sort of diet? Given diet success rates, that means that many of us are disappointed for “failing” at our diet attempt - have you been there? Us too.
With the new year upon us and everyone itching at the opportunity to start fresh (thanks, 2020!) it’s important to remember that the new year doesn’t need a new you. Or a you with new eating habits. You just need you, as your truest self.
At Everipe, we believe ALL foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle, and that diet culture is damaging on many levels. You’ll never see us release a cleanse, a quick start, or promise weight-based outcomes. We believe you deserve bigger than a smaller pair of jeans.
But we also know, because of diet culture, this can be a little pie-in-the-sky thinking. We'd like to help you reclaim some sanity in this new year’s resolution space with the hope that our values, (and reasoning behind those values), can offer some direction as you navigate the pressures of the new year.
To answer the question posed in the title of this blog post - No, you should not start the new year on a diet. Here's why:
Restrictive Diets Typically Don’t Work Long Term
While short term success on diets can be exciting and sometimes dramatic, science tells us that most of the time both the health benefits and weight loss benefits of restrictive dieting have an expiration date. According to a spring 2020 study that examined the short and long term results of both low fat and low carb diets, while weight loss and improvements in cardiovascular health were evident at 6 months, by 12 months they were largely diminished. This conclusion (improvements in health were seen after 6 months but largely diminished at 12 months) was also evidenced in a large systematic review and meta-analysis, published in the medical journal BMJ, that analyzed 121 trials that enrolled nearly 22,000 overweight or obese adults on 12 popular diets. Restrictive diets aren't successful at improving long term health because they are not sustainable, and therefore neither are their benefits.
Willpower is Not Biological
In fact, when it comes to eating, willpower can actually work against our biology. As University of Minnesota psychology professor Traci Mann told the Washington Post, “after you diet, so many biological changes happen in your body that it becomes practically impossible to keep the weight off.” There are three main reasons for this:
- Neurologically, food begins to have an increased reward value, making it harder to refuse.
- As you lose body fat, the levels of hormones in your body change. The hormones that signal you to feel full decrease, while the hormones that tell you you’re hungry increase.
- According to Mann, the third major change is in your metabolism: it slows down. Your body starts using calories in the most efficient way possible, which, as Mann states “would be a good thing, if you were starving to death.”
Mann brings up a good point with the whole starving thing, especially for women. Women are--biologically speaking-- tasked with continuing the human race through reproduction. And for that reason, the female body really, really doesn’t want to starve. According to Mark Sisson, author of the popular primal health blog Mark’s Daily Apple, “biology cares most about your fertility….and from that perspective, a woman’s situation is more precarious than a man’s. It all points to women being more finely attuned to caloric deficits. For example, women’s levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, are quicker to rise after meals. Even if you’re not interested in getting pregnant, the ability to do so is strongly connected to your health. Reproductive health is health.” So, adding reproducing to our body’s list of biological priorities, and it becomes *really* clear that our bodies are hard wired to keep us from restricting our food.
Diet Culture is Damaging
In the US, the weight loss industry is a $70+ billion industry. Numbers like that aren’t built on the back of success. In fact, it’s quite the opposite--it’s designed for us to fail. And blame ourselves. And keep coming back. That’s where the billions come in!
Diets are doomed to often fail because their rigidity elevates the psychological importance of food. If you tell yourself that chocolate is evil, it sure takes up more space in our minds, and if you then consume chocolate, we attach this shame to our character and lack of discipline. The 10 times you refused chocolate do not matter; it is the one time you indulged that causes a collapse in “willpower.”
We are then led to believe that we can’t trust ourselves to eat properly, and rely (read: pay) “experts” to tell us what, when, and how to eat. Most named diets are highly restrictive and teach participants absolutely nothing about healthy eating, removing the empowerment that results from properly fueling your body. And so the dieting cycle continues.
The connection between food and emotion is also very important and very real. Restrictive, regimented dieting can rob us of the joyful moments around food and, well, we just can’t stand for that.
At Everipe, we believe that all foods can fit with a view to overall health. The diet industry thrives on villainizing foods: fats, carbs, sugar, and even fruit. We’re here to tell you that fruit--or any other whole food--is not the problem with the Standard American Diet. They're an amazing source of vitamins, nutrients and fiber. We use superfoods to supercharge their benefits, adding to the satisfying sensory experience of drinking our smoothies while supporting your nutrition on a cellular level.
There Are Better Ways to Improve Your Health and Relationship with Your Body
While we can’t get behind diet culture, we definitely can get behind ways to participate in a healthier lifestyle without attaching feelings of self worth to your eating habits. Here are some small ways to start seeing significant changes in how you feel in 2021:
- Sleep, exercise, and stress management matter. A LOT. Managing these three lifestyle factors can be just as important as diet to your overall health. If 2020 threw off your sleep schedule, a great first step would be to get to be a half hour earlier each night. If high levels of stress have crept in, assess the ways you manage it. Be sure you are keeping connected with friends and loved ones, engaging with your hobbies, and practicing acts of self-care. As for exercise, something as simple as a 20 minute daily walk can do wonders for your overall health.
- Think about what you can add to your diet, rather than what you need to restrict or remove. Rather than restricting yourself, try focusing on things can do to improve your health. Even small steps, like incorporating more whole foods into your diet, eating a more nutrient dense breakfast, or increasing your water intake can do wonders to how you feel. Focusing on what you're adding--not what you're taking away--is a very empowering and exciting way to think about improving your nutrition!
- Examine the ways you talk to yourself. Learn to be your own cheerleader this year, and many healthy habits will naturally fall into place. Listen closely to that small voice in your head as you get dressed for the day. As you scroll social media. As you compare yourself to others. As you finish that ice cream sandwich when you said you only would eat half. As you explain a mistake at work. As you apologize to a friend. Make sure that voice is kind, empowering, uplifting, and quick to forgive.
No matter what 2021 has in store, you got this. Here’s to more smiles, more hope, and hopefully more hugs this year.