Way back in the murky past (circa 2006) when I started this blog, I called it “Losing It” because I was on an epic weight loss journey. Three years after the birth of my second child I weighed nearly as much as I had on the day she was born. I hated myself and my body and I wanted to finally just be thin.
A recent study confirms what we already knew: dieting doesn’t work.
And I did it! I don’t know if it was the act of going public with my weight loss or whether the stars had just aligned, but I lost over fifty pounds. But that wasn’t my first visit to the weight-loss circus.
At the tender age of 14, a doctor told me to lose weight. I should not, under any circumstances, weigh more than 125 lbs, he said (I weighed 150). I decided to try my first diet that year, and joined hordes of 80s women in the suffering that was the Scarsdale Diet. My sisters and I sweated to the Jane Fonda Workout daily on the record player and I was active in dance and sports. Still, I never got down to 125 pounds. For most of the rest of my teen years, I bounced around between 155 and 175 pounds. My body seemed to settle in around that range like it was happy there (newsflash: it was.)
Losing weight is easy, but it turns out keeping weight off is pretty nearly impossible.
In university, new habits (also known as $7 pitchers at Alfie’s Pub) caused me to put on a bit of weight, and the summer after first year I joined a gym for the first time (remember Bally Matrix?) I vividly remember weighing in at 80 kg, which is roughly equivalent to 180 lbs. Despite scoring strongly on all fitness tests at the gym, I was – again – advised to shed 25 to 30 pounds. For the next four years I dieted and exercised and stressed and generally hated my body to very little avail. My weight bobbed up and down between 165 and 195 pounds.
When I joined Weight Watchers for the first time in my final year of university, I tipped the scales at 200.5 lbs. I was absolutely mortified. I joined with my sister, and we worked hard. We both did well and lost weight. At convocation, I weighed 175 and loved my ‘new’ body (aka: the body I should’ve been happy to have all along, that I had now sabotaged by a decade of yo-yo dieting).
Dieting is actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain.
The next two decades were more of the same. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve joined Weight Watchers. I’ve tried low-calorie diets; low-fat diets; and low-carb-high-protein diets. Hell – I’ve even tried the blood type diet! Here’s the thing: all of them worked. Every single time I’ve tried to lose weight, I’ve been successful. And yet, I’m not celebrating. Why not? Because losing weight is easy, but it turns out (and this should not really come as a surprise to anyone) keeping weight off is pretty nearly impossible.
Come on, you know it’s true. Anyone who has ever tried to lose a few, a score or a hundred pounds knows it’s true. And now there’s solid science to back us up. Researchers at UCLA published a study in April’s issue of American Psychologist that confirms what we already knew: dieting doesn’t work. According to Dr. Traci Mann, lead author of the study, “diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits” and when asked what would happen if people never dieted at all, she responded: “their weight would be pretty much the same, and their bodies would not suffer the wear and tear from losing weight and gaining it all back.”
“Diet” is now a dirty word in our house.
And in a perversely ironic twist, co-author of the study, Janet Tomiyama said that “Several studies indicate that dieting is actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain.” In other words, the more you diet, the more likely you are to gain weight. So. Science tells us what we already knew (in fact, Dr. Mann’s mother has been quoted as calling her daughter’s findings “obvious”, lol!): dieting leads to short-term weight loss and long-term weight gain.
The best approach to solving the modern obesity epidemic? Prevent weight gain in the first place. And the best way to prevent weight gain would seem to be never to start dieting. Two years ago I challenged myself to love my body for all that it represents, and to stop dieting once and for all. And although it takes almost daily reminders, I’m happy to say I’m doing it. That’s why “diet” is now a dirty word in my house and my daughters will never again see me do it.
I hope they never feel the need to try it themselves.