Dieting Causes Weight Gain
Dieting Causes Weight Gain

Diet plateYou've heard this one before: Whatever you do, don't think about a pink elephant. Impossible,right? Now try this one. Whatever you do, don't eat your favorite food—ever again.

You might be successful for a little while, but like the elephant, your favorite food will be on your mind constantly and you'll start craving it day and night. Even foods you only sort of like will start being foods you crave if you cut them completely from your diet.

This is the psychology of dieting, and it's pretty easy to see why it doesn't work well.

Once you are "on a diet" and restricted from eating certain foods, all you can think about is your next meal and the foods you won't be eating because they’re "not allowed". The more you think about food, the more you want to eat and the more you eventually do eat. This, of course, sabotages the desired weight loss goal.

An analysis of 40 weight-loss studies found that dieting was actually a consistent predictor of weight gain with 75 percent of dieters re-gaining more weight than they lost.

Diets usually come with rigid rules for "healthy eating" that are disconnected from internal cues like hunger or emotional issues such as stress. Ignoring these cues usually leads to failure and once you start overeating, what the heck, keep on eating.

Several popular books such as Intuitive Eating and Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle are making the case to abandon rigid dieting rules and learn to listen to your body to understand whether you’re eating to satisfy hunger, cravings or emotional states. These books teach an entirely new approach to eating that does not eliminate entire food groups but advises listening to internal cues and food diversity, rather than sticking to a rigid list of "foods to include" and "foods to avoid." 

Give yourself permission to eat what you want in moderation and you'll naturally eat less of it. This permission removes the “now-or-never” mentality that comes with going on and off diets. Yes, you can eat what you love and maintain a healthy weight. So go ahead and think about that pink elephant, or pink cupcake or pink berries, all you want and include them in your balanced meals!

1. Lowe MR, Doshi SD, Katterman SN, Feig EH. Dieting and restrained eating as prospective predictors of weight gain. Front Psychol. 2013 Sept 2;4:577.

2. Tribole E, Resch E. Intuitive eating: A revolutionary program that works. 2003. New York, NY. St. Martin's Griffin. 

3. May M. Eat what you love: Love what you eat: How to break your eat-repent-repeat cycle. 2010. Austin, TX. Greenleaf.