Say No to Dieting

"How to drop 10 pounds in 1 month!"  "Fight Flab and Win!" "How I Got Thin Fast!"  "Bikini Body Ready!" 

These are just a few of the common phrases you'll see on almost every single women's magazine cover today. We are a society obsessed with diets, weight loss, flat stomachs, and “clean eating”. Every day we are bombarded with images on social media (and other forms of mass media) about what the "ideal" body looks like. We have been conditioned to believe that being thin is more "desirable", and that the simple way to achieve this is through dieting. 

But do diets actually work-- and what negative effects can they have on your body and mind? 

1) Diets are focused on the idea of restriction and deprivation.  

One of the biggest concerns about diets is that they are centred on restriction. The Oxford English Dictionary defines dieting as the process of “restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight”. Essentially, going on a diet means you are potentially beginning an unhealthy relationship and preoccupation with food. Studies have shown that when we deprive ourselves of a food item, we are actually more likely to crave and consume that food. Restriction and deprivation can take a major negative psychological toll on your mind and body. 

2) Dieting makes it easier to fall into a pattern of disordered eating.

The "Milkshake Study" was a study that explored the concept of dietary restraint, and how “diet thinking” can affect a person’s eating habits. Participants, consisting of both dieters and non-dieters, were brought into a lab. All participants were given a milkshake, but they were not told whether they were given a low-calorie milkshake or a high-calorie milkshake. After drinking the milkshake, they were told to taste test ice cream—and there was no limit to the amount of ice cream they were allowed to eat. The researchers then studied how much ice cream people ended up eating. What they found was that the dieters ate a lot of ice cream no matter what milkshake they were given (high or low-calorie). On the other hand, the non-dieters ate according to how many calories their milkshake was. So, if a non-dieter was given a low-calorie milkshake, they ate more ice cream, while if they were given a high-calorie milkshake, they ate less ice cream. This is because dieters’ eating is guided by rules. Since they had already “broken” their diet by drinking a milkshake, they decided to "just go for it" and eat as much as ice cream as they wanted. 

This study demonstrates how diets make eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder, more likely to occur. In addition, although it is not yet recognized in the DSM-5, there is another eating disorder that can develop from dieting: orthorexia. Orthorexia is an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy foods-- something that is particularly associated with diet culture. 

3) Dieting is not a long-term solution.

Going on an extremely restrictive diet isn’t a long-term solution; diets are created to be temporary. People often go on a diet for a limited time period in the hopes of losing weight. However, once they have accomplished their desired weight loss and go back to their regular eating habits, it is likely they will gain back the weight. Dieting doesn't encourage people to adopt a healthy, balanced, and manageable lifestyle-- instead, it promotes sudden and unsustainable change!  

4) Dieting distorts your self image. 

Diets often cause people to put all their self-worth into the way their body looks or how much they weigh. It is all too easy to compare one's own body to those of photoshopped celebrities and models on magazine covers, and as a result, people become extremely critical of themselves and their perceived "flaws".  

So what can you do instead? 

  • If you want to eat healthier, try to gradually incorporate changes to your lifestyle. Slowly add more fresh vegetables, fruits, and more unprocessed whole foods to your meals. Instead of cutting out certain things cold turkey, try to reduce your intake of unhealthier foods-- i.e. instead of drinking four cans of pop a week, try drinking only one or two cans or substituting sugary pop for carbonated water. 


  • Work on developing a healthier mindset about food, and stop labelling foods as either "good" or "bad". Nobody should ever feel guilty for eating. Of course, there are some foods that are more nutritious and energizing than others. I'm not saying we should stop caring about what we put in our body and just eat McDonalds for every meal. Eating healthy is definitely important, but there is nothing wrong with eating desserts or "unhealthy" foods every once in a while. If you go to your friend's birthday party, you should enjoy yourself and be able to eat a piece of delicious chocolate cake without beating yourself up about it afterwards. It's important to find a balance that works for you! 


  • Learn to love and appreciate your body. However, this is much easier said than done. I think this Instagram caption is something everyone should read. Be kind to yourself and your body!  Remember, you are worth more than your looks and the numbers on a scale. 


  • If you realize you are developing an unhealthy relationship with food and your body, please seek help. You are not alone! Talk to a parent, friend, teacher, counsellor, doctor, or anyone you trust. There are many resources out there that can help you stay safe and healthy. 


Photo References