Do diets work? The answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” For some people, diets have worked wonders, giving them the results they’ve been seeking and improving not only how they look, but also how they feel. There are, however, more cases of diet failure than there are of diet success. For every one person who finds a diet that works really well, there are countless others who pick a diet and, for whatever reason, fail to reach their goals. But, why is this the case? Is it that some people are simply better at adhering to a diet’s restrictions and working them into their day-to-day lives? Possibly. But with such a large disparity between diet successes and diet failures, perhaps there’s something more going on. What if it’s the diets themselves that are flawed? And, what if diets cause more problems than they solve?
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman says a movement known as “Health at Every Size” suggests those very ideas. “Strict dieting often results in cycles of weight loss and weight gain,” Tillman said. “This back and forth has the potential to cause serious physical and psychological risks. It can contribute to body hatred, eating disorders and exercise addiction. Still, many believe that if they just continue to use the same approaches to dieting that they’ve always used, they’ll eventually obtain different results,” she explained. “But, what if instead of pursing weight loss, we changed the narrative and the focus to the pursuit of health?” she added.
“‘Health at Every Size’ is a book by Linda Bacon PhD.,” Tillman continued. “It covers the benefits of changing our focus from just losing weight to creating healthy habits and behaviors, regardless of what it says when you step on the scale. The book set off a movement made up of people who are empowered to ditch diet culture and instead practice the principles of things like intuitive eating and mindfulness to truly care for their bodies in kinder ways,” she said. “One of my favorite principles of this idea is known as ‘weight inclusivity.’ This rests on the assumption that everyone is capable of achieving health and well-being, regardless of their weight. It eliminates the notion that your body mass index (BMI) is a reflection of your overall health status or your health practices. After all, thinness doesn’t necessarily equal health in the same way that being overweight doesn’t necessarily equal being unhealthy. Our health outcomes are more linked to our health behaviors,” she explained.
Two more of Tillman’s favorite “Health at Every Size” principles are “eating for well-being” and “joyful movement.” “Eating for well-being means honoring what your body needs by looking to what fuels you, what energizes you, what makes you feel well and what doesn’t,” she said. “Learning to listen to our hunger cues and our satiety cues is key to this idea, as are honoring our nutritional needs to maintain metabolic health while also eating for enjoyment. The principle of joyful movement views exercise not just as a weight loss tool, but also as a way to relieve stress, support a healthy heart, and strengthen bones and muscles. This puts the focus on how exercise can make us feel stronger, more energized and more confident. Finding movement you enjoy will lead to a more sustainable practice of caring for your body and your mind,” she explained. “‘Health at Every Size’ and its principles can be great ways to reconsider the entire concept of weight loss, which can not only lead to greater success, but can help us feel better and live better overall lives,” she added.