Do you ever plan to eat healthy and follow a strict diet plan, but then seem to crumble at the sight of a dessert and wine menu? We tend to hold our own willpower accountable if a diet becomes too challenging to stick to, when in fact, it’s only our body trying to survive. I’ve been there – and so have millions of others who have ‘successfully’ lost weight on a diet, but then have found themselves suddenly putting it all back on again. Confused? Let’s strip this conundrum down in Diet: Why You Can’t Stick to it!
Why Can’t We Stick to a Diet?
Biologically speaking, there are many different functions in the body that are meant to maintain homeostasis. For example, when you find yourself in a warm environment, your body begins to sweat for the sole purpose of releasing heat – but when it’s cold, you start to shiver in order to produce heat.
Similarly to homeostasis, each of our bodies has a preferred weight or in other words, a ‘set range weight’. Our bodies preserve this range by always trying to maintain our relative weight.
Why it’s Easier to Gain Weight than to Lose it
Research has shown that, in general, the bottom rank of our set range weight is more preserved than the top; we seem to resist weight loss more than we resist weight gain. We know that our body is in set range if we’re not currently dieting or setting limits on ourselves, we’re moving our bodies in a lively manner for life-enhancing purposes. We normally nourish our body and soul with foods that provide energy and pleasure when our thoughts and energy are oriented toward our lives rather than our weight obsession.
So what happens when we diet and try to force our body weight under our set range weight? Well, people often end up going back to a constant ‘diet-binge’ cycle – one of the reasons why diets set us up for failure in the first place, and keep us in an endless rhythm of dieting.
Anxiety around Food is the Problem!
As a matter of fact, our body begins to panic due to a lack of food. Underfeeding increases hunger hormones, stress hormones, and fat storage hormones. Our fullness-producing hormones, which are meant to protect us from starvation, are decreased. As time goes by, we become overly concerned with food, and our bodily state begins to reflect the paranoia of our self-imposed rules. When eating, we feel guilty and perceive ourselves as failures for doing so.
It is the endless binge-shame cycle that is the problem; we are convinced that only more willpower will allow us to successfully follow a diet. Nevertheless, the willpower discourse fails to recognise the multiple physiological side-effects that emerge when dieting such as; slowed metabolism, muscle loss, cravings, poor digestion, and an irregular menstrual cycle.
Assess Yourself, Your Food & Your Lifestyle Holistically
In short, your body is not designed to stick to a deprivation diet. Although it cannot necessarily distinguish between intended restriction and starvation, it has protective measures established in order to avoid any disturbances. We have grown in a culture that puts false worth on certain body shapes and sizes, and sees body size as something that can be controlled, and perceives any individual with a different body size as less valuable or lacking willpower.
The answer is however, that diets aren’t essential for health. It’s more about making small, holistic alterations to your daily lifestyle that bring you peace and joy – it could be taking a walk with your partner after lunch or eating a piece of chocolate after a dinner surrounded by friends and family.
Also, the truly healthier way is to change the inner image of yourself and maintain that for the long term. Then you’ll be consistent with the eating habits that maintain such a physique. So, find those healthy examples you admire and emulate with small steps what they do and determine how far you want to go!