Why Diets Aren’t the Answer and What to Prioritize to Improve Your Health

Written By:


Ryann Nicole

Diets have long been hailed as the go-to solution for those aspiring to enhance their health and well-being, promising swift transformations and quick fixes. Yet, time and again, diets have proven ineffective and even counterproductive. Here are some statistics on dieting to take note of: 

  • According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 35% of “normal” dieters progress to pathological dieting, and of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.
  • Long-term success rates for traditional diets are often low. Some studies suggest that around 95% of people regain their lost weight within 1-5 years.
  • According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), dieting is the most common precursor to the development of an eating disorder. Individuals who diet are at a significantly higher risk of developing eating disorders compared to those who don’t diet.
  • Dieting, particularly extreme or restrictive diets, can contribute to psychological distress. Research has linked dieting to increased stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms.

It’s important to approach dieting with caution and consider sustainable, balanced approaches to health and well-being. Keep in mind that statistics can vary, and individual experiences with dieting may differ widely. For the latest and most accurate information, it’s advisable to refer to recent studies and reports.

Why Diets Aren’t The Answer

Let’s take a closer look at why diets tend to fall short and what you should prioritize instead to nurture lasting improvements in your health and wellness.

Temporary Solutions, Temporary Results

Diets are notorious for their focus on quick, short-term solutions. While they may initially lead to some weight loss, these changes often prove unsustainable over time. As soon as the diet ends, the lost weight frequently returns, leading to a cycle of yo-yo dieting.

Restrictive Nature 

Diets frequently encourage restriction, which can cultivate a negative relationship with food. This, in turn, can foster feelings of deprivation, guilt, and an unhealthy obsession with eating, ultimately taking a toll on your mental and emotional well-being.

Metabolism and Muscle Loss

The restrictive nature of diets can slow down your metabolism and result in muscle loss. This can lead to reduced energy levels, making it even harder to maintain a healthy weight once the diet is over.

Nutrient Deficiency

Many diets impose limitations on specific food groups or nutrients. This can result in nutrient deficiencies that negatively affect your overall health and well-being.

But What If I Need To Lose Weight For My Health?

Diets may promise speedy results, but they often result in disappointment and detrimental effects on your physical and emotional health. Instead of resorting to diets that often offer short-term solutions, consider incorporating sustainable, health-promoting behaviors. Here are some steps you can take:

01) Practice Mindful Eating

Shift your focus toward mindful eating. This practice encourages you to be fully present during meals, allowing you to savor each bite and pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. It promotes a healthier relationship with food and fosters self-awareness.

Action Step To Start: Whenever you eat, put your food on a plate or in a bowl and sit at the table to eat.

02) Focus on Adding In, Rather Than Cutting Out 

Prioritize adding in nutrition over restrictive dieting. Embrace a mindset of eating what you want while incorporating what you need. This approach ensures your body receives the necessary nutrients for optimal function, while you remain satisfied and avoid a scarcity mindset.

Action Step To Start: Before sitting down to eat, ask yourself, “Is there anything I could add to this meal or snack to make it more satisfying and/or filling?”

03) Find Forms of Enjoyable Movement

Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine. Exercise not only supports your physical health but also elevates your mood, reduces stress, and enhances your overall sense of well-being.

Action Step To Start: Try a new form of movement every other day until you find some forms of movement you love! For example, try a Pilates class or take a Zumba class on YouTube!

04) Focus on Body Care

Shift your focus from pursuing a specific body shape to practicing body care and self-respect. Learn to appreciate your body for what it can do rather than how it appears.

Action Step To Start: At the end of each day, write down one thing for which you can thank your body.

05) Prioritize Emotional Well-Being

Prioritize your emotional well-being. Stress management, relaxation techniques, and engaging in activities you genuinely enjoy can significantly impact your overall health and happiness.

Action Step To Start: Make a list of coping skills, other than eating, that you can try the next time you are overwhelmed by your emotions.

06) Consider Sustainable Lifestyle Changes

Rather than seeking quick fixes, aim for sustainable lifestyle changes. Concentrate on habits you can maintain for the long term, such as regular meal planning, healthy cooking, and stress-reduction practices.

Action Step To Start: Decide on two new action steps that you can add in to improve your health and that you can realistically maintain long term.

Why Is It So Hard To Let Go of Dieting?

It’s hard to let go of the diet, despite never being able to stick to it because, as counterintuitive as it seems, your desire for weight loss is not really about weight loss. It’s so much deeper than that. It’s all of the dreams and fantasies you’ve attached to weight loss that you feel you are giving up on if you stop dieting.

It’s not about your weight; it’s about what you’ve made your weight mean. “I am lazy. I am worthless. I am disgusting. I am unlovable.”

I invite you to consider, however, that maybe it’s not your body getting in the way of your happiness, but rather the destructive thoughts about your body fueling the unhappiness in your current body.

Change isn’t impossible.

Your body today isn’t necessarily your forever body, but you do need to start getting honest with yourself about what this desire for weight loss is really about. Because if it’s really about health – Why can’t you focus on health-promoting behaviors and let your body settle to the size it is meant to be when you do that?

A New Definition of Health

It’s important to understand that being healthy isn’t just about your body; it also includes your mind.
If what you are doing to try to improve your health leaves you feeling obsessive, anxious, or hyperfocused on food, it is time to reconsider your definition of health. Being healthy isn’t just about avoiding physical problems; it’s about having a good balance of physical and mental well-being.

Here are some reflection questions to help you establish your own definition of health:

  1. Physical Well-being:
    • How would you describe your current physical condition?
    • What activities or habits contribute to your physical well-being?
    • In your opinion, what does it mean to be physically healthy?
  2. Mental and Emotional Health:
    • How do you handle stress and emotional challenges?
    • What activities or practices support your mental well-being?
    • In what ways do you prioritize your emotional health?
  3. Social Connections:
    • How do your relationships and social connections impact your overall health?
    • What role do family and friends play in your well-being?
    • How do you nurture and maintain positive social connections?
  4. Lifestyle and Habits:
    • What habits or lifestyle choices do you believe contribute to a healthy life?
    • Are there any habits you would like to change or improve for better health?
    • How do your daily choices align with your health goals?
  5. Nutrition and Diet:
    • What does a healthy diet mean to you?
    • How do your eating habits contribute to your overall health?
    • Are there specific nutritional goals you aim to achieve?
  6. Work-Life Balance:
    • How do you balance work, leisure, and personal time?
    • In what ways does your work impact your health, positively or negatively?
    • What changes, if any, would you like to make in your work-life balance?
  7. Spiritual Well-being:
    • What role does spirituality or a sense of purpose play in your health?
    • How do you nurture your spiritual well-being?
    • Are there practices or beliefs that contribute to your overall sense of purpose and meaning?
  8. Self-Care Practices:
    • What self-care activities do you engage in regularly?
    • How do you prioritize self-care in your daily or weekly routine?
    • Are there new self-care practices you would like to explore?
  9. Preventive Health Measures:
    • What preventive health measures do you currently take?
    • How proactive are you in managing your health and preventing illnesses?
    • Are there additional preventive measures you would like to incorporate?
  10. Long-Term Goals:
    • What are your long-term health goals?
    • How do you envision your health in the future?
    • What steps can you take today to work towards those long-term health goals?

Embracing the beauty of being more than your body is like taking a warm journey towards loving yourself and staying healthy in a whole way. You’re not just your body – you’re also made up of passions, kindness, and your own special personality. Being healthy doesn’t mean following strict diets. It’s about celebrating the amazing body that carries you through life. When you eat good food and move your body with care, it’s like showing respect to yourself. You get to enjoy a wonderful mix of thoughts, body feelings, and spirit. Let’s enjoy the happiness of healthy living without sticking to hard rules. Real health is all about having balance, joy, and a strong connection to the amazing journey you’re on. By taking care of your well-being, you light up a path to a wonderful life where self-love grows, and you become the best version of yourself.

Must Read Books To Break Out Of The Comparison Trap 

Just so you know, I do review everything I recommend. When you buy through links on this page, we may earn a commission.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle 

For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson

⚠️ Trigger Warning: spicy language and some weight loss talk

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.

The Courage To Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga 

A thought-provoking self-help book that explores the profound teachings of Alfred Adler through a unique Socratic dialogue. It delves into the principles of happiness, relationships, and personal growth, challenging conventional beliefs and encouraging readers to embrace their individuality with courage and wisdom.

The Mountain Is You: Transforming Self-Sabotage Into Self-Mastery by Brianna Weist 

This is a book about self-sabotage. Why we do it, when we do it, and how to stop doing it—for good. Coexisting but conflicting needs create self-sabotaging behaviors. This is why we resist efforts to change, often until they feel completely futile. But by extracting crucial insight from our most damaging habits, building emotional intelligence by better understanding our brains and bodies, releasing past experiences at a cellular level, and learning to act as our highest potential future selves, we can step out of our own way and into our potential. For centuries, the mountain has been used as a metaphor for the big challenges we face, especially ones that seem impossible to overcome. To scale our mountains, we actually have to do the deep internal work of excavating trauma, building resilience, and adjusting how we show up for the climb. In the end, it is not the mountain we master, but ourselves.

Ryann Nicole

Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach

Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

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Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.