Is Dieting Really Going To Make You Happier And Healthier?

Is Dieting Really Going To Make You Happier And Healthier?

It is a common belief that dieting is the key for weight loss but research continues to support that in fact dieting is a constant predictor of weight gain.

  • A study on over 2000 sets of twins from Finland, aged 16-25 years old showed that those who embarked on a just one weight loss episode where nearly 2-3 times more likely to become overweight, compared to their non dieting counterpart. The risk of becoming overweight was dose dependant with each dieting episode. (Pietiläinen, Saarni, Kaprio, & Rissanen, 2012)
  • A study in teenagers over a 5 year period found that dieters had twice the risk of becoming overweight, compared to the non-dieting teens (Neumark-Sztainer, et al., 2006). The dieters did not weigh more than their non dieting peers at base line.
  • A team of researchers for new revisions to Medicare policy and funding for obesity treatments reviewed 31 long term studies on calorie restricted diets for weight loss (Mann, et al., 2007).
  • They found that up to two thirds of dieters regain more weight than they lost on their diets. In addition it was recognised that these studies likely underestimate the extent to which dieting is counterproductive because of several methodology problems, all of which were bias towards showing successful weight loss maintenance.

Dieting is often endorsed to enhance our health and wellbeing, although research shows differently.

  • Those that yoyo diet, resulting in ‘weight cycling’, have poorer health biomarkers (hypertension, insulin resistance and dyslipidaemia), increased morbidity and greater mortality risk than those that have never dieted (Bacon & Aphramor, 2011).

In our diet culture, dieting is promoted to improve our self-worth and confidence, instead dieting often leads to poorer mental health and a preoccupation with food and body, a reduced body image and self-confidence.

  • In Australians aged 11-24, approximately 1 in 4 (28%) males and 1 in 3 (35%) females are dissatisfied with their appearance (NEDC, 2010).
  • Dieting is the number one risk factor for developing an eating disorder, a serious mental illness with the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness ( Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria , 2017).
  • A shocking 90% of females and 68% of males aged 12 to 17 years old have been on a diet of some kind ( Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria , 2017).
  • Research into dieting and eating disorders showed adolescent girls who diet at a severe level are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder within six months and have a 20% chance of developing an eating disorder after 12 months of extreme dieting (Grigg, Bowman, & Redman, 1996)
  • Many do not realise that eating disorders come in many different sizes, especially those with bulimia or binge eating disorder. Women who diet frequently (more than 5 times) are 75% more likely to experience depression (Mond, Hay, Rodgers, & Owen, 2006).
  • Adults with eating disorders experience significantly higher levels of anxiety disorders, cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue, depressive disorders, neurological symptoms and suicide attempts (NEDC, 2012)

There is enough evidence that dieting is not the guaranteed answer to better health, happiness, nor weight loss, so what do chronic dieters do? How do you escape diet prison?

The key lies in reconnecting and trusting your inbuilt and longstanding bodies intelligent communication system. This requires letting go of external rules and looking inwards for the answers. There is often a welcoming surprise for many when they finally let go of these external rules and open the prison gates to freedom, peace with food and body love.

The non-diet philosophy arose in the 1980’s and started a whole new way of thinking about weight loss, dieting and health. Later ‘Intuitive Eating’, a concept and system thought up by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch outlined 10 principles on how to move away from diet thinking and return back your own intuitive wisdom. The principles are based on 3 core characterises that have been validated in research. They are as follows:

  1. Eat for physical rather than emotional reason
  2. Rely on internal hunger and satiation cues
  3. Unconditional permission to eat

Intuitive Eating has been scientifically proven to be associated with astonishing physical and emotional benefits. Although not the focus, results show a reduced BMI along with benefits in cholesterol, self-esteem, body appreciation, coping skills and pleasure in eating. Further it shows a reduced internalised thin ideal, eating disorders and emotional eating. It has also been validated as a healthy way to live and is used in the treatment of binge eating disorder.
In essence, those who are intuitive to their appetite and act on them are more likely to maintain a healthy weight for them, have greater health and happiness.

  1. Write down the pros and cons of dieting
  2. Write down the pros and cons of making a change to stop dieting
  3. Reflect on how dieting has effected opportunities, relationships, events and your physical, mental and social health
  4. Investigate how often your food intake and eating behaviours are dictated by external rules such as diet rules or social pressures rather that guided from within

Arriving at your bodies most healthful weight is not about will power or self-control. Instead it having trust in your body that it will give you the accurate information about what, how and when to eat. Be patient, it can take some practice to rewire habits and accept new understating’s.
If you are sitting on the fence about letting go of dieting and want to learn more about intuitive eating I would love to hear form you!



Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria . (2017). Disordered Eating and Dieting . Melbourne: Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria .

Bacon, L., & Aphramor, L. (2011). Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift. Nutrition Journal, 10(9).

Grigg, M., Bowman, J., & Redman, S. (1996). Disordered eating and unhealthy weight reduction practices among adolescent females. Prevenative Medicine, 25, 748-756.

Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A. M., Samueles, B., & Chatman, J. (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, 62(3), 220-233.

Mond, J. M., Hay, P. J., Rodgers, B., & Owen, C. (2006). Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q): Norms for young adult women. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44, 53-62.

NEDC. (2010). Eating disorders prevention, treatment & management: An evidence review. Sydney: The National Eating Disorders Collaboration.

NEDC. (2012). An integrated response to complexity – National eating disorders framework. Sydney: NEDC.

Neumark-Sztainer, D., Wall, M., Guo, J., Story, M., Haines, J., & Eisenberg, M. (2006). Obesity, disordered eating, and eating disorders in a longitudinal study of adolescents: how do dieters fare 5 years later? Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 106(4), 559-568.

Pietiläinen, K. H., Saarni, S. E., Kaprio, J., & Rissanen, A. (2012). Does dieting make you fat? A twin study. International Journal of Obesity, 36, 456–464.


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