Intuitive Eating & Body Positivity with Terri Pugh

23. Why yo-yo dieting is bad for your health

September 19, 2021 Terri Pugh Episode 23
Intuitive Eating & Body Positivity with Terri Pugh
23. Why yo-yo dieting is bad for your health
Show Notes Transcript

We think that dieting will improve our health and we believe that being thinner will make us happier and healthier. But that's not true. Today I'm talking about why yo-yo dieting is bad for your health, and how it affects us physically and mentally.

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Please note, this podcast is intended to be general information for entertainment purposes only. Any figures quoted are correct at the time of recording. As always, please seek the support of a registered professional before making changes to your diet or lifestyle⁠, or if you feel that you are affected by any of the topics discussed.


Related Topics:

Intuitive Eating, HAES, Health At Every Size, Body Positivity, Body Confidence, Body Positive, Anti Diet, Non Diet, Diet Culture, Food Freedom, Fat Acceptance, Fat Liberation, Self Care, Weight Loss, Eating Disorder, Eating Disorder Recovery, Disordered Eating, Nutritional Therapy, Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Cambridge Diet, Cambridge Plan, 121 Diet, Lighter Life, Noom, Coaching, Healing, Health, Wellness, Calorie Counting, Macros

Welcome to the Intuitive Eating and Body Positivity podcast. I'm Terri, and I'll be talking about all things Intuitive Eating, body positivity and health at every size and shaking off weight stigma, diet culture and food rules so that we can all have a better relationship with food and our bodies.


Hiya. How are you doing? Have you had a good week? My week has been okay. Tooth update. Would you like a tooth update?


It's still there. It's still hanging on in there. I'm holding out. I'm trying to go and get into a new dental practise problem. Is there's a waiting list and I've got to wait until October, so it's only a couple of weeks away.


But it just means I have to stick it out with this tooth until then. It's okay. It's not hurting though. It does mean I'm still living on food that is the consistency of baby food, but that's okay. It's okay. It's okay. What else? Haes happened? Nothing's happened this week, really.


I have nothing of any interest to tell you about my week. That's exciting, isn't it? The best I can do is give you a tooth update this week. Must try harder. Must try harder.


It occurred to me this week that I talk to you every week about things that you can do to escape diet culture, things that you can do to enjoy your body more and to love your body, more ways to have a better relationship with food. But I don't think I've ever really explained the damaging sides of dieting.


We talk about it in a roundabout sort of way. We talk about how to lose our want to diet, but never really get into why dieting is so bad for your health. So that's what I'm going to explain to you today.


I don't think anybody actually really wants to be on a diet, do they? Nobody wants to be restricting their food. Nobody wants to have all this stuff going on around food and be thinking about it all day long and carefully preparing food according to what they can and can't eat. No one really wants to live like that, do they? If you had a choice, you would just eat all the food you wanted to eat and be the healthiest person that you could beat, wouldn't you?


So nobody really chooses to diet, but we do because we think it's going to make us better, thinner, healthier, whatever things you want to get from dieting. We convince ourselves that this is the case and we don't pay attention to the damage we're doing in the process. We're blinded by what we're told the benefits are, and we don't see the negative side of it. Even if you're doing a very, very restricted diet, you still don't see how bad that restriction is because you're just driving for that weight loss or that smaller body.


And to hell with the consequences. And we even do that thing where we say right, one more diet, just one last diet. And then I will stop because I'll get to where I want to be and then I'll stop.


I remember doing that with every diet I've been on. When I went back to Slimming World the last time that I did it I remember walking through those doors thinking, I'll just lose this weight and then I will stop because I don't want to be here. I went back through those doors very half heartedly.


I did not want to be there. I did not want to be dieting. I did not want to be doing that plan again. I just wanted to lose the weight, be happier, and then I will stop.


And that's the same pattern for a lot of dieters. You have this real want to be thinner or healthier or whatever your reasons are, so you go on this diet, and then the diet makes you crave all these things that you can't have because the diet tells you're not allowed to have them. And then as time goes on, you lose that self control around food. You start eating off plan.


You start eating things that are not conducive to weight loss and then you feel like you've lost complete control. And then you go into what I call to hell with it mode. You just eat and you eat and you eat and then you go back to weigh at the same time next week because, you know, you're on this plan, aren't you?


And then you go to weigh and it makes you miserable, and slowly but surely you stop losing weight and you regain some weight. And then you get this moment where you're like, I can't even be bothered to do it anymore. I'm not going to do it anymore. It makes me miserable.


So you come off the diet. You think you've got it. You think you've got it nailed now. You're not going to do it anymore. But then as the weight comes back on, you have this desire to be thinner or healthier or whatever it is you're looking for, and then you are back through those doors, back on the diets, back looking for these things that you're never going to get through dieting, really. And every time you go around that circle, it gets worse and worse.


The weight loss gets less, the cravings get more. The dieting time gets shorter, the desire to be thinner gets bigger. And then you add into that the disappointment and the guilt and the feeling like you failed, and it makes this whole process more and more miserable. Every time you do it, it makes you more and more miserable every single time.


And as I said, nobody wants to diet. Nobody wants to be in that misery. So I think what is missing in that loop is the part where where it's pointed out how bad dieting is, because I think what would happen is you'd go round that big circle, round that vicious circle, and if you could just slot in there somewhere the damage the dieting does I think it would help to break the chain and it would make you question what you're doing by dieting.


It makes you question whether it's worth the unhappiness, worth the restriction. So I'm going to try and break that chain today. I'm going to try and give you some information that will help you realise why you shouldn't be dieting rather than why you should be dieting.


There is a massive part of that dieting cycle that is related to the fact that you gain more weight, isn't there. Every time you stop a diet, you gain back that weight that you lost and a little bit more. And that's because when we diet, when we yo-yo diet, we are teaching the body how to respond in times of famine, in times of starvation. Because although diets don't remove all food, well, most diets don't remove all food, even the diets where you get to eat or everything that you want. There is still restriction in there, and you're still telling your body that there's stuff that you cannot have.


And so when you start to eat those things again, your body tries to protect itself from future famine, because what you've said to your body for such a long time is I'm going to restrict, then I'm going to eat, then I'm going to restrict, then I'm going to eat. So you go on a diet, your body feels the restriction, and then when you stop dieting and you start eating more normally, your body is going to prepare for that next period of starvation, the next period of restriction.


Here is a biological fact for you. Low calorie diets cause the body to double the amount of enzymes that make and store fat in the body. So I'll say again, because it's quite a lot to try and take in and understand. When you are on a low calorie diet, your body makes more of the enzymes that make and store fat in your body, and that's a protective mechanism from your body. It's your body's way of helping you store that energy ready for the next starvation period.


Ready for that next diet. Ready for the restricted calories or the restricted foods. It's going to store more of that up, so that when the next one comes around, it's ready for it. Because what your body also doesn't realise is that you're just on a diet. You're just on a diet. It's not understanding that you're trying to lose weight or you're trying to change something.


Your body is just saying, hang on, you're not feeding me. You're not giving me everything I need. I need to store this up and I need to do it now. And so when you stop dieting, you gain back that weight that you lost and a bit more as protection ready for the next diet.


It also means that your body learns to be more efficient with your calories. So your body learns that if you don't have enough calories, it needs to find a way to make the most of the calories that it does have. It lowers its need for energy. It starts cutting off systems and processes that don't really need to be used at this time and it starts slowing down the processes that it does need energy for so that it's using as few calories, as few units of energy, as it can.


Do you remember that TV programme, The Biggest Loser? They lost an awful lot of weight very, very quickly at the time.


I used to watch it and be amazed by how much weight these people were losing and how they had the willpower and the strength to do it in. Looking at that later on, it made me realise that actually it was brutal and it was cruel and it was doing a lot of damage to their bodies. All the restriction, the punishing workouts, being shouted at by the trainers. You wouldn't put up with that if you hired a PT in a local gym, would you? But it was for entertainment purposes, obviously as well, wasn't it? And these people were desperate. That's the problem is that we often do these diets when we're desperate for help.


But when they looked at these contestants from The Biggest Loser and they looked at the effects of their dieting, they found that six years after they took part in the show their metabolism was still blunted. It was still hindered to the amount of about 700 calories per day and their muscle mass was lower. Then their baseline by about 10 pounds.


So they've lost weight. They screwed up their metabolism. Their muscle mass was actually lower. Six years down the line, they hadn't gained anything health wise at all.


Dieting also increases your bingeing and cravings. They've done lots of studies on this, animal studies and human studies, and it's been proven that if you are dieting, if you are yo-yo dieting and restricting, then it brings about this need to overeat. I know that's not a word we like to use because over eating, you don't overeat.


You just eat more than you're comfortable with sometimes and over eat has a negative connotation attached to it. Anyway, when you diet and you restrict it causes these additional binges and cravings, and these cravings are designed to make you want to eat more. The body is trying to take in and store energy ready for the next diet. So it creates this craving.


It creates these binges in order to help you save energy ready for the next time, which makes you realise why when you do intuitive eating and you stop dieting because you stop dieting, you stop restricting, you stop bingeing, you stop craving and in turn, you stop this overeating that is so rife when you're dieting.


And on top of that dieting actually does some proper physical damage. It increases the risk of premature death. It increases the risks of heart disease. It increases information, blood pressure, insulin resistance, and all these things are really detrimental to health.


So where you are dieting and thinking, you're doing things to improve your health what you're actually doing is creating these biological responses that are more damaging to health than if you lost the weight. There was a study done in 1991 that showed that regardless of weight, regardless of the person starting weight, the people whose weight went up and down, so yo-yo dieters, and this is called weight cycling, people who have consistently weight cycled have a higher overall death rate and twice the normal risk of dying of heart disease.


That's massive, isn't it? So actually, as I said before, when you lose weight and you're dieting and then you're putting it back on and then you lose weight and you put it back on, you actually do more damage than good.


Dieting also brings us out of touch with our hunger and fullness signals. So when you constantly diet, you lose the ability to recognise when you're full and when you're hungry which is why it's so scary, the thought of stopping dieting.


Have you thought about stopping dieting and your first thought is I will have no control over food. I will not know what to eat, when to eat, it how much to eat. I just won't stop eating. That's because dieting has taken away your ability to hear your satisfaction signals, your satiety signals, the signals in your body that tell you when you've had enough to eat.


Also, did you know that dieting changes your body shape? When you put that weight back on after you stopped your diet, you tend to gain it around your middle and that in itself we do know is a risk to heart health.


And on top of that, how many times have you dieted and just felt rubbish the whole time? How many times have you had headaches and felt tired and your hair's not been quite the same and your periods are not quite the same. That sort of thing. That's because dieting messes around with your systems, all of them. It messes with your hormone regulation. And your body can't live as it needs to live when you're restricting so heavily.


And along with that comes the mental stuff, because we know that dieting is not just about the physical, don't we? It is also about the way it makes you feel mentally. It is a massive risk factor for eating disorders. So did you know that a third of people who go on a diet will end up with some kind of disordered eating, and a third of those people with the disorder eating will progress to a full blown eating disorder?


So things like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, orthorexia, you know, that sort of thing. Dieting is a really slippery slope, and eating disorders are mental illnesses. So there are very, very definite links between dieting and mental health.


It is stressful. Dieting is stressful. I don't know anybody who is truly happy when they're dieting. You always have to think of situations you're going to be in, places you're going to go where you're going to be able to get food. When are you going to be able to eat? Does it fit with your plan? It takes so much more thought than just getting up in the morning, eating what you feel like for breakfast, packing yourself for lunch and then eating what you want to eat in the evening, isn't it?


Isn't it much nicer to be able to navigate your way through the day not really being worried about whether you've got meetings, or whether there's going to be a buffet you need to try and stay away from? Isn't it much nicer to just go through your day and see what happens?


Because that's the way that people are supposed to eat. They're not supposed to spend all their time thinking about what food they're going to have every minute of every day, and they're certainly not supposed to be thinking about how many points or syns or whatever else they counting they have at the weekend or at the end of the week, and just going into a weekend thinking, can I have a takeaway? Can I have a few drinks this weekend?


It's so stressful. And when you've navigated all of that, quite often towards the later stages of the dieting, you are left with guilt and depression and disappointment and lower self esteem because you can't keep it up long term. You can't keep all these restrictions and rules and regulations around food going for all time. So as time goes on, you do less well at it and you start being disappointed with yourself, and that's not good for mental health.


Nobody should be disappointed in themselves because of their food choices. Nobody should be upset or feeling like they failed because they've not stuck to some points system or calorie amount that they don't even understand anyway. I mean, really? Who understands why they've got to eat that many calories a day? Who understands why they've got X amount of syns or points for a week? Where does these numbers even come from? Nobody ever tells you that when you're dieting, do they?


I can speak from personal experience and say that there is no doubt that I am happier mentally when I am not dieting. My mood, my overall approach to the day, my positive view on life. It's all so much better now that I'm not overwhelmed and all consumed by counting food and worrying about whether I'm losing weight this week or not.


Bit by bit those diets knocked every bit of confidence I had out of me. I didn't realise that at the time. I thought I had lost the confidence and the diet would bring it back, but that is not the way it is. Without a doubt the dieting knocks your self esteem and your confidence and your trust in your ability to eat well without some kind of plan. Beyond it is a much happier state of mind when you're not dieting.


So there you go. That gives you a bit of an insight into how damaging to health dieting is. All this stuff is totally backed by science, is totally backed by studies.


Intuitive eating was also put together, was created. By two dietitians. They have studied this field for years. I think it's 25 plus years at the time of recording. Don't quote me on that, but it is a more than that actually, I think.


But anyway, if two dietitians can come together, do all this study over so many years and really know their stuff, and decide that they don't want to issue diet plans anymore because they are damaging health, then you know what, I'm going to go with that.


The people who create these diets that they sell to you, they are not scientifically backed. The people who are selling them are not educated in the field. They do not study the effects of dieting on the body. They are there to make money from you and make money they do because we go back and we go back and we go back.


And now, given the choice between the two, I'm with the dietitians. I'm with the intuitive eating creators. The work itself is harder because you don't have a plan to follow. You don't have some guidelines that tell you to eat X amount of this, an X amount of that, don't eat this many of that, and don't eat any of that. It's up to me what I eat in a day and I know that having the trust to do that in the beginning is very, very difficult.


I know it's difficult to not have rules around food, not be told what to eat and to try and find your own preferred ways of eating and food that you like. But I choose health and I'm willing to do that work for my health, for my happiness. And I really hope that you do too. I really hope that even if you haven't made that leap yet, that you are thinking about it, that you're listening and you can hear all the benefits to stopping dieting.


No one said it was easy in all fairness. Staying on a diet is much easier because as much as it makes you unhappy, you know where you are. But if you can get yourself through that work at the beginning of quitting dieting, then my friend, the world is your oyster or burger or piece of cake or bar of chocolate. The world is your ***insert favourite food here***.


And if you need somebody to hold your hand through this, then I am your girl. I am here for you. Come and join the group coaching sessions. I'll help you through it. This is what that's there for. It's to help people learn how to eat more intuitively, to ditch their diets, to be happier and healthier and have a better relationship with food. Hit the link in the show notes below and come and find out more about it. If you've got any questions, just drop me a message.


I'll happily answer any questions that you've got on it, but that is what the group is there for. We're there to provide that support and to get you through the stages of intuitive eating and help you find a better way with food. The way I see it is Slimming club can have these groups and these support networks but where are the support networks for the people who don't want to diet but still have some work to do on themselves? This is what this group is for.


Come and join a group full of people who understand what you're going through and who are friendly and supportive. And if you're not quite there yet, absolutely fine. Give me a follow on Instagram. I'll give you some motivation in your day. I'll give you some cheerleading to get through the day without a diet, and to feel better about yourself and more positive about your body.


On Instagram I am @IAmTerriPugh because I am Terri Pugh, right, but yeah, come give me a follow and get on the group. You'll love it.


Also send me your questions. I like answering listener questions at the end of an episode. I'm not doing one today because I am ill prepared, but I do like doing them. I really, really love answering questions because it means that you are getting the content in these podcasts that you want. It means that I'm answering questions that you have.


So don't ever feel embarrassed. No question is too stupid. Just drop me a message or when I post it on my stories pop a little question in the box. Let me know if you've got any questions. I'm happy to answer them on here for you.


My final words to you today. Come at you from my deck of Affirmation cards. Even teaching this stuff, I still have moments where I've got to give myself a bit of a talking to and a bit of a pick me up, so I've got this deck of cards, which is affirmation cards. Today's card fits in very well with today's podcast episode, and the card says I let go of what does not serve me with ease. I really like that. It's a reminder to not have things in your life that do not bring something positive.


This works in a variety of areas, doesn't it? But today, especially for you guys, it means let go of those diets that aren't serving you any more. They are not doing anything good for you. They are not serving you.


They are not good for your body or your mind, for your soul. But in all seriousness, they don't serve you. So take this card today and take it as your own. I let go of what does not serve me with ease.


Have a good week, my lovelies, and I will speak to you next week. Bye Bye. That was the cheesiest ending ever, wasn't it? Bye.