The Danger of Dieting: How this little habit is destroying your health

The Danger of Dieting: How this little habit is destroying your health

Today I’m talking diets. The kind of diets I don’t usually talk about. I’m talking about the calorie-restricting, daily scale-checking, “Thou shalt not eat the doughnut” type diets that flood the world and torment millions on a daily basis. Those kind of diets. And why am I talking about diets today? Because if I can help convince even ONE person to never diet again, I’ll consider this whole blogging thing worth it. Diets are dangerous.

I’ve witnessed my fair share of diet-mania over the years. From good friends who roller coaster-ed up and down on Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig to the militant-like low-fat and no-carb diets. Sure, some diets are definitely “better” than others in terms of not making you go completely crazy, but ultimately these types of diets are either too restrictive or seen as only temporary fixes. In other words: They aren’t doing a lot of good.

Why do most people diet in the first place?

To lose weight, right? But did you know that dieting is the single greatest predictor of weight gain? (source)

It seems logical, that restricting food intake should result in sustained weight loss, but that just isn’t the way your body’s biology works. Food restriction only leads to starvation symptoms that down-regulate your metabolism. -Emily Benfit, Real food for Real Life

Remember, metabolism is more than just the ability to burn food. Metabolism is at the heart of our body’s ability to perform every function for life. Kind of important. This is why even those who successfully lose weight through dieting will still usually suffer from a myriad of other health issues from poor digestion, insomnia, lack of energy, hormonal problems, adrenal fatigue, and thyroid issues. (Read this to help you regain metabolic health.)

My heart drops every time I overhear someone talk about their disciplined approach to only eating 1200 calories a day in hopes of getting back in shape, losing the baby weight, or whatever other ideal is pushing them. They ignore hunger signals. Flush their cells out with excessive amounts of water. Restrict important macro-nutrients (generally carbohydrates or fat).

Some see temporary results. Others find their body holds on to the weight with a vengeance. Both are destroying their relationship with food and their body.

None of it is healthy.

The danger of dieting. Want to lose weight? Learn why you should NOT diet.

The effects of dieting on your body

According to Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Sizedieting does a number on your health. It:

  • Slows the rate at which your body burns calories
  • Increases your body’s efficiency at wringing every possible calorie out of the food you do eat so you digest food faster and get hungrier quicker.
  • Causes you to crave high-fat foods.
  • Increases your appetite.
  • Reduces your energy levels (so even if you could burn more calories through physical activity you don’t want to).
  • Lowers your body temperature so you’re using less energy (and are always cold).
  • Reduces your ability to feel “hungry” and “full,” making it easier to confuse hunger with emotional needs.
  • Reduces your total amount of muscle tissue.
  • Increases fat-storage enzymes and decreases fat-release enzymes.

Of course this says nothing about the way it affects our relationship with food. We need food. We should enjoy food. We should want to feel energized. We should listen to our body’s signals and eat the food!

It’s also a sad statement on our views of our body. we live in an age of self-loathing… and some how it’s socially acceptable. And when girls as young as 5 years old pick up on their parent’s views of diets, we know we aren’t helping future generations be any better.

Dieting brings a vicious cycle… one that Emily Benfit describes perfectly in her book Real Food for Real Life:

Chronic dieters are really horrible at eating. No, not eating “right,” or eating healthy–just eating. It’s a really common problem in our culture. Most of us seem to be really good at engaging in a strenuous cycle of: body image issues >> food restriction >> food cravings >> loss of control >> overeating >> weight gain >> body image issues.

The danger of dieting. Want to lose weight? Learn why you should NOT diet.

Get off the diet train and work toward long term results

The first step toward healthy living is recognizing that health really does come in every size. In our photoshopped and image-obsessed world it’s easy to think that everyone needs to fit into a size 0 pair of jeans. The truth it there are very unhealthy skinny people just like there are very healthy larger people. Size is not a good indication for health on either end of the spectrum.

Of course, obesity does bring some health concerns, and losing weight may be important for some. But short term, restrictive diets are not the answer. In fact, you may be surprised by how many calories you really need to lose weight in a healthy way. I mean, check out my friend who is on a quest for healthy weight loss. She is eating 3,000 calories a day (of real food), exercising wisely, taking care of her metabolism, and losing weight. The body can do amazing things when you give it the fuel it needs.

Want to learn more about how to REALLY eat healthy, not mess up your metabolism, and enjoy food again? Here are two of my favorite books to recommend:

Stop dieting and start enjoying real food again.Real Food for Real Life

Emily breaks down real food in a simple, stress free way that will empower you with knowledge to make the best decisions possible and have a HEALTHY and enjoyable relationship with food.

Learn more about the book here. 

Stop dieting and start enjoying real food again.Diet Recovery 2 by Matt Stone

Heads up: Not everyone will dig Matt Stone’s irreverent approach to food (especially hard-core real foodies). And yet, he has helped so many people get off the diet bandwagon and improve their health. Keep an open mind and be prepared to learn lots.

Learn more here. 


Tell me… are you a dieter? Are you willing to reconsider?

NOTE: Due to an never-ending cesspool of spam, I have made the tough decision to close comments 14 days after the original posting of all posts. If you have a burning question or are looking for support in your journey to healthy living, please join the Thank Your Body Friends facebook page here.

STANDARD FTC DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please note, I only ever endorse products that are in alignment with Thank Your Body's ideals and I believe would be of value to my readers. You may read my full disclosure statements here.

About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie


  1. Kaitlin

    Absolutely agree. I dieted severely in college, and for me it progressed to a full blown eating disorder. I’m 26 now and only just starting to realize that my body needs food. Not chemical sugar substitutes. I’m just starting to understand that calories aren’t bad. That it’s so much better and healthier to eat a higher calorie real-food meal than a diet soda and SlimFast. For something that seems so obvious and should be so intuitive, my relationship with food has been crazy. Now I’m eating only real food. If it comes from a plant, don’t eat it; if it is a plant or ate plants, eat it. So simple and yet surprisingly difficult in our society!

    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Isn’t it amazing how complicated our food system has become that the most simple things take seriously contemplation? So glad you’ve found a better way. :)

  2. Lisa

    I’ve recently gone to a unprocessed diet. Pretty much if I can’t read it or understand it then don’t eat it. I’ve been doing this for 3 months and have lost 32 pounds just by changing my diet. I slacked for a couple weeks and ate processed this and gained 5 pounds. This has really gotten me back on track. I recommend it to anyone.

  3. aj

    I don’t diet as such I did a lot of research into my eating habits and cut out gluten and processed foods and basically eat primal and I find I have less stomach problems, less fatigue and a lot more energy

  4. Lindsey

    The thing that has been working for me (as my non-diet) is to praise my body. I will recognize the good things my body does and not focus on the “imperfections” that I have.

    I truly believe that each of us is in possession of a special miracle; a body that can serve others with kindness in one way or another.

    Putting our bodies down by berating it with unhealthy “ideal” body image or abusing it with foods that fill an emotional need but not a nourishing one just seems like a sin of ingratitude.

  5. Weight Watchers Rocks

    I lost 65lbs using Weight Watchers. I have maintained my weight loss for 10 years. It is very healthy and very well balanced. My overall health was drastically improved even down to my hair and fingernails. If you follow Weight Watchers the way it is recommended you shouldn’t feel hungry and should be able to keep you weight off. It is a program based on excellent nutrition. One of the things they live by is that Weight Watchers is NOT a diet it is a lifestyle change.

    I worked as a weight loss consultant for Jenny Craig and one of the very first things they talk about with their clients is having a healthy relationship with food, body image, and developing a healthy mindset.

    I do believe that people need to consider the quality of the food they consume but the author of the blog doesn’t seem to actually know what Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig teaches.

    I do agree there are extreme diets out there that are too restrictive, impossible to follow and damaging to your body. Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig are not!

    Thanks for letting stand up for two amazing life changing programs!

    Keep up all the good nutritional choices everyone… great health is so worth it!

    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      I am actually very familiar with weight watchers as one of my closest friends was on it for years. While I think the idea of being mindful of what and how much you eat, I still don’t think it’s the most effective way for most people… which is evident since *most* don’t keep the weight off. Although, I’m very happy to hear your story and success, and I do believe these types of programs can be beneficial for some people. I just remember my friend choosing artificial “butter” substitutes, skipping out on beneficial real fats, and stressing about every little bite that went into her mouth. She followed the “rules” perfectly, never lost weight, and had a terrible relationship with food.

      I think the key, as you pointed out, it to seek out quality food and listen to their bodies. While there are few who keep a good relationship with food on these diets the vast majority feel shamed by their weight, guilty when they eat something “forbidden,” try to stamp out honest cravings from their body, lose interest, binge, and then feel guilty and shamed all over again. It’s a cycle I’ve seen far too many times by far too many close and personal friends.

      But again, I am really (really) happy to hear your story and know that there are exceptions. I think the root problem for most people go way beyond what these diet plans address, however.

  6. Amanda

    I’ve never been a dieter, I love food way too much to diet. What I have learned is to enjoy the simple things, like fresh berries, raw milk, fresh off the farm butter, straight from the butcher steaks…all the things deemed unhealthy for you one way or another. That’s why I love your approach. Eat natural, eat healthy, but most off all listen to your body. Not 100% of everything will make 100% of the people 100% happy 100% of the time, but as long as I get the proper nutrients for myself, teach these same habits to my child(ren), and encourage a positive relationship with food and self, then I can be 100% happy with 100% of my food 100% of the time, and isn’t that what it’s really about? Thank you again for making food make sense and encouraging healthy habits!

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  8. Renee' Young

    Thank you Robin! I have felt this way for some time, but figured I was trying to justify not dieting!

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