Diet claims plaster every headline making it hard to know what to follow. Here’s why so many different diets “work” and why people feel so strongly about them.
I recently polled my Facebook group to see what they felt like was their biggest barrier to healthful eating. The most oft-cited answer was basically, “I have zero idea WHICH diet I should be following.” That being said, you can consider this the first installment of my diet reviews series. Let’s start with answering, why do so many different diets work and why do people feel so strongly about them?
Diet Discipleship: Why People Feel So Strongly About Different Diets
Low carb, low glycemic index, ketogenic, high-carb, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, sirtfood, nightshade-free, dairy-free, paleo, IIFYM… the list goes on. There are so many different types of diets and a devout following behind each title. Some diets have legit research to back them up while others have limited or no research. In the limited or no research category, the “evidence” is either extrapolated (cue coconut oil benefit claims as extrapolated data on pure MCT oil) or are nearly completely anecdotal, the “it worked for me” phenomenon (insert photo of every bikini-laden before/after on Instagram). Interestingly, regardless of the research status it’s almost always an emotionally-charged conversation with any diet disciple following one of these diets to a T.Diet disciples follow food rules #exactly and carry strong #emotional conviction. Click To Tweet
Food preference or selection of a certain diet with rules or restriction garners a strong emotional response because it’s essentially the next-most intimate thing to religion: only you are in charge of what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you prepare it, where you buy it from and why you eat it. You’ve been feeding yourself for decades and only you can physically put the fork in your own mouth. Who’s to say what you’re doing is right or wrong? You choose what you choose for a reason.
The question to ask yourself when making a selection of what diet to follow is actually, “What pattern of eating aligns with my values?” You might choose to avoid all animal products for ethical reasons. You might choose gluten-free because you read something one time that made you feel like you should avoid it, or hey maybe because you actually have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease. You might grab the sugar-free soda because, even though you don’t think you should drink it, you can’t kick the habit and it’s probably a better choice than total sugar overload. It’s a weighing of options, and actually, over 200 decisions are made relating to food every day (without a journal subscription, you can check the overview of that research here).Did you know over 200 #food #decisions are made DAILY? Click To Tweet
Why So Many Different Diets Work
We’ve covered why people feel so strongly about their dietary decisions, now let’s cover why so many different diets “work.”
Diets inherently include rules and restriction. This food or food group is “allowed” while this one is “not allowed.” Or you can eat a certain food, but only in a certain situations.
Chew on this, what happens any time you attach yourself to food rules?
- Usually adherence (at least for a short time period) which will result in some sort of caloric restriction or alteration in macronutrient composition of your diet,
- Environmental changes (e.g. cleaning out your pantry of all those Halloween chocolates from 2016 you admittedly, slightly embarrassingly, still sometimes eat), and
- Behavioral awareness and behavior modification.
At the same time, it’s not uncommon to have a change in physical activity the same time you’ve decided to “start a diet.”
So, it might not be the fact that you’re no longer eating gluten or dairy or you’re only eating wheat that you physically ground yourself after taking a handcart to the local grocery store uphill both ways. No. You also started eating out less, you started bringing mason jar salads to work three days a week, you cut out that bowl of ice cream you were eating every night and now you hit the gym on your way home from work every day. Not to say there aren’t unique selling-points or potential metabolic changes in response to various, specific diets, but overall diets work when followed because you’ve made a number of behavior modifications, usually ending in a caloric deficit leading to weight loss.Diets work b/c behavior modifications result in a calorie deficit. Click To Tweet
It isn’t just “one thing” that makes a diet successful. It was never just “one thing.” It’s heightened self-awareness and a whole conglomeration of choices that gave you the results you wanted.
So What Diet Should You Choose?
In my opinion, I don’t believe you have to choose one specific diet to follow religiously. Instead, I find that creating an overall, sustainable healthy dietary pattern that aligns with your values and is sustainable for a lifetime breeds the best long-term success. Specifically, I have a method of teaching meal planning without the labels (although it works for those who prefer vegetarianism, veganism, gluten-free, or dairy-free) which is why I created my Total Fad Fix eCourse.
I prefer to teach principles and avoid food rules because:
- They often lead to a guilt-shame cycle which can damage your relationship with food and your body.
- Food rules often result in overeating, cheat days, and potentially binge eating which can lead to later restriction, excessive exercise or even purging.
- They’re frequently not sustainable.
You may or may not be aware that 20-25% of chronic dieters develop a partial or full-blown eating disorder, and that anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any mental illness. My past experience treating eating disorders has given me a sensitive approach to my weight loss methods.
You are free to choose a specific, strict diet or any pattern you please! Every body is different and may respond differently to different dietary compositions. What’s important is identifying how you feel and how what you choose aligns with your values. In the coming weeks I’ll be rolling out my installments of diet reviews, “Is the ______ diet right for you?” We’ll review the evidence or lack of evidence for each, possible benefits, potential nutritional deficiencies or dangers for each and when appropriate, how you can make it meet your nutritional needs if a risk of deficiency exists.
Many different roads can lead to “healthy!” I hope to help you identify what might work best for you and clear the air on where the evidence does and doesn’t stand on the trendiest of diets!
What are your thoughts on diet discipleship?
Is there a specific diet you hope I’ll review? Share with me below!
Disclosures: None. This post was not created in partnership with any product or brand.