Ashley Larsen, RDN has 10 years of nutrition and wellness experience specializing in empowering individuals to make permanent healthy lifestyle changes. Find inspiration for healthy living on her blog “Living with Nutrition“. For help with weight management, contact Ashley Larsen, RDN Nutrition Consulting.
The Science Behind Diet Culture
By Ashley Larsen, RDN
In our world today it seems we can’t flip channels, look at a magazine or scroll through social media without seeing something about the newest miracle diet. There is a lot of dieting information floating around which can make it very confusing on who and what to listen to. We count calories and then feel guilty when we fall off the wagon. All of this obsession over diets and body image, but is it doing us any good?
Dieting is defined as “to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.” Do diets help us lose weight? Yes, when we consume less calories than we burn the result is weight loss. However, the majority of people who diet aren’t successful at maintaining the weight loss and usually don’t learn healthy sustainable habits. Diets can not only cause us to gain our weight back plus more, they also tear down our confidence and self-worth. When a diet is not successful, we have the tendency to beat ourselves up and place blame on ourselves for not having enough willpower. The truth is, there are many reasons that diets don’t work for the long term that have nothing to do with willpower.
Every generation of humans has experienced some kind of famine or food shortage, and we know that is happening around our world even today. Our bodies are designed to survive times of starvation. When we go on a diet for a sustainable amount of time (>2 weeks), our body does not know we are intentionally restricting food to lose weight. Therefore, our body slows our metabolism, triggers hunger and stores as much energy as possible. The scientific term for this is called adaptive thermogenesis. Also, when we restrict food, ever notice that all you think about is food? Food deprivation is known to cause cravings and overeating. A great example is a study done of 103 college students who were assigned to be chocolate deprived, vanilla deprived or non deprived. The chocolate deprived eaters consumed more chocolate than any other group. So during restrictive dieting, we have the biological response that slows down metabolism and also the psychological response that increases food cravings. These are some of the reasons weight loss slows down over time and is difficult to maintain.
So, if dieting doesn’t work, what’s the answer to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight? Research shows that we can reach and maintain a healthy weight if we eat a variety of foods, eat when we are hungry, stop when we are comfortably satisfied and participate in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise per week. However, this is not as easy as it sounds. Many of us are out of touch or ignore hunger and satiety cues and often eat for reasons other than hunger. Also, the thought of eating freely can be scary so the food restrictions continue which leads to the overeating (remember the college students?). Major lifestyle revamping must take place such as planning meals, shopping healthier and eating regularly in order to make the best food choices.
When attempting to make lifestyle changes, you want to make sure your information is coming from a credible source. For trusted, science based nutrition information translated into safe weight loss and healthy lifestyle recommendations, seek the expert help of a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). All dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians. See graphic 1.1 to know the difference. RD’s in nutrition counseling and coaching settings have the time to spend with you to help you overcome barriers and make an individualized plan. If you need help with weight management, you can contact me Ashley Larsen, RDN Nutrition Consulting private practice with 10 years of nutrition and wellness experience that specializes in empowering individuals to make permanent healthy lifestyle changes. You can view more information about my practice and get inspiration for healthy living on my blog “Living With Nutrition” all located at www.AshleyLarsenNutrition.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your path to a healthier you can start today, with the right guidance you can start making those small but impactful lifestyle changes.
Join us live on Instagram when Ashley takes us grocery shopping on Friday, 4/20/18.