Why I won’t promote diet for weight loss

If you heard about a “healthy lifestyle” diet being touted as the latest and greatest between 2000 and 2015, I have probably tried it. You name it, I’ve done it: Keto, Atkins, low-sugar, low-carb, and Paleo plus all the big-name calorie-counting apps. They all worked for the short-term, but ultimately, my weight always rebounded and I ended up heavier than I started and even more discouraged.

I found that my moods were directly tied to what my scale told me in the morning. I started unhealthy habits like postponing meals and exercising on an empty stomach. I would count calories and adjust portion sizes during the day, and binge eats at night because I was so hungry. My metabolism was off. I felt sluggish and tired all the time.

After years of this, I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I started doing some research and found that most people who dieted like me saw the same disappointing results. My rollercoaster of weight fluctuation had me suffering emotionally and mentally as well. I felt remorse when I ate “forbidden” foods. I felt shame about how I looked. I felt guilty when I “fell off” my diet.

I also realized that I was not practicing what I was preaching in my professional life. As a chef, I am an advocate for cooking with fresh whole foods to promote a healthy lifestyle, and I’ve dedicated my career to bringing joy to people’s lives through food. Why, then, was I depriving myself of that same joy?

During this time, I came across a study that helped me understand what was happening to me (and so many others!) and gave me some strategies to improve myself. Nutrition experts and researchers Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch wrote a case study called (ironically enough) Intuitive Eating, that really resonated with me. In a nutshell, their work states that diet culture has created a shame mentality, with food as the enemy. When you make peace with food, your mind changes its thinking process, and you lose the compulsive behaviors you had while living the diet. They encourage you to eat what you want but to listen to your body for guidance.

Instead of trying to maintain an overly strict diet, I started eating things I enjoy again. I LOVE bread and I had gone years depriving myself of it but no more! The difference was I now paid attention to how my body felt during and after I ate. I ate when I was hungry, but I stopped before I got too full. By choosing delicious, whole foods, and listening to my body, I stopped binge eating. My metabolism improved. I started enjoying meals. I was motivated to try simple exercises and found that it was fun. Most importantly, my war with food ended.

For these reasons, I will not promote a diet to lose weight. I believe that the weight loss diet culture is a high stakes industry that creates doubt and shame for millions of people. It is also a direct avenue for the creation of eating disorders.

Instead, I feel strongly that food should be cherished and respected. It is an integral part of our lifeblood, but it’s so much more than that; it’s what defines cultures, brings families together, piques our senses, and makes us feel whole. So let’s celebrate everything that we bring to our tables for the sustenance of the mind, spirit, and bodies.