So, I may have mentioned that I’m kind of a nerd…ok fine, I’m a huge nerd, and I get really nerdy over science and medical research.  I also love the show Mythbusters.  So today, I want to drop some science and do a little myth busting of my own.  I want to bust one big fat myth in particular; that diets/dieting works.  Because ya know what? It DOESN’T!

That’s right, Diets. Don’t. Work.

A 2007 study published in American Psychology found that

 “You can initially lose 5 to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back.  We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people…In addition, the studies do not provide consistent evidence that dieting results in significant health improvements, regardless of weight change. In sum, there is little support for the notion that diets lead to lasting weight loss or health benefits.” (emphasis mine)

In fact, they found that NOT dieting in the first place is better for your health

” We concluded most of them would have been better off not going on thediet at all. Their weight would be pretty much the same, and their bodies wouldnot suffer the wear and tear from losing weight and gaining it all back.”

Another study from 1999 states that while the initial data shows that 60-80% of people keep the weight off for up to one year, almost all go on to gain back all weight lost within 3-5 years.  Another study from 1992 backs that up with this conclusion,

“…participants who remain in weight loss programs usually lose approximately 10% of their weight. However, one third to two thirds of the weight is regained within 1 year, and almost all is regained within 5 years.”

This article, which references a 2007 study following Weigh Watchers participants, explains that

each year only about 6% of Weight Watchers members (give or take) reached their goal weight(presumably 94% failed)…or about two out of a thousand Weight Watchers participants who reached goal weight stayed there for more than five years.”

That’s not exactly a great record for one of the most popular diet programs in America.

So why are programs like WW still so popular?  Well, in part, because the only information that is shared (and easy to find) about them is the stories of their most successful participants.  We never hear about that 94% that fail to lose weight, or to maintain any weight loss.  This isn’t by accident.  The diet industry stands to lose a 65 billion dollar profit if people stop falling for their crap.

All of these numbers make me wonder about the overall mental health of Americans.  After all, Einstein said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Yet Americans try again and again , trying diet after diet, pill after unsafe pill, and even resorting to frighteningly dangerous surgery in an effort to lose weight…all to no avail.

Not only do I worry for our sanity re: repeated dieting, but I worry about the mental toll that all of this fat-shaming and guilt takes on us.  The studies show that being shamed for being fat, being unhappy with our weight, and feeling like a failure for gaining/not losing weight is actually worse for our health than being fat!

It’s time to start asking for evidence to back up the diet industry’s claims.  It’s time to quit the vicious cycle and learn how to work with, not against, our bodies.  It’s time to start preaching self-care, self-love, and acceptance of ourselves and others.  It’s time to STOP body-shaming, and start body LOVING!

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