Why diets make us fat.

The promise we rarely keep.

You made a promise to yourself, maybe more than one. Inches to lose, bad habits to break, better ones to form. How’s it all going? Or, like many of us, did you give up?
I know, we rarely stick to our resolve. In fact, we almost expect to fail, after all we’re only human. 
Why is that? Are we so weak? Didn’t want it badly enough?

Or, and this is deep, is there something buried in our subconscious that refuses to let go? Did we say we couldn’t when deep down we meant we wouldn’t?
Getting fitter, leaner or healthier or just looking ‘damn fine’ in our jeans is often at the top of the list of goals we set ourselves at the beginning of each year. Right?
We must want it? It’s on our to-do list every year? And yet, it’s not too long before, we’re telling ourselves, just one more slither… Why?

 

You’re in good company.

Oprah’s Network (OWN) has something called the SuperSoul Sessions. Live talks where Oprah invites notable and inspirational people to speak. It’s a bit like a TED talk, but as only Oprah can do it. Recently, Oprah herself gave a talk on her life-long struggle with her weight.
Openly, as is her appeal, she discussed her battle and the ups and downs of the scales and an eventual turning point that changed everything.
Oprah sprained her ankle. Immobilised for a few weeks, gave her an excuse to eat, and eat. Mindlessly eat. That little voice in her head told her it was okay.

17 pounds later and defeated, like a message from above, Weight Watchers called.

Another diet? Another chance? Well, perhaps, but it was time for Oprah to level up with why she’s never managed to keep the weight at bay.
Oprah posed a question to herself.
What do you want? Who are you?
Her soul-searching answer? You’re not your hair, or your thighs or the size of your jeans. Oprah’s knew her weight loss needed to start in her head not how many calories or points she’d be allowed to consume today.  Her attitude to her weight and the mental struggle to be skinny had begun. 

 

Oprah’s not fat, and neither are you.

Oprah is an amazing, talented woman who looks, at the age of 62, beautiful and ageless. But, Oprah can’t see that. What does Oprah see?  Only the weight or the size of her arms or what she can wear that will accentuate her positives. 
Before embarking on her ambassadorship with Weight Watchers, Oprah amusingly, but poignantly talked about being grateful for the body that had carried her through life, but she was now happy to let go of quite a few of the pounds that had carried her through her 62 years. 
None of us can see, truly see, how beautiful we are. I’m not kidding nor am I trying to placate us all with meaningless platitudes about how we’re all beautiful on the inside. Yeah, whatever! Maybe, maybe not. But sadly and truly, none of us, skinny, fat, beautiful, clever, smart, amazing, or whatever redeeming quality you have.
We’re blind to it. None of us are happy with how we look. None of us!
I include the likes of Kim Kardashian in this collective statement. Clearly, if she was happy she’d stop with the cosmetic surgery and if we were happy we’d all stop looking at her, Right?

 

diets make us fatDiets make us fat.

So today I want to acknowledge, a simple truth. How we think about our body and the diets we follow make us fat. Who of us at some point hasn’t been on a diet to lose weight? I certainly have. But, for many of us, like Oprah, the results are fleeting, no sooner have we reached our perfect size and bam, back come the cravings for the foods we shouldn’t eat. Why is that?
Some say, no matter how successful your diet, you’ll  always regain the weight. Why is that? Why, why, why?
Of course, you and I know why. We relax our eating habits again; we make excuses for our indulgences. We reward ourselves with food for the victory of losing weight! Yep, that’s weird, right?
Sadly the dismissive self-talk goes on long after these indiscretions. Yep, not so good. We quietly berate ourselves. We look at our reflection and send an unwanted negative message to our subconscious mind about of body.
It goes something like this. “You can never lose weight”, or “See, I knew it would all come back” or, ‘Why are you so weak?”
Or, we feel miserable at the glimpse of our rear view in the change room, you name the boutique or department store, we’ve all been there at some point. Fat or skinny. We berate ourselves for what we did or didn’t do. Why’d you have to eat that bowl of ice cream, why didn’t you go to the gym this morning. We break promises we made to ourselves, which makes this whole situation even worse. None of this could ever be good for our self-esteem. Could it?

 

Tacked, head on.

And so to the idea. Why diets make us fat. A new book. Yes, I know, another diet book. Well, yes, but there was something about this book that caught my attention. The idea that our subconscious brain, not our willpower or lack of it sends us back to the cookie jar.

Our brain fights our weight loss!! Our body in an effort to fend off future starvation, demands the weight be returned. Or so says Sandra Aamodt in her new book: Why diets make us fat.

Yep, our brain or subconscious mind fights to keep us at what Aamodt calls our defendable weight. The weight our body is comfortable with, the weight you will eventually return to. The problem with your defendable weight range? It inches up slowly to match any new weight gain. In other words, If you stay long enough at a particular weight (above what would be considered the ideal weight for you), it eventually becomes your defendable weight. The weight your body fights tooth and nail to keep you at. I know. Not fair!

 

It all makes sense.

We know this, at least at a subconscious level, we certainly know this or if we don’t then, let me ask you this. Doesn’t it make you feel better knowing your weight gain is not because you’re merely weak? Doesn’t the very thought you’re weak manifest itself in a self-fulfilling prophecy of future weight gain? 
I can relate to this idea, on so many levels. Somewhere in my childhood, I began to believe I was fat. I wasn’t, not even slightly! But, as the only girl in the family, with three brothers, I was an easy target for their constant taunting, giving me a life-long belief that I was indeed fat! Not great is it? Nope.
How does this nonsense get planted so firmly in our heads? Perhaps for you, it was someone at school or the stereotype propagated by an unrealistic ideal. When you’re eight, and your mind is wide open and pliable, and your closest role model is Barbie, the stereotype of skinny becomes the ideal.  

 

What would I say to eight-year-old me?

You’re not fat. The words of other’s are simply not true. You’re perfect exactly how you are. 
If you have a child who might be overweight, let it go, their body will work it out, or if they’re being teased, make sure it stops. Because, even if the body works off the fat, the mind, on the other hand, takes a whole lot longer to sort out once the seed is planted. 

My strongest hope is that parents will read the book and realize that expressing anxiety about children’s bodies is not going to make them thinner,” Aamodt  goes on to say, Instead, it’s likely to lead to weight gain and increase the risk of eating disorders.

A new promise.

So here’s the good news. You ARE NOT WEAK. It’s just your body protecting you from imminent starvation. Of course, you’re probably not starving either, but your body can’t be sure.
It will slow down your metabolism until danger (your restrictive diet) has passed and will work steadfastly to return you to the weight range it is defending. So what to do? Well, Sandra Aamodt in her book suggests, avoiding the idea of a diet for weight loss, but rather find a way of eating that promotes your health above all else but not just in the choices you make, but in how you eat.
Mindful eating takes up a large section of her book. As she likes to put it, don’t sleepwalk through dinner.  Avoid situations that promote mindless eating as regularly eating mindlessly leads to eating past the point of fullness leading to irreversible weight gain. 

 

Tackled, head on.

After watching Oprah’s talk, I thought, even though Oprah had made peace with her body shape, that she would probably always be the shape she is. Perhaps for Oprah at this point in her life, (and I hope this is true), losing the weight is no longer as important as accepting herself. She is beautiful. In my opinion, more beautiful now at 62 than she was at 42 or even 32. Is this what ageless beauty means? Looking better as the years pass. Yes, perhaps, but even more so, an acceptance of herself; which is so surprising given her significant talents. But, hey, she’s as human as the rest of us. Here’s Oprah’s talk. 

 

And now you?

Have you had a life-long struggle with your weight that led you to question why? Do you agree that diets make us fat? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or if you liked this article or if you know someone it could help, why not scroll down a bit and share it. 
See you next time,

The Beauty Issue