Friday, July 10, 2015

Why Diets Don't Work

Why haven't I seen this TED Talk until today? Nueroscientist Sandra Aamodt discusses why diets don't work, set point range, and how yo yo dieting can lead to binge eating, weight gain, and even eating disorders. The brain responds to weight loss by going into starvation mode, much like what happens with an eating disorder.

Just this morning while I was getting dressed, I was having one of those destructive and just plain awful body image days.

Why are some days more difficult than others when it comes to my weight?
 How can I be three years out of treatment and still have bad body image days?
 Is this normal or am I abnormal?
 Why do I suddenly feel worthy, confident, and ready to face the day when I feel "thin?"

In all honesty, these bad body image days still make me want to diet even though I know nothing good will come if I begin to restrict calories. Like in the TED Talk, science has proven messing with our metabolism and going against hunger cues can actually lead to binge eating and ultimately a higher set point weight. While I was in treatment, I remember being terrified of my set point weight. To make things worse, if I ever decided to lose weight again and go below my current set point, the body will adjust by raising that set point, making me heavier in the long run. This has been a good incentive to maintain the set point weight my treatment team has given me (even though I hate it sometimes).

So how do we achieve this magical state of "mindful eating" described in the video? It's discouraging Dr. Aamodt spent an entire year working at this before she finally felt as though she reached a steady mindful eating pattern and she's never even had an eating disorder.

It sounds simple enough - eat when you're hungry, eat the foods your body craves, and stop when full.
 So why do so many of us struggle with this?
When did it become so difficult to listen to our bodies? 

Dr. Aamodt suggests we take the time to sit down to regular meals and slowly begin to figure out what makes the body feel good. Avoid distractions and try to think of eating as a time of nourishment rather than making it a numbers game. One of my favorite statements from this clip is, "If diets worked, we'd all be thin already." Why do we keep doing the same thing, while expecting different results? 

A shocking eighty percent of ten year old girls say they have been on a diet. As a society, we are taught to measure worth on the wrong scale.

I really like Dr. Aamodt's idea of refocusing the willpower we use to diet and restrict calories, and using that energy to better ourselves intellectually. Rather than focusing all of my energy on body image, I could be using that energy to ace my next big paper or rebuilding lost relationships. Sounds like a much better use of time and energy, doesn't it?

Suddenly, my bad body image day doesn't seem quite so bad.
Maybe I can face the day without silly diet thoughts, after all.



  1. This is powerful. I have never struggled with an eating disorder, but know this must be difficult. Body image and dieting are a part of our society. Please stay strong and keep writing as you pursue a healthier body image.

  2. I really enjoyed what Dr. Aamodt shared. It's so hard to shut my brain off and listen to my body. The more I practice it, the better I get. But, surely, I can't do this alone. I need support and to hear it. So glad that I came here today! Thank you <3

    1. Hope you are hanging in there! Please email me at and we can chat. Sorry I was distant for so long. Need this blog to been sane. xoxoxo <3