As a non-diet RD to be, I strongly believe that weight loss diets are not ethical. Here’s why:
You go see an RD who calculates your approximate caloric needs. They look at your daily food log and calculate the calories you are consuming each day. Consuming fewer calories than you burn typically leads to weight loss. Thus, you are assigned a calorie limit to induce weight loss. If you’re not counting calories, maybe you’re taught portion control, good vs. bad foods, etc. — all methods of controlling your intake to be less than what you currently consume.
Now I know weight loss is entirely more complicated than that. But stick with me on this.
The goal of weight loss counseling is to lose weight (duh). You step on the scale every so often. Over time, you see the scale go down. You get these hits of positivity when you see the scale go down. Your hard work produced results. You feel good about yourself. You’re in control.
These hits of positivity may continue for awhile. Maybe you’re one of the 5% of people who keep the weight off after going on a diet.
But when you consistently rely on the scale to feel good about yourself, you are no longer in control of the scale. The scale is in control of you.
You now need the scale to show a certain number in order to feel good about yourself. Any weight gain, and those hits of positivity are gone. This is diet culture.
Losing weight will not solve your problems.
The truth is, pursuing weight loss will not going to solve all of life’s problems, make you feel more comfortable in your body, or drastically improve your life. It will not solve any negative emotions you are experiencing. It will not improve your self-esteem, body image, or self-confidence.
What weight loss diets WILL do is keep you tied to the scale. They will keep you believing that you’re not enough unless you weigh a certain amount. They’ll drain you of all of your energy – energy that could be spent on doing more valuable things.
Pursuing weight loss covers up the heart of the problem.
When we get to the root our desire for weight loss, it is never actually about our bodies. Diet culture has taught us that we will have more success, love, and happiness if only we weighed less. We’ve bought into the idea that manipulating our weight is an effective way to deal with negative emotions. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Instead of changing our bodies, we need to change our thoughts and beliefs. Changing your thoughts and beliefs – the ones that are holding you back from truly feeling good about yourself – will help improve your self-image and self-esteem. Developing a positive self-image starts from identifying those limiting beliefs and understanding that you don’t have to accept them anymore.
When you continue to believe that your body is wrong, you’ll continue to turn to weight loss as a way to deal with life’s problems. When you change your beliefs and understand that weight loss will not solve life’s problems, you can actually tackle your problems head on. You don’t need to cover them up anymore. You can deal with those negative emotions, in a healthy and reasonable way.
That can be hard.
I get that. Covering things up by blaming your body may help you temporarily deal with things in the short-term. But manipulating your body will not make you feel better about yourself in the long-term. Your problems will still be there. As a culture, we need to learn how to deal with negative emotions, without turning to food.
Micromanaging your body size will not make you happy. If you lose weight as a result of greater self-care, then cool. But the goal isn’t to lose weight. The goal is greater self-care.