What Is The Diet Cycle & How Does It Work?

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The diet cycle, often called the yo-yo dieting phenomenon, has plagued individuals seeking to achieve weight loss goals for decades. It involves the repetitive pattern of following restrictive diets, experiencing short-term weight loss, and subsequently regaining the lost weight or even gaining more weight back. This cycle can have negative consequences on both physical and mental health. However, with the right point of view and mindset, it is possible to break free from this detrimental cycle and adopt sustainable dietary habits that promote long-term health and well-being.

Understanding the Diet Cycle

The diet cycle typically starts with the motivation to lose weight quickly. Individuals often resort to highly restrictive diets severely limiting calorie intake or eliminating entire food groups. While these approaches may result in initial weight loss, they are challenging to maintain over time due to their unsustainability and lack of variety.

Once the individual reaches their weight loss goal or becomes exhausted by the restrictive diet, they often return to their previous eating habits. This rebound effect leads to weight regain and feelings of frustration and guilt. As a result, they embark on a new diet, perpetuating the diet cycle.

Reasons Behind the Diet Cycle

There are several reasons why people fall into the diet cycle. Firstly, societal pressure and unrealistic body standards can contribute to the desire for quick fixes and rapid weight loss. Media, advertisements, and social media often promote fad diets that promise miraculous results without considering the long-term consequences.

Moreover, the diet industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry that profits from people’s insecurities and desires for a quick solution. This industry perpetuates the diet cycle by promoting new diets and products regularly, creating a sense of urgency and false hope.

Psychological factors also play a significant role in the diet cycle. Emotional eating, stress, and a lack of self-esteem can lead individuals to turn to food for comfort, triggering the cycle of restrictive eating followed by binge eating.

Breaking the Diet Cycle

To break free from the diet cycle and establish a sustainable approach to health, it is crucial to adopt a long-term mindset and prioritize overall well-being over short-term weight loss goals. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Shift to a sustainable eating pattern: Instead of following rigid diets, focus on establishing a balanced and nutritious eating pattern that you can maintain in the long run. Choose whole, unprocessed foods, and include a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats in your meals.
  2. Practice mindful eating: Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Eat slowly and savor each bite, allowing yourself to enjoy the eating experience truly. This point of view can help prevent overeating and promote a healthier relationship with food.
  3. Build a positive relationship with exercise: Instead of viewing exercise as a punishment for overeating or a means to burn calories, find physical activities you genuinely enjoy. Engage in regular exercise to improve your overall fitness and well-being rather than solely focusing on weight loss.
  4. Seek support: Surround yourself with an encouraging network of friends, family, or professionals who can provide guidance, encouragement, and accountability. Think about working with a registered dietitian or therapist who can help you navigate your relationship with food and develop healthy habits.
  5. Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself all over the journey. Remember that difficulties are a normal part of any process, and it’s important to forgive yourself and move forward. Cultivate a positive body image and focus on the non-physical benefits of a healthy lifestyle, such as increased energy and improved mood.

The diet cycle is a vicious cycle that can be mentally and physically exhausting. However, with a shift in mindset and a commitment to sustainable habits, breaking free from this cycle and establishing a healthier relationship with food and body is possible. Emphasize long-term health and well-being over short-term weight loss goals, practice mindful eating, engage in enjoyable physical activities, seek support, and practice self-compassion throughout the journey. Remember, small, consistent changes can lead to significant long-term results. By adopting a sustainable approach, you can achieve lasting health and well-being while bidding farewell to the diet cycle.

Here we discuss this with Jessica, a dietician, to get her thoughts on this topic.

NourishDoc: Hello, everyone, and happy Thursday. Friday’s almost there. All of us are obsessed with diet. I know. I have been in the past. Not anymore. But what exactly is diet culture? Why are we as a society so obsessed with it? Well, that’s what we want to understand, and Jessica is here with me. Dispelling this whole myth and idea of diving. Jessica is a registered dietitian. She focuses on educating all of us on her Instagram account about diet culture. Thank you so much, Jessica, for joining me on a great topic.

Dietician Jessica: Thank you for having me.

What Do We Understand By Diet Cycle & Diet Culture?

NourishDoc: Let’s understand this diet cycle and the culture we talk about.

Dietician Jessica: So diet culture is everywhere. It’s our friends, and our family members, on social media, and it’s telling us that being skinnier is better; skinnier means you’re morally superior. That culture that worships thinness could be more realistic; we could all eat the same things and exercise the same amount. Our bodies will still look different, and we’ll all have different shapes and sizes. So, we want to dispel that diet culture and help people learn to accept how they look and be comfortable in their bodies.

What Does A Diet Cycle Look Like?

NourishDoc: So, yeah, you are absolutely right, and the thing is all, everyone else they’ll put post the most beautiful picture of them themselves and not post something real. So, you think everyone else is having a great time, and here you are, a little bit fat or things going out of whack. So, let’s understand, how do you break this diet cycle? It’s not just the food but also the mindset, right? How do you put it out so that I can eat according to what I am supposed to eat?

Dietician Jessica: So, yeah, to break down what that diet cycle looks like. So, a natural diet is usually cutting out a food or food group or just restricting your intake. So, when you do that, follow a diet; you’re following that restriction. You start to feel deprived; you might become obsessed with food if you need to be more. You might feel tired and sluggish, but you will be physically, mentally, and emotionally stressed.

It’s going to trigger your brain to tell you you need to eat, eat more food, and eventually, you’ll give in to that because your brain will overpower you and tell you this is more important. You’re starving. It would help if you ate, and then, generally, what we see whenever someone’s coming from a period of restriction, whether it’s a day a month, is they tend to overeat or sometimes even binge-eat. Then the cycle continues because they start to feel shame that they did binge or feel guilty that they couldn’t stick to this diet.

That out-of-control feeling spirals them right back into a new diet or restarting the old diet; we’ve all heard that diet starts Monday. So, it’s just tapping into another restriction period, so we know that diets don’t work long-term. So much research says we need to look at more long-term data. A lot of the research does say, oh, yeah, improved diabetes or improved heart disease or blood pressure due to weight loss.

It’s not usually the weight loss that is improving it. It’s the behaviors that are probably contributing to the weight loss, like exercise and healthy eating, so I try to take the focus off of the weight and more onto those behaviors for people to make their kind of and follow those and find what works for them instead of having this diet dictated to them to tell them what they can and can’t eat or what they should be doing.

Tips For Overweight People

NourishDoc: So that’s great, but someone who is a little bit overweight, not obese, but a little bit overweight. What do you suggest not to restrict themselves but maybe up their exercise? Talk to us a bit like that, but because many people nowadays have some issue, either a health ailment or some kind of overweight, especially in the United States if you look at the data, right? What is the message to them?

Dietician Jessica: So yeah, I mean my message there is, again, that those studies that show that diabetes, whatever conditions are going to improve with weight loss, those studies are typically only six months to a year, sometimes two years. So, we’re not looking at long term, and that’s why just getting back to diets don’t work because they’re too restrictive long term.

So, you are someone who identifies as being overweight or fat. In that case, I always encourage remembering the number on the scale and looking at what you’re doing. Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables? Are you getting in movement every day? Are you getting enough sleep at night? Whenever we lack sleep, we lose control of those hunger hormones, which can wreak havoc on our system.

Stress is another big one. Cortisol is our stress hormone, and when that is high, it’s going to typically be very difficult to lose any weight, so focusing instead on how I can improve X, Y, and Z instead of just focusing on that number on the scale and always, you want to be getting your regular blood work, meeting with your primary care provider. For clients I work with, I always tell them it’s more important to have good numbers on the lab side of things, like, good heart rate, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugars, versus having that ideal number they want on the scale.

Healthy Plate & Lifestyle is More Beneficial

NourishDoc: Okay, so, the focus is eating right, that’s what I’m understanding, the healthy plate, what we are doing and then supplementing that, of course, complementing that with the proper exercise, proper sleep, not having too much stress, and the combination of all that is not just only the food but the other things that combined. So, you’re talking about advocating a healthy lifestyle rather than just eating wrong or right. That’s what I’m understanding.

Dietician Jessica: Absolutely. So, that lifestyle change kind of thinking, one step at a time, making gradual changes; maybe you’re someone who’s hates vegetables, or you think you hate vegetables, trying a new one every week, seeing different ways to season it, to cook it, pair it with different foods, that would be a small step, kind of working towards increasing fruits and vegetables in your diet, exercise. If you’re not currently active, I always recommend starting just walking.

I’m here in the Northeast, where we’re finally starting to taste that spring weather, so we have to go outside and get that vitamin D. Small gradual changes, like you, said lifestyle changes we need to make those gradual, more gradual instead of an extreme of, okay, well, I’m going to cut out this, this, and this. That’s going to be short-term.

NourishDoc: Absolutely, and then, anything else you like to add? This is a quick ten-minute session that we bring daily to advocate a holistic lifestyle. That’s exactly what you are advocating. Not only the diet part, the exercise, the stress, and the sleep. So, it’s a holistic lifestyle. That would help all of us to live happier and healthier life in the long term.

Dietician Jessica: Yep, yes, the way I work with clients, we focus on nutrition, but they all play a part in working together to achieve optimal health.

NourishDoc: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Jessica, for being with us this morning, and to everyone else, keep supporting us. We are coming up with our app and platform by the end of this month, so stay tuned and keep supporting us. Have a great rest of the week, everyone. Thank you, and thank you, Jessica. Bye


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