Are There Side Effects to Dieting? An Ann Arbor Holistic Nutritionist Explains Diet Backlash

Updated: 4 days ago

Diet Backlash

If you are anything like I was in the past, you've probably tried a diet or two (or ten). But something strange started happening. Maybe you started feeling frustrated with the rigid diet rules and wonder if you will always have to eat that way. Or you've noticed that despite getting back on the diet that worked for you before, you're just not reaping the same results. Or no matter how hard you try to stick without exercise routine, punishing yourself for the food you ate the night before is really starting to wear on your mental health.

According to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, diet backlash is "the cumulative side effect of dieting".

Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Having little trust in yourself with or around food.

  • The mere contemplation of a diet triggers cravings for food that will soon be "off-limits".

  • Feeling that you don't deserve to eat because of your weight.

  • Post-diet overeating or binges, resulting in feelings of guilt and shame.

  • Shortened diet duration-every new weight loss attempt gets shorter and shorter...

  • Social withdrawal: turning down social events, since its harder to stay on track.

  • Every new diet attempt is preceded by consuming foods you "will never eat again".

  • (The last supper mentality)

  • ​Sluggish metabolism- caloric intake gets lower and lower with no change.

  • ​Using caffeine to survive the day.

  • Poor Body Image and Self Esteem.

I am pretty familiar and experienced every single one of those symptoms myself, so I GET it.

The problem is with the toxic diet culture, promoting a thin or fit ideal and profiting off of people's insecurities. The diet industry is a 60 billion dollar a year industry...and it doesn't work. Can you imagine any other industry out there with a 95% failure rate and still profit in the BILLIONS each year?! They do that because it has been ingrained in us, that when we "fall off the wagon" of the latest diet we've tried, WE are to blame. WE are the failure when in fact-it's the diet that failed us. It wasn't sustainable. It was too restrictive. It cut out nutrient-dense food groups. It told us we couldn't enjoy our best friend's wedding cake or that authentic Italian meal on date night.

On top of that, we are so desperate to fit a certain standard based on the messages have received throughout our life. We lose the sacred connection with our own intuition and body wisdom. We lose sight of our health because we become so focused on a number on a scale.

Here is what else we know about Dieting:

  1. Dieting is associated with greater weight gain and increased rates of binge eating

  2. 95% of all dieters regain their lost weight within 1-5 years

  3. In a large study of 14– and 15-year-olds, dieting was the most important predictor of a developing eating disorder. Those who dieted moderately were 5x more likely to develop an eating disorder, and those who practiced extreme restriction were 18x more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who did not diet.

  4. Those who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as those who don’t diet.

  5. 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting and that 20-25% of those individuals develop eating disorders.

But what if I need to be on a diet because I'm "overweight" or "obese"??

Understandable question. But now don't we know that dieting is clearly not the solution? Let'stalk about some myths related to weight and health.

Myth Number 1: A person cannot be both “overweight” and healthy.

Reality: Health has more to do with levels of physical activity than it does with weight.

Resource: Gaesser, G., & Blair, S. (2011).Big fat lies: The truth about your weight and your health. ReadHowYouWant. com.

Myth Number 2: The Body Mass Index (BMI) is the most accurate indicator of a person’s health.

Reality: The BMI is simply a ratio of a persons height and weight, does not differentiate between fat and muscle, and was developed by an astronomer in the 1830s because he was interested in observing “norms” based on the bell curve. The measurement had nothing to do with body fat, mortality, or disease.

Resource: Oliver, J. E. (2006). Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic. (pp. 16-22). New York: Oxford University Press.

Myth Number 3: Diabetes and heart disease are caused by “obesity.”

Reality: “Obesity” is not the cause of specific illnesses. The scientific reality is that genes and lifestyle choices play a greater role than weight in the development of all diseases generally associated with weight, including diabetes and heart disease

Resource: Bacon, L., & Aphramor, L. (2011). Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift.Nutrition Journal,10(1), 9.

Dangers of Dieting

Those myths are just the tip of the iceberg. I completely understand that you may be side-eyeing me as you read it. I felt the same way! How could that even be possible when we have been taught from day one that diets will solve all of our problems. That we will be happy, accepted, and healthy, but the cat is officially out of the bag! Dieting does none of those things. Instead, it causes harm, puts as at risk for unhealthy behaviors, and disordered eating, can cause metabolic damage and is a predictor of future weight gain.

Because of my own experience with dieting and ordered eating and the negative health outcomes associated with it, I have always been purposeful with my message and practiced a health-focused approach with my clients. No gimmicks, quick fixes, restrictive diet plans- simply education, tools and mindfulness to support their whole-health journey.

If you are interested in a health-focused approach to reaching your goals and addressing your health concerns, I am a HAES informed practitioner and would be happy to chat in a free 20-minute call. Book it here.



Bacon, L., & Aphramor, L. (2011). Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutrition journal, 10(1), 9.


Gaesser, G., & Blair, S. (2011).Big fat lies: The truth about your weight and your health. ReadHowYouWant. com.

Oliver, J. E. (2006). Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic. (pp. 16-22). New York: Oxford University Press.

Statistics & Research on Eating Disorders. (2020, May 08). Retrieved June 20, 2020, from

Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012).Intuitive eating. Macmillan.


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