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The Dangers of Diet Culture: Diets don't work, it's not your fault

Weight loss is one of the top resolutions. So, we’re diving into why we fail at diets, why our culture is obsessed with thinness and how we can improve body image.

TEMPLE, Texas — As weight loss continues to be one of the top New Year’s resolutions, we’re diving into why we fail at diets, why our culture is so obsessed with thinness and how we can improve our body image. 

6 News Anchor Leslie Draffin is also opening up about her own struggles with dieting and eating disorders as she interviews health experts about ways we can move toward better health without focusing on the number on the scale.

In the first of a multi-part special series of the segment Your Best Life, we explore why diets fail and why it's not our willpower that's to blame.

The Boston Medical Center says approximately 45 million Americans go on a diet every year and Draffin is usually one of them. But in July 2021, after spending twenty years suffering from eating disorders or overly focused on dieting, she was fed up. Then she read a book that changed her life. 

Author Alissa Rumsey says, “diets do not work. And that's very, very clear through the research when it comes to intentional weight loss. Ninety to 97% of people will regain the weight that they lost within two to five years." 

Rumsey is a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor. In her book, Unapologetic Eating she writes that we fail at diets because our bodies are trying to keep us alive.

"This is not because it's a person's lack of willpower or their lack of self-control,” Rumsey says. “This is a biological thing, like, this is their body trying to survive."

According to Rumsey, your body doesn't know you want to lose ten pounds to fit into those old jeans from high school. When you start restricting your food intake, it thinks you're in a famine and it wants to live. So it slows down your metabolism, makes you hyper focused on foods in hopes you'll actually eat something and when you do, it holds onto excess weight in case you decide to starve it again.

In a 2020 UK study of 14 popular diets, researchers found some of the 22-thousand people studied did see positive changes in their weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in the first six months. But after a year, those positive changes largely disappeared.

Nutrition Therapist and author Elyse Resch has been preaching this message since the 1990s. “Diets simply don't work. They don't work because they create deprivation first of all and anytime we are deprived of something that's all we can think about and all we want, but even more foundational than that, is that they take away one's autonomy. Diets tell you from an outside source, what to eat, how much, when to eat, and have no regard for your own personal boundaries."

Resch co-wrote Intuitive Eating with Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietician-Supervisor Evelyn Tribole. The book has sold over half a million copies and helps people make peace with food, free themselves from chronic dieting and rediscover the pleasures of eating. 

Resch says, “people don't question their height. They don't try to change it, they accept it, but they tend not to accept that their weight is just what they're meant to be."

Both she and Rumsey actively take an anti-diet approach in their teachings. They say this begins with rejecting dieting and learning to reconnect with your body. They call it a revolution.

According to Rumsey, it “takes the focus off of weight when it comes to health, so it really encourages overall health and wellbeing rather than a focus on weight or size reduction. It's also a movement that holds that all human beings are worthy of respect. No matter what size of their body, no matter if they're healthy or not."

Tune in for this special 5-part series as Leslie Draffin dissects diet culture, body image and our obsession with thinness, Wednesdays at 5 pm on KCEN.

If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a list of books & resources.

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
Helpline: 1-800-931-2237

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