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Dr. Ezinne Meribe: Here’s Why You Need to Rethink The Restrictive Diets Fad

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Restrictive dieting, according to the Zinnyslifestyle Dictionary, is any meal plan or meal advice that restricts food groups, severely limits your intake and refuses to acknowledge that you are human.

I’d like to state here that the word diet does not mean deprivation or starvation. The free dictionary describes it as ‘limiting food intake to a certain number of calories or to certain foods or food groups’.

Now I know you’ve seen people who promoted such diets and claim that it ‘really’ works. There may even be research to back it up but the truth firstly is that most of the research you see is industry sponsored or skewed research.

Secondly, when the studies on those ‘diets’ are done, and you hear reports like “participants who used this method lost an average of 5kg in one day” (exaggeration mine), what they do not tell you is that the figure represents the following: those who gained weight, those who lost weight and those whose weight did not change while the study was going on.

I can’t count the number of times someone has sent me a message saying, I tried so, so and so and lost weight, but immediately I came off the program, I gained it all back.

Now I know you also know individuals who live by such diets and swear by it – I call those people outliers. Based on Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, these are people who ‘differ from all other members of a particular group or set’ (group/set representing all the people who tried the program).

Now imagine a U-shaped curve with two smaller curves at the bottom; at one extreme of the U-shaped curve are the ones whose weight did not change or who realized early enough that this wasn’t sustainable for real humans and did not bother to stick with it. On the other extreme, you have the ones who swear by it and have lost weight. Inside the curve are the real Gs – you and I *wink*, the ones who tried and failed woefully.
Let’s imagine 100 people participate in this study, how many ‘hero’ outliers do you think we would have?
So, if you ever tried any of these diets, it did not work and you are currently left with even more weight than you started out with – forgive yourself and move on. There is a better way.

It just means you are normal.

Restrictive dieting is not sustainable long-term for majority of the population. At some point, the zeal and energy with which you embraced that plan just fizzles out; maybe from the frustration of constantly having to use your brain energy fighting what to eat and not eat or the fact that you know you just can’t continue like this anymore. It does not recognize your humanity. You literally need to be living in a bubble to pull through on this kind of plan for the rest of your life. Imagine being on a plan that limits you to about 10 food choices – what do you do when you attend events, travel, visit with family?

It also does not consider that in many homes, you are not cooking for yourself alone thus, leaving you in a state of exhaustion and burn out as you don’t have the free will to choose from foods available to you. You are constantly prepping & cooking separate meals for yourself and your family.

Again, carbohydrates are the preferred source of fuel for your brains and central nervous system so if you ever went through a restrictive diet program and felt like you were going to pass out the next minute, like you couldn’t function, like you were about to lose it ‘up there’; this is me saying to you –you are very normal. That ‘diet’ was meant for the outliers.

And because it does not meet your body’s needs, your body being a very wise entity will always look out for itself after such a long period of deprivation and starvation so the next time you see food, you will pounce on it with such reckless abandon that you’d begin to wonder what evil came over you – no such evil visited your abode. Your body was only responding to a stimulus that says – ‘There is famine in the land and now that I see food, it is time to store up for the rainy day, this body does not get much food these days’. This explains why most people who practice restrictive dieting end up gaining even more weight because humans on planet earth were designed to fuel their body with good nutrition. When the diet ends, the body continues to conserve energy so it takes fewer additional calories to regain weight. In other words, the more we diet, the easier it is to gain weight and the more difficult it is to lose.

Simply put, when we go on a restrictive diet, our bodies slow down all of their functions in order to conserve every bit of fuel that comes in – starvation mode. This physiological response actively stores more food as fat in the body during times of under-nourishment to help us survive so the goal – weight loss, never happens.

Finally, these restrictive eating plans were truly not designed to work especially these ones that keep you on a program where you pay monthly without empowering you to tune into your hunger and fullness cues and feed your body with intention. They know you will keep buying especially because they hire the best brains on their advertising team so they creatively sell you an alluring thin ideal that you need to aspire in order to; to be happy, fulfilled and loved. They sell you a dream that you hold on to for life, a dream that will never come to pass while your soul withers in pursuit of thinness.

Our bodies are different, and so the fact that one method program/plan did not work for you even though it worked for hundreds does not make you a loser or a failure and it does not seal your fate either.

When it comes to losing weight or living a healthy lifestyle, your personality plays a huge role in what works for you and what does not. I don’t believe in changing who you are, your taste, your preferences just because you kicked off a new path in life. No need for a 360 degree turn around, if anything it is the quickest way to quit frustrated and then blame yourself for being a loser and a failure.

Focus on ‘behavior remodeling’ and build one habit at a time because most times what got us here in the first place are behaviors not the foods in themselves. Coaching that makes use of a client driven approach may be more beneficial for many of us. Our bodies are different, there may be underlying hormonal issues you have no idea exist and have not checked out; PCOS, thyroid issues etc.

There is no one-size-fits all. You don’t need to starve, cut out food groups or severely restrict calories, in order to get desired results.

Dr. Ezinne Meribe is the host of Beyond A Dress Size podcast; a podcast series that creates stimulating conversations to pull down misconceptions on nutrition, weight loss, health and body diversity while empowering women to live life beyond the numbers on the dress label, scale or tape.She leverages her professional qualifications and personal experience to teach women how to OWN & LOVE their bodies and LIVE in it fabulously; having successfully won the struggle with being overweight and loving her body. A UK certified Wellness Professional, she is a trained Body Positive facilitator who is also certified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). She strongly believes that for many women, the struggle with weight loss is deeper than the presence or absence of food on our plate.She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) with a postgraduate training in Public Health from Kumamoto University, Japan. As a Medical Doctor and Public Health Specialist, she continues to promote preventive medicine as the number one way to combat the severe health system constraints in developing countries. She is a contributing author for BellaNaija and Women of Rubies and her work has also been featured on Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, MetrowomanNg, MumpreneurNg and TheWCommunity.You can connect with her onInstagram @beyondadresssizeFacebook @beyondadresssize Read more on Medium @ezinnemeribeOr send an email to [email protected]

6 Comments

  1. Meee

    May 24, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks Dr Ezinne for this. The famous Keto diet comes to mind immediately. While I know it works and have seen evidence, I have always said it’s not sustainable in the long run. Thank you for mentioning all the instances like staying somewhere else, not having control of the food you are going to eat or having to cook like 2 or 3 different meals because of your ´special diet’? For me, portion control, balanced diet and moderate exercise has always worked.

    • Ezinne

      May 25, 2018 at 1:00 am

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts too.?

  2. Ada Iyoha

    May 25, 2018 at 1:12 am

    Thank you so much Doctor for this. Have learnt so. God Bless you.

  3. Isaid!

    May 25, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Thank you Dr Ezinne. This makes sense to me. I feel less guilty too lol.

  4. Isaid!

    May 25, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Thank you Dr Ezinne. This make sense to me. I feel less guilty too lol.

  5. Chioma

    May 25, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    Very well said and educative. A lot of unsustainable programs and coaches fleecing ignorant women (in particular) out there.

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