Since National Eating Disorder Awareness Week occurs every year around the end of February to the first week of March (this year it is February 23rd - March 1st), I propose that we initiate a National Dieting is Useless and Dangerous Week. We could call it "DUD Week". That is what diets are ... duds! The research is still out on what methods are most effective in preventing eating disorders. However, we do know that dieting and the drive for thinness can contribute to the development of eating disorders. By getting out the clear message that dieting is useless and dangerous we could possibly decrease the number of those suffering from eating disorders and disordered eating.
My friend and colleague Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD has stated that she believes the diet industry should be forced to be forthcoming about the failure rates of diets. I agree. If there are warning labels on wine bottles, why not warning labels on Nutrisystem diet packages? Or, perhaps a disclaimer on the door as someone enters a Weight Watcher's meeting? There is a report in the April 2007 issue of American Psychologists, the journal of the American Psychological Association, that states that while dieters may lose weight initially, that about two thirds of people on diets regain more than they lost within 4 or 5 years! This research was done at UCLA and was the most thorough analysis of dieting to date. More than 31 long-term studies on dieting were analyzed. Another study done in 2007 came to the conclusion that "95% of all dieters will regain lost weight within 1-5 years" (Neumark-Sztainer, Haines, Wall, & Eisenderg, 2007). Need more evidence to show that dieting is useless and dangerous? About 35 % of "normal" dieters progress to pathological dieting. From that group, 20-30% will eventually develop eating disorders (Shisslak, Crago, & Estes, 1995). Sometimes research seems far away from real life. However, we are talking about thousands of people who suffer emotionally, relationally, and physically from dieting every year.
Just this past week I had a dozen or so clients who have become causalities of dieting. One of the saddest was a 15 year old girl who came in for an initial consult for treatment of her bulimia. Her mom started taking her to Weight Watchers at age 9. While there was some temporary weight loss, she swung into sneak/binge eating and gained the weight back. At age 11 mom carted her back to Weight Watchers to "get fixed" because she had once again gained weight. After this round of dieting she developed anorexia nervosa and now has progressed to bulimia.
I know I am preaching to the choir. If you are reading this blog you probably already know that dieting is useless and dangerous. Please spread the word. We really do need to be activists against dieting and the diet industry. There needs to be truth in advertising enacted.
Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts and experiences.