Dieting Increases Risk for Obesity

Last month I read a blog declaring that dieting increases risk for obesity. Marsha Hudnall, who wrote, Study: Dieting Increases Your Risk of Becoming Obese, said the risk for obesity goes up with “the number of times you diet.”

Dieting ~ Eating by Number
Dieting ~ Eating by Number

How many times do you have to go on a diet for you to be at risk for obesity?

In the words of Marsha Hudnall,

Diet once and the odds almost double.
Diet twice and they go up almost three times.
Always on a diet? The odds of becoming obese are more than triple that of someone who has never dieted.”

What’s the basis for her striking conclusions? A scientific study. Researchers for the study used the standard definition of obesity, which as you may know, is a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30. (To find your BMI, click here.)

According to the October 22, 2015 issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers studied 8,824 people (Australians) for two years. Their conclusions? The more the participants went on diets during 2009, the more likely their weight and BMI increased in 2010.

Compared to those who were never on a diet in the previous year, the odds of obesity were 1.9, 2.9, and 3.2 times higher among those who were on a diet once, more than once, and always, respectively. Similarly, the odds of BMI gain versus BMI maintenance and also versus BMI loss were higher among those who dieted than those who did not.”

Dieting Backfires
Dieting Backfires

At first glance, I thought the research might be revealing a simple correlation between dieting and obesity. After all, people don’t diet unless they’re already overweight, right? But as it turns out, the study included people who never went on diets as well as people who were always dieting. The outcome wasn’t that people were still as fat as when they began, but that they gained weight and their new weight put them in the category of obesity. All that dieting backfires.

Big sigh. For most of my adult life, I was either on a diet or between diets, including:
the apple-is-lunch diet (when I was eighteen)
the Stillman and Atkins diets
the low calorie, low carb, and low fat diets
the high protein, high fiber diets
the no breakfast, no supper, and no sweets diets
the cabbage soup diet
variations on the Zone and South Beach diets
Nutrisystem.

I was in diet prison, where I sometimes lost forty pounds or more. But I always gained it back.

Diet Prison: where dieting increases risk for obesity
Diet Prison: where dieting
increases risk for obesity

How many times did I start a diet? A gazillion! In essence, I was always on a diet, which means my risk for obesity was more than three times higher than that of someone who’s never dieted. Unfortunately, my experience is not at all unusual – we’re a nation of dieters!

Q: Since dieting increases risk for obesity, what are we to do?
A: Shun dieting. At least we won’t be increasing our risk for obesity.
While I consciously avoid diets, I catch myself lapsing at times into ye old diet mentality. We must resist!

Q: What do we do about eating?
A: Listen to our body’s built-in hunger and fullness cues.

For me this part is not easy, not yet mastered, not even close. But I’m hopeful.

Posted on January 26, 2016

2 thoughts on “Dieting Increases Risk for Obesity

  1. Oh boy, this is so me! I was slender until I turned 50! It’s been a struggle ever since! I blame it on some medicine my doctor put me on… No matter the cause, the struggle is a reality. Now I’m walking two miles five times a week, hoping that will help… Thanks for posting this, it helps to see it in writing!

    1. Thanks for sharing what you’ve been through, Anita. I appreciate knowing I’m not the only one who struggles. I admire your commitment to walking. These days, I ride a stationery bike, but it’s a challenge to stick with it every week. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

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