diets don't work

Adapted from Victoria Myers of Nourishing Mind Nutrition

On a daily basis I have strangers, friends, family and co-workers share with me the new scheme they are going to use to lose weight.

A new diet. A new food group to avoid. How few calories they are going to eat. How many shakes they are going to drink instead of enjoying a meal.

Maybe even a magical weight loss pill they are going to try. I bet you are even still thinking that you’ll do one more diet, just one last time, and then once you lose the weight you can go back to normal eating.

Keep reading if that is you…

After years of using the same techniques of cutting calories and following diets (unfortunately the techniques we were taught in school to use), I consistently saw that it never, ever worked. Weight loss and “success” would occur at first. For probably the first month, maybe even a few months. Eventually though, it would stop working and there would be no more “willpower” and the weight would come back.

The reality after dieting is that most people gain the weight back and an alarming 40% regain more weight than their initial starting weight. Going on a diet is likely going to increase your chances of gaining weight, not losing it.

Your weight is not calories in versus calories out. It is so much more complex than that.

Today I want to show the SCIENCE behind why diets don’t work. Let’s start first with the largest misconception with diets, that you stop dieting because you lack willpower.

Guess what? In terms of dieting, willpower doesn’t exist.

It is a man made, ego-driven, media-promoted idea that when you stop dieting it was because you are lazy and lack willpower or that you are not strong enough to keep eating your carrot sticks and bland chicken breasts. You do not lack willpower if the ice cream is calling your name at midnight after you have only eaten a diet shake for breakfast, salad for lunch and chicken breast for dinner.
Why doesn’t willpower exist? Because your body has a biological and psychological response to dieting. Studies show that after you diet your body changes in the following ways:

1. Your metabolism slows, taking longer to burn off calories.
Your body is wicked smart. It needs a certain amount of calories just to maintain your organ functions, breathing and bodily functions. Because your body is wicked smart, your metabolism will slow down and your body will learn to live off of fewer calories per day because it wants to STAY ALIVE. Your body doesn’t hate you, it loves you. It is doing what it must to keep all the organs and bodily functions working. Unfortunately, the first bodily functions that stop working properly with calorie restriction is your reproductive system and digestive system. Both are VITAL in a healthy body.

The Biggest Loser study is a new research study that shows how the body and metabolism changes after calorie restriction and dieting. The clients followed a very strict calorie restricted diet and exercise routine and even years after participating in the show, their metabolism was slower than what it should be.

2. Your hormones will change. You will likely still feel hunger after eating.
Studies have shown a hormonal backlash occurs in defense to calorie restriction. Your “hunger hormone” grelin is increased after following a diet. While leptin, the hormone associated with hunger suppression and increasing metabolism, was suppressed. Another 20 hormones associated with hunger levels were also altered after following a diet compared to pre-dieting levels (read more in this study).

3. Food becomes more tempting.
Food preoccupies your mind, becomes more tempting and you cannot stop thinking about it. Your dopamine response to food alters and eating becomes more rewarding. From a biological standpoint, this is how your body fights to stay alive. Your body has a natural response (through the mechanisms described above) to keep working. This is how thousands of years ago we survived states of starvation. In today’s world, we have chronic starvation because we are constantly restricting or calculating how many calories we are supposed to eat (rather than have our bodies tell us how much we need).

From a psychological response, diets don’t work because restriction and deprivation never work. How many times have you told yourself that you are not allowed to eat the cookie? And once you “gave in” you ate at least double the amount you had planned on eating? Restriction leads to deprivation which leads to overeating which leads to guilt and then the restriction begins again. You have to stop placing foods off limits and stop restricting in order to stop overeating.

Your genetics play a large role in your size and weight. You have a set point (of about 15-20 lb range) that your weight will stay, no matter your conscious feeling of what you feel you should weigh. Instead of fighting our set points, let’s celebrate them.

Let’s normalize all body types, sizes, shapes and forms. We are all uniquely different, which makes of us each so beautiful- don’t you think?

If you have a go-to lunch, feel free to share it in the comments!

VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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eat worth

Liz Marino RD, LDN, CSSD, and author of the blog No More Cheat Days

Have you ever experienced that feeling of discomfort at a social event when a smiling stranger walks up and introduces themselves just as you served yourself a generous slice of cheesecake?

Do you suddenly feel the need to explain why you’re having dessert? Do you think wow, great first impression, and begin to wonder what they’re thinking about you, wishing you had just stuck with the fruit?

On the flip side, have you ever been finishing up a salad at a family picnic when a relative holding a plate of pasta salad, chips and a cookie comes to sit down and makes a comment like, “Don’t look at my plate! I promise I ate a salad for lunch.” or “You’re soooo healthy. I wish I could eat like you.”

Dialogue like this is a relatively common occurrence and I would argue that it’s because we care about image. And while caring about how we present ourselves in this world is absolutely fine, often times it seems like there are assumptions about our character and personality tied to our food choices and physical image.

There’s a pretty well-known study of 3 to 5 year old children playing a board game that gives us some heartbreaking insight. The children in the study were asked to select a figure (think Chutes and Ladders cartoon child) to represent themselves in the game. There was a significant preference towards selection of thin pieces, and a significant aversion to fat ones. The large cartoons characters were described by the children as mean, sloppy, stupid, no friends, ugly and loud. The thin ones were describes as nice, smart, neat, quiet, friends and cute. When researchers asked the children who selected thin pieces to switch, there was an unwillingness to take the fat piece. The stated reasons why were things like, “I don’t want to be her. She is fat and ugly.” Yikes. These innocent children not only made, but internalized these stereotypes.

You might have an idea where are these little kids getting these messages….ever see an ad for a “guilt-free dessert?” On one side of the page, there’s a shame-ridden woman “sneaking” a bite of cake, and on the other side of the page, the same woman, this time appearing happy and carefree while enjoying the low-calorie cake-like dessert. Advertising clearly perpetuates the association of consuming certain foods/staying away from others with certain character traits (be it confidence, success, discipline and happiness or weakness, failure and gluttony.) And so we find ourselves saying things like “I ate a salad earlier” because, just like the little girls, we don’t want to be perceived as being lazy or sloppy. The problem with associating food and character is that it implies that your character is contingent on what you eat…and it’s not.

For example, if we view the Paleo diet as “good,” we believe that following it is a good thing to do and therefore, when we follow it we are good. It’s easy to incorporate this belief into our identity “I’m Paleo” and “I’m good because I’m Paleo”…although it’s simply not the truth.

Your worth is not hinged on what you eat.

You are not better because you don’t eat chocolate, and you are not bad if you enjoy chocolate. You are a good person. Period. So let’s stop tying our morality to our food choices. Avoid comments like “I’m so bad for eating this, ” or “I’ve been really good today.” Choose foods you like, that make you feel physically good, and that are satisfying in portions that honor your hunger and respect your fullness.

There are more substantial things than diets, weight and image to talk about. Let’s engage in conversation about ideas, goals, challenges, things that you want to learn more about, and interests you have to share! It’s much more exciting and you’ll actually build stronger, more meaningful relationships in the process.

So if you want that piece of cheesecake at a party, take and enjoy it. Life is too short to make choices based on what others (may) think about you.

If you have a go-to lunch, feel free to share it in the comments!

VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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mind diet

Before you go considering what crazy diet to try this January, consider a new approach to wellness.

This diet, called the MIND diet, combines 2 tried and true styles of eating that are proven to improve heart health, reduce hypertension and even decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s. The MIND diet will help you shed those New Year pounds, and also keep you heart and brain happy.

The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (dietary approach to stop hypertension), both of which are well-studied and proven to offer numerous health benefits.

MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It was developed by a nutritional epidemiologist, Martha Clare Morris, at Rush University Medical Center through a study that was funded by the National Institute on Aging. Her goal was to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by promoting a diet consisting of brain-healthy foods.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating foods that are as natural as possible, while limiting unhealthy fats and red meat. The DASH diet aims to reduce hypertension by helping people eat foods that can lower their sodium intake and blood pressure. The MIND diet recommends eating 10 foods daily and avoiding five types of foods.

MIND dietThe healthy-food groups include:

  • Green, leafy vegetables: Aim for six or more servings per week. This includes kale, spinach, cooked greens and salads.
  • All other vegetables: Try to eat another vegetable in addition to the green leafy vegetables at least once a day. It is best to choose non-starchy vegetables because they have a lot of nutrients with a low number of calories.
  • Berries: Eat berries at least twice a week. Although the published research only includes strawberries, you should also consume other berries like blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for their antioxidant benefits.
  • Nuts: Try to get five servings of nuts or more each week. The creators of the MIND diet don’t specify what kind of nuts to consume, but it is probably best to vary the type of nuts you eat to obtain a variety of nutrients.
  • Olive oil: Use olive oil as your main cooking oil.
  • Whole grains: Aim for at least three servings daily. Choose whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and 100% whole-wheat bread.
  • Fish: Eat fish at least once a week. It is best to choose fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna and mackerel for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Beans: Include beans in at least four meals every week. This includes all beans, lentils and soybeans.
  • Poultry: Try to eat chicken or turkey at least twice a week. Note that fried chicken is not encouraged on the MIND diet.
  • Wine: Aim for no more than one glass daily. Both red and white wine may benefit the brain. However, much research has focused on the red wine compound resveratrol, which may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

The five foods to avoid are:

  • Butter and margarine: Try to eat less than 1 tablespoon (about 14 grams) daily. Instead, try using olive oil as your primary cooking fat, and dipping your bread in olive oil with herbs.
  • Cheese: The MIND diet recommends limiting your cheese consumption to less than once per week.
  • Red meat: Aim for no more than three servings each week. This includes all beef, pork, lamb and products made from these meats.
  • Fried food: The MIND diet highly discourages fried food, especially the kind from fast-food restaurants. Limit your consumption to less than once per week.
  • Pastries and sweets: This includes most of the processed junk food and desserts you can think of. Ice cream, cookies, brownies, snack cakes, donuts, candy and more. Try to limit these to no more than four times a week.

A good New Years resolution would be to focus on adding or replacing one food per week and/or removing one of the harmful food groups. You can try to have all 10 foods down by the time mid-March hits, and by April you should be well on your way to a healthier lifestyle!


The researchers’ main goal in creating the MIND diet was to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). According the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, it is estimated that about a half-million Americans younger than age 65 have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies of the MIND diet have shown that the diet can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent in those who meticulously adhere to the diet. Even if you can’t stick to it 100%, you can still see many benefits if you only follow it moderately. The longer you follow the MIND diet, the better protected you will become from developing Alzheimer’s.

In various studies, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet have each been found to have health benefits in other areas as well. The DASH diet can help decrease blood sugar levels possibly due to a higher consumption of probiotics. The DASH diet may also help reduce blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks, and systolic blood pressure could be reduced eight to 14 points over time.

The Mediterranean diet can help dieters lose weight and lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. The Mediterranean-style diet is also associated with lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

No matter your goals, the MIND can help you stay healthy long into the future, in all areas of health and wellness!

Looking for a simple yet healthy dish to whip up after your VIM workout that won’t totally undo all your hard work or counteract all those calories you just burned?  Here’s 10 awesome bloggers from the Boston/Cambridge area with tons of healthy recipe ideas and fitness inspiration to keep you on track. Remember to check out our #RecipeWednesday posts on Facebook and Twitter, where we feature a new local blogger each week!

1) Healthy Chicks 

2) Pickles & Honey

3) Carrots ‘N’ Cake  

4) Eat Well with Janel 

5) Meg’s Food Reality 

6) Sarah Fit 

7) Food to Fun For 

8) A Cambridge Story 

9) VeganYumYum

10) Melomeals