3 Dieting Myths I No Longer Believe After Reading ‘Beyond a Shadow of a Diet’

By: Sarah Bousquet, American University student and Intern

beyond a shadow of a diet

I recently read ‘Beyond a Shadow of a Diet’, by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel.  This book discusses the negative impact of dieting on our society and why dieting does the opposite of the intended goal of losing weight.  The authors also focus on how weight and BMI are not accurate representations of health and wellness, and what we as individuals and as a society can do to better understand our health and our bodies.  There were many myths about dieting and weight that were debunked throughout the book, but these three stuck out to me the most.


Myth 1: Diets help you lose weight

  • As the book proves, dieting has the opposite affect on your body.  Through dieting, certain foods that are deemed ‘bad’ by our society become forbidden, and therefore the dieter will have an increased desire to eat these foods. Although dieting can initially help you lose weight, the authors show that after about 2 years approximately 95% of dieters gain the weight back, or enter into a ‘yo-yo’ system of dieting which leads to gaining and losing weight over and over again.  This is detrimental to the health because when dieting the body will begin to burn muscle and fat, so when the dieter gains the weight back they will gain it in fat and lose overall muscle mass, and therefore their health will be in a worse state than at the beginning.

Myth 2: BMI is an accurate depicter of health

  • BMI was originally used to show the weight and general health of the population, not the health of the individuals.  BMI standards for overweight and obese has changed in 1998, creating a new basis for what is considered ‘normal BMI’.  BMI is not an indicator of health, only an indicator of a person’s overall body mass index.  Since BMI is not an indicator of health, the number of your BMI is not nearly as important as treating your body right and, as the book states, being fit is much more important than losing weight or being thin.  There is no correct body shape or weight, and, according to the authors, “a range of female body shapes celebrate life, renewal, and growth”.

Myth 3: Weight is an indicator of health, and obesity causes health problems and diseases.

  • Weight actually has little to do with fitness and health, and therefore is not an accurate indicator of health. Everyones bodies are different, and people who are considered ‘overweight’ can be much healthier than people who are considered ‘normal’. The idea that obesity can cause health problems and diseases are not founded on facts, and studies that were done on obesity tended to be biased, because the doctors who have run those studies in the past were found to work for pharmaceutical companies that were releasing weight loss drugs.

The book ‘Beyond a Shadow of a Diet’ is working to end the stigma that is associated to weight and end the weight bias.  They recognize that body shape, size and weight are not evidence of any particular way of eating or level of health.  They are trying to show that mindfulness, or bringing awareness to your own health and eating without judgement or expectation will lead to self acceptance.

How Many People Are Making This “Health” Mistake?

“Diet.” Just reading that word probably gives you flashbacks to all the magazine and diet book promises that failed … and brings up a running list in your head of popular diet trends, and celebrity-sponsored programs we can’t seem to escape when we turn on the TV or log onto Facebook. Many people (maybe you?) think the only way to manage your weight is to go on one of these diets. Wrong.

I’ve been on tons of diets in my heydey. They all made me feel like crap. The only thing that worked was me changing my habits in a realistic way that I could live with forever. But don’t just take my word for it, check out the science.


What You Lose When You Diet

According to research, the weight-loss industry brings in at least $55.4 billion in revenue per year [Marketdata Enterprises 2007] yet it is reported that a staggering 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years (Grodstein, Levine, Spencer, Colditz, &Stampfer, 1996; Neumark-Sztainer, Haines, Wall, & Eisenberg, 2007).

With such a high percentage of people regaining all of that lost weight, it makes you wonder what the point of dieting was in the first place. Cutting out foods you love, or refusing to give your body the nutrients it needs is not only be damaging to your body, but also can lower your self-esteem, have a negative impact on your sleep, and end up causing other issues like binge-eating or even more unwanted weight gain.

Even Rock Stars Can’t Avoid Body Bashing

Our societal standards for thinness are so bad that even mega (super strong) rock star Pink can’t avoid the body bullies. Girl does acrobatics on her tours and clearly has the physical capabilities to entertain. I love her response score one for happiness and two for “leave me alone.”


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Ditch Dieting Wednesday May 6, 2015 (and Every Day)

Join me in celebrating International No Diet Day. It’s a day to celebrate the way you love to eat, move, and live your life. Give yourself a break from all the restrictions you might have set on yourself and commit to finding new, realistic, and sustainable habits you love.

5 Ways to Celebrate No Diet Day:

  1. Take a break from the scale. If you’re still fitting into, and rocking your favorite outfits, why bother stepping on the scale? Seeing a certain unwanted number can easily lower our self-esteem and ruin our day.Break out of scale jail with me today and celebrate your body! No Diet Day is a day to celebrate all parts of you, so why give something as insignificant as “a number” so much power? (And if you’re saying, it’s not the number, I just want the cellulite to go away. I’m calling that the same thing. Your value is based on weight or shape.)
  1. Nothing is off limits! For today, eat exactly what you want. Throughout the day, notice how good it feels to give yourself permission to eat that ice cream from your freezer or that fresh banana bread you’ve been meaning to try at the local coffee shop. (resource: my mindful eating blog post). If you normally live under “food rules” don’t be surprised if you say “yes” to cravings more often than you would like. You’ll simmer down once you realize you can enjoy all foods. (Note: my clients who struggle with compulsive eating report they actually decrease the “guilt foods” because they stop saying “screw it, let’s go big…” and they just eat like they expect everyone else enjoys chips – a few handfuls, not a bag.

Emma Stone

  1. Keep a journal. No diet day is a great day for you to take a break from that calorie counter app and reflect on all of the ways you take care of yourself. Write down some examples all day long, and after reading them over, reflect on how they make you feel.
  • Did you enjoy your exercise?
  • Did you get a good nights sleep?
  • Are you taking a break to focus on your meal instead of shoving something in your mouth while running to your 5th meeting – and it’s only 10 a.m.???? (I can’t be the only one who gets stuck rushing.)
  1. Do a detox (just kidding). Today is definitely not about detoxing from that banana bread we talked about. However, today is the perfect excuse to take a step back and detox from the entire dieting world. We all have those blogs and magazines we follow which leave us feeling like what we’re doing and who we are isn’t enough. Today, take the time today to question whether or not repeatedly checking these resources is a healthy habit. If you find that these blogs are doing nothing but worsening your problems and the way you feel about yourself, spend some time during the day to seek out more positive resources that will help you feel good about your choices.
  1. Make peace with you. While taking care of your health is definitely a great priority to have, it is also important to realize that health is not about dieting or looking like the photoshopped models in magazines. As women, we are constantly being bombarded by different opinions on how we should look, and what size jeans we should be fitting into at a certain age. These external opinions can make it very hard to remember that you are not just a dress size or number on a scale. You are a real human being with feelings. Today, try to focus on thinking of yourself in a compassionate, and accepting light. What else is more important than loving yourself for exactly who you are?

For more on National No Diet Day, join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag: #NoDietDay.

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Sorting Out Fact From Fiction: The Gluten-Free Diet Craze

Gluten free diets have become the latest weight loss “fad”. I think one of the reasons this trendy way of eating has evolved is that rather than working on incorporating balance and moderation into meals and snacks, it can be easier to cut something out altogether – whether that’s wheat, dairy or something else. What people may not know who are following a gluten-free diet for weight control, is that many times when gluten is removed from processed foods, sugar, fat and butter are often added to improve the taste.

wheat For most of us, there really is no medical reason to eliminate gluten. In fact, many gluten-containing foods can be very nourishing (ex: whole grain bread and barley). As this article summarizes, there really are only three true reasons to avoid gluten (and I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear that none of them are weight loss related):

  1. An autoimmune condition like celiac disease in which the presence of gluten actually alters the intestine and causes malabsorption and other GI issues like pain and diarrhea. This diagnosis can be made by a biopsy and blood test.
  2. An allergy, which would have symptoms that might appear similar to any other allergy – hives, sneezing, etc. This can’t be tested easily, but is evaluated similar to other allergies based on visible symptoms.
  3. An intolerance/sensitivity which may have symptoms like abdominal bloating, but can’t be accurately tested for.

I recently did a series of videos with the #OWNshow and @OWNTV which covered a number of gluten-related topics, including an overview of what gluten is, if going gluten-free makes sense for weight loss, identifying hidden sources of gluten in some foods, and uncovering some sneaky truths about some gluten-free products that are on the market today. Watch each video below: Can You Lose Weight By Going Gluten-Free?  Weight Loss Gluten Free

The Sneaky Truth of Some Gluten-Free Products  Sneaky Truth Gluten Free Products Could You Be Eating Gluten and Not Know It?  Hidden Gluten The Gluten Guide: What is Gluten Really? Gluten Guide  What do you think about the gluten-free diet trend? To join the conversation about going gluten-free, leave a comment below, use the hashtag #OWNSHOW on twitter, or check out the OWN TV Facebook page.

Debunking Cleanse and Detox Diets

It is a million dollar question: Are detoxes and cleanses all they’re cracked up to be? The idea that drinking juice or taking a magic pill is going to do a better job than our own organs is very misleading to consumers.  I recently sat down with ABC7‘s Suzanne Kennedy to explain why detox diets and cleanses are a waste of money, and could actually be doing more harm than good to your health. Check out the video clip below and be sure to read on to learn the truth behind the hype.

[Read more…]

My Exciting Partnership with the Oprah Network

Drumroll please.

Roll out the red carpet – I am one step closer to Oprah!

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I am working with the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on a series of short segments about health, wellness, and weight.  I’ll be sharing my thoughts and perspectives on what it means to be healthy, common dieting mistakes, and how to make time for your very OWN happy hour every week.

If you know anything about me, then you probably know how I feel about dieting and finding the best weight for yourself.  When OWN asked me to share the #1 mistake women make when dieting, it was pretty easy for me to narrow it down: the fact that they are on a diet in the first place!  Throughout these segments we identify the common mistakes people make to derail their diets efforts. I explain the facts about the downfalls of dieting and bring focus to the different ways people can change their perspective on health, wellness, and dieting.

DIET DERAIL–Learn How to Be Happy in Your Body

SIZE DIVERSITY–Find Your Healthy Size

Here are some key takeaways

  • Dieting is not the same as healthy eating.
  • When you deprive yourself from foods you love it can often lead to overeating.
  • When you under eat and over exercise your body’s metabolism slows down and tries to prevent fat loss for survival.
  • Our DNA is what makes us unique, and there is no one perfect size for everyBODY.  We are not all meant to look alike.
  • Size diversity comes down to science and our genetic footprint.
  • If you are trying unsuccessfully to lose weight and are wondering what the problem is, maybe there isn’t one.  Maybe your body is happy there and your challenge is to become happy there, too.
  • Focus on balanced and realistic plan and avoid drastic, quick fixes. Ask yourself can I do this for the rest of my life?
  • Check yourself. Would you recommend your diet to your daughter or best friend?

Make your voice heard

I know I am not the only one who feels strongly that finding your best health and wellness is about more than a size;  it’s about finding a healthy balance, learning how to cultivate healthy habits, and accepting ourselves as we are.

Lending your voice can have a powerful influence on those around you.  Please help to encourage this positive attitude and spread scientific evidence-based information by sharing this video and with those you know and love.  We all would benefit from a better understanding of size diversity.

Feel free to share your comments and questions on social media. We’re using these hashtags and handles:



@DanishaDanielle (the host who interviewed me)

and, of course, @ScritchfieldRD (that’s me!)

I look forward to sharing my opinions throughout this series.  I hope that my messages will educate viewers on the negative impact dieting has on our health, happiness, and well-being.  Is there something you’d like to learn more about?  Leave a comment or tweet to share your topic ideas for upcoming segments – the cameras will be rolling again in April!