I have been tossed like a rag doll by messages from the diet industry, as I know you all have as well.

“Lose fifteen pounds in fifteen days!”

“The Keto diet is the only diet that works!”

“You must count your macros to lose weight!”

“It’s eighty percent diet!”

“Diets don’t work!”

“Just cut out carbs and sugar, and you’ll lose weight!”

“A protein shake for breakfast, lunch, and a protein bar for dinner is what I do.”

“Diets only rely on willpower, which doesn’t work.”

“Meat is the reason we are all fat with heart disease. Humans only need plants.”


Geez. No wonder we have no idea how to take care of ourselves and get tired after a couple days of trying. It’s like stepping into a war zone (or a food fight, but not a fun one with only broccoli, chicken, and protein bars being thrown around).

I just completed two certification courses with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, a holistic health coaching and nutrition school, where I was taught that diets do not work as a means for sustainable weight loss. The message seemed to be that we need to eat intuitively instead of using willpower, stay with whole foods, and visit all the areas of our lives for balance. While I follow much of this emotional eating work in my health coaching, I could not, as a lifetime food addict, succumb to the notion that diets do not work.

A diet is a means of restricting food in any way for the purposes of weight loss. I have been on variations of diets on and off for the last five years and have lost over seventy pounds doing so. My variations have included the paleo diet, the Macronutrient diet, versions of Keto, and low calorie. Some would say that this is evidence that diets do not work, as after five years I am still overweight. Not so fast.

The diets worked when I stuck to them. Novel idea, I know.

I lost weight in spurts, and each time, it was because of a diet plan that my health coach put me on and oversaw for me for accountability. When I got off the diets, I strayed back into my own eating habits fairly quickly and put some weight back on. So which part of this story shows that diets don’t work?

What does not work for food addicts like me and maybe many of you, is not having a plan. When I do not have a plan to follow, I follow my intuition. Guess what that tells me?! Ha! It wants the warmth from my childhood with fried chicken and mashed potatoes. My intuition wants to connect with my inner fat girl and go to Crumbl Cookies. It wants cake and good times with good food. When your intuition for eating is underdeveloped like mine, you need a plan. In comes the diet.

The next natural question here is “If diets do work, then why do people put back on the weight?”

Society is looking for an “either this or that” answer to everything. The problem with that is that we fail to collaborate our areas of expertise and be integrative in our approaches. The statement should read “Diets ALONE do not work.”

A plan works when you stick to it. That is where the challenge comes in for most. As I have stated in almost every blog, emotional eating is not about food; it is about emotions. I can eat chicken, broccoli, and whey protein all day, but if I never address the root causes of my emotional overeating issues, I am bound to not be able to stick to a plan. And that is when the plan, aka the diet, does not work.

Over my years of trying to lose weight, many times I have tried to approach my eating in a laxed sort of way, to get a break from the regimen of limiting myself or tracking any numbers with food. I attempted to rely on what my body told me I wanted, and I told myself I would do so in moderation. I forgot for those moments that I had no idea what moderation is. This laxed approach left a hole open for my escape, and a food addict or any addict will find a way to escape the plan.

Intuitive eating may be a lost art for most people. Our society does not set us up for success with the food industry’s incessant ads and making meals and desserts bigger and better and more! Overeaters don’t stand a chance!

I am food addict. My life got a lot easier when I realized that, said it out loud, and dealt with it. A food addict needs a plan, mostly at all times. I know that now and still fight it regularly. I do not want to be monitored with a plan. That keeps me from eating what I want to eat and when I want to eat it. It brings guilt when I stray from the plan, and that, I definitely do not want to feel!

The truth I have learned to accept is that diets regulate what we cannot. They give us an outline and one that I need very much. I find myself asking myself “When can I eat whatever I want instead of having to follow some restrictive diet plan?’ The answer is simple. When I can be trusted to do so.

In the meantime, I will follow plans that help open my eyes to my attachments to foods, as diets tend to do. One of the biggest purposes dieting has served for me is making me realize how much more food I am giving my body than what it actually needs. As I have restricted certain types of foods, I have found more energy, less cravings, and a much healthier feeling all around. This proves to me that my addiction is an emotional one, and that I can thrive by cutting out toxic foods and a toxic relationship with food.

Paying attention to your reluctance to commit to a diet and your reaction to restricting certain foods can provide useful information for you about your attachments to food. Having to refrain from eating ice cream and donuts has helped me understand more what emotions come up when I cannot have the foods that provide me comfort. It shows me where I was getting my happiness from before I changed my lifestyle – from a lot of dopamine!

It is hard to see toxicity close-up when you are in it. Like a bad relationship, the ones in it often do not realize just how toxic it is. Sometimes it is necessary to take a step back, sit the next couple plays out, and see attachments for what they are. Abstinence is a way to accomplish this needed backup.

Dieting and restricting from certain foods and/or an amount of food can often shed light on toxicity with eating. Being able to sit with this refraining and not reach for the next cheat is where the magic happens. These are the hardest moments for any addict, when everything starts to come out, and you can see it all.

I do not know if diets are forever for me. Maybe they need to be for some people; my forever has not happened yet, so I am not sure. For now, I must have a compass as I navigate through a lifelong unhealthy addiction to food. Perhaps one day I will have a grasp of intuitive eating as a means for health. I recognize that for now it is a trap, and so I am okay with whatever diet helps me keep making progress. Currently, that is the Macronutrient diet.

I have to continue doing the work on the emotional end, however, for all of this to keep moving forward smoothly. After all, my lack of coping with emotions is what led me here to begin with. I have to fight on all fronts, collaboratively, in order to keep on a healthy path. All parts of my fight are designed to heal me in some way, dieting very much included.