Dieting doesn’t work - it’s time to ditch these 5 ‘healthy’ habits

A fork next to a blue and white plate with a bite of bread on a wooden table

Contrary to popular opinion, eating less or only eating certain foods doesn’t make you healthier! In fact, dieting can deprive your body of vital nutrients and vitamins while also increasing your stress levels

Undereating and overexercising can cause your estrogen levels to drop dramatically, which could increase your chances of heart disease. Over time, diet culture can lead to disordered eating as people become fixated on maintaining certain restrictions.

5 habits to ditch immediately

For many people, ideas around food and eating have been internalised since childhood. To have a healthier and more balanced relationship with food, you need to unlearn the cornerstones of diet culture that have become second nature. 

Here are just some habits that need to be dropped asap.

Labelling certain foods as ‘bad’ 

It can be really tempting to sort food into categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’. While there are foods that are more nutritionally rich than others, by labelling food as ‘bad’ you create a judgement system that can have a serious impact on your relationship with food. 

Diet culture says you have to cut out certain foods to be healthy but in reality, this habit creates a restricted diet that is difficult to stick to. What’s more, it can even lead to poor nutrition in the process as your body misses out on vital vitamins and minerals. 

Feeling guilty about what you eat

That classic feeling of guilt after eating certain foods is another product of diet culture. Often people end up punishing themselves for eating ‘bad food’ by placing more restrictions on their diet to combat the guilt. This can lead to a cycle of restricting and bingeing, making dieting into a form of self-punishment.

Telling yourself you’ve earned your food

You know that phrase that you’ve earned a treat after a hard workout? That’s diet culture at work again! Diet culture has taught us that exercise is a tool for earning the food you eat or burning off the food you’ve eaten. In reality, exercise is a way to help you become stronger and bring more enjoyment into your life rather than being yet another reason to restrict what you eat.

Weighing yourself

Diet culture also encourages people to prioritise their weight over their health and wellbeing. Losing weight becomes the key motivation for working out, eating, moving and other daily habits. But it’s important to remember that weighing less is not that same as being healthier!

Getting motivation from social media

One of the most damaging vehicles for diet culture today is social media. Influencers promoting healthy eating, dieting and fitness often fall back on the message that if you want to be healthy, you need to restrict what you eat. It’s common to see before and after photos, meal plans and #thinspiration posts but all these ‘healthy’ messages could actually be doing more harm than good. 

Practicing more self-compassion

Changing your relationship with food isn’t easy. If you want to make a positive change in your life, try practicing self-compassion as a method to help you reject diet culture. 

Think about what you would say to a loved one who says and feels the same things you do when it comes to food. Would you be as harsh to them as you are to yourself? Try to treat yourself with the same compassion that you give to others. 

While it’s not easy to unlearn certain habits, do what you can to focus less on what you eat and more on the things that make you feel confident, happy and at peace.

**At Free Soul, your wellbeing is our priority, and although we pride ourselves on our expertise in women's health and wellbeing, it is important to acknowledge the individuality of each person. Features published by Free Soul are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease, or replace the advice of your GP. We always recommend consulting with a healthcare provider if you encounter any health concerns, and we’ll always be here to support you so you’re never alone on your journey.