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How much has dieting cost you?

Have you ever considered the price you are paying for dieting and the pursuit of weight loss? There is a financial cost, of course. The $70bn diet industry needs to keep afloat with our hard-earned cash. But the true cost of dieting isn’t just money. There is the toll it can take on your mental health, your physical health, your social, family and romantic relationships, your time, and your overall satisfaction with life.

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Let’s explore these in more detail:

1. Financial cost

Dieting doesn’t come cheap. Even if you don’t sign up to the latest meal plan, one of the diet clubs out there or a gym membership, there is a price tag attached to your choices! Think of the cookbooks that are promising weight loss, the expensive sugar alternatives, the detox teas and powders, the meal replacements, the fitness trackers, the slimming underwear, the ‘health foods’, the supplements… You get the picture. Often we don’t see these things as dieting, so we don’t see the amount of money we part with as something that is funding the diet industry. But they all belong firmly under that umbrella! If you were to add up all the money you have spent to shrink your body and become ‘healthier’ (i.e. slimmer), you might feel a little dizzy.

2. Cost to your mental health

This is a cost that must not be underestimated for the damage it does. When I see clients they tend to tell me their stories of years of feeling inadequate, ugly, not worthy, not lovable – usually because they think their body isn’t right because it doesn't fit into the stereotypical 'body ideal' box. There is a constant feeling of anxiety around food, there is depression for failing at weight loss, there is a sense of not being good enough, and often there is also deeply rooted sadness. There are many reasons for someone to develop an eating disorder, and dieting is not the only one. But dieting often starts the binge-restrict cycle that then leads to eating disorders.

3. Cost to your physical health

When you diet, you are messing with the system! Your body intuitively knows how much and what it needs, but from the time we are very little, this system gets overridden by food and mealtime rules. When you then start dieting you are shutting out the internal cues even more and focus on external cues (i.e. the times you are allowed to eat, the amount you are allowed to eat, the foods that you are allowed to eat). Long-term dieting can change your metabolism by making it more efficient (which means it can get by with less food/energy), it can mess with your hormones, which means that the hormones involved in your digestive system, your metabolism or your mood might not work as well as they could. Weight-cycling (also known as yo-yo dieting) has also been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol (and mental health issues).

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