Stop Dieting and Adopt an Anti-Diet Instead



Every January and February, health and fitness magazines are full of articles about how to lose weight, cleanse your body, and get fit. But it’s not a great idea to jump on the latest diet or “detox” bandwagon or fall for the latest fad diet advice.

With so much focus on losing weight, you might think your only hope of shedding those extra pounds is to calorie restrict or eat meals that don’t fill you up. Some media sources say the best way to lose weight and get healthy is by adopting a calorie-restricted diet. You may have even tried a few diets yourself. Examples of the diet crazes some people dabble in are the cabbage soup diet and the Atkins diet. How healthy and sustainable were those fads? If you’re like most people, you won’t gain long-term weight-control benefits from such unbalanced diets.

And while it seems like a harmless word, “dieting” can be hazardous to your physical and mental health. Diet is about restricting foods and labeling some foods “healthy” and others “unhealthy.” If you crave those unhealthy foods, imagine the psychological harm you’re doing yourself. You come to see food as the enemy. The disavowed foods become more crave-worthy because they’re off-limits. You shouldn’t ban any foods unless you’re allergic to them.

An approach that can free you from dieting is the anti-diet. Let’s look at the anti-diet approach, and why it’s the best choice for weight loss, long-term weight control, and health, and how you can incorporate this approach into your own life and reap the rewards.

Anti-Diets Shift the Focus Toward Health

Dieting is harmful because it emphasizes calorie restriction and disregards health. An anti-diet is an alternative to dieting and shifts the focus toward health and wellness. Rather than choosing foods based on their calorie or carbohydrate content and stressing yourself out because something on your plate is too carb-heavy, you adopt healthy eating habits you can sustain long-term without scrutinizing every bite.

Diet is a short-term strategy and often causes mental stress. It has a negative connotation, whereas adopting healthy habits is a positive that can transform every aspect of your life and boost your sense of well-being. It’s better to add good things to your life than to take them away.

Anti-Dieting is About What You Can Add, Not What to Subtract

Anti-dieting is about adding healthier foods to your plate, rather than subtracting foods. It’s about feeding your body nutrient-dense foods, rather than taking foods off your plate. When you add healthier items to your daily meals, it reduces the amount of junk food you eat, without making these foods forbidden. This subtle shift in mindset is powerful and mentally liberating. Junk food isn’t off the table, but you may discover that you enjoy the taste of healthier fare as it becomes a larger part of what you eat. Your tastes will change as what you eat changes.

It’s also about adding healthy lifestyle habits to your life, ones you can sustain now and into the future. In contrast, dieting is a temporary remedy that can lead to short-term but not sustainable weight loss. Research shows that more than 80 percent of people who lose 10 percent or more of their body weight gain it back again, showing how ineffective short-term dieting is. Refusing to diet is a way to break out of that vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting, weight loss, and weight regain. It’s about substituting deprivation for healthier habits.

Anti-Diets Don’t Demonize Certain Foods

Another problem with diets is that certain foods are off-limits when you’re on a diet. It’s a negative approach that is not only ineffective but also promotes an unhealthy relationship with food. Calling some foods “good” and some “bad” creates unnecessary mental stress. Any food, even high-sugar ones, is OK in modest amounts.

It’s the totality of your lifestyle that matters most for weight control and for health. An occasional indulgence won’t damage your health any more than eating an occasional healthy meal will improve your health. It’s what you eat and how you live 90% of the time that determines your health, wellness, and body composition.

Anti-Diets Are Empowering

Anti-diets empower you to take control of your health by adopting healthy lifestyle habits, rather than falling victim to trendy and unhealthy diet advice. Dieting leads to guilt when you fail to follow the plan, whereas anti-diets are about empowerment and freedom to make smarter health and lifestyle choices.

Anti-Diets Promote Diversity

One of the most negative aspects of dieting is the emphasis it places on thinness to the exclusion of health. It’s this type of mentality that fuels eating disorders and unhealthy attitudes toward food. By shifting the emphasis away from thinness and toward health, anti-dieting fosters respect for all body sizes and types, if they’re healthy. Whereas dieting only sees thin as an acceptable outcome. More important than bodyweight is having a healthy body.

Why do people diet? Sometimes, it’s because they’re trying to achieve an ideal that may not exist. When you see an ad for a diet or diet pill, you’re looking at a photo of a person who may have been digitally enhanced to look thinner. No one needs the pressure to meet unrealistic body standards. Anti-dieting is a focus on well-being and acceptance of self. It’s about self-compassion too. Restriction and self-flagellation aren’t beneficial to your self-esteem and psyche.

Focus on your total lifestyle too. Physical activity, stress management, and getting adequate sleep is part of the equation too. It all counts for wellness and well-being.


  • Hall KD, Kahan S. Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity. Med Clin North Am. 2018 Jan;102(1):183-197. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.012. PMID: 29156185; PMCID: PMC5764193.
  • “Research Sheds Light on Why People Who Lose Weight Gain It ….” 14 Oct. 2016, www.webmd.com/diet/news/20161014/how-your-appetite-can-sabotage-weight-loss.
  • “Why People Diet, Lose Weight and Gain It All Back ….” 01 Oct. 2019, health.clevelandclinic.org/why-people-diet-lose-weight-and-gain-it-all-back/.
  • “5 Ways Restricting Calories Can Be Harmful.” 30 Jan. 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/calorie-restriction-risks.

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