Healthy Tahoe: Diet culture and the dangers of dieting

Ariel Rearick, MS, RDN

Diet culture, or prioritizing weight and body size over health and well-being, is deeply rooted in today’s society. With influencers and celebrities promoting the newest cleanse, detox, or fad diet as the best way to lose weight or achieve a specific body goal, it’s common to fall into a pattern of bouncing between diets.

Ariel Rearick

This “yo-yo” cycle not only leads to physiological damage, such as weight gain, hormone dysregulation, and overall impaired metabolic function, but often leads to body image issues, disordered eating behaviors, and eating disorders.

Commonly, diets involve restrictive eating, or limiting your nutritional intake. The truth is, over-restricting almost always leads to binging. Thus, dieting almost always results in weight gain. Experts say as many as 80 to 95% of dieters regain their lost weight within one to five years.

Dieting almost never leads to long-term results. However, healthy modification and balance in food choices can lead to positive and sustainable results. What you eat should fuel and nourish your body rather than deprive it of valuable nutrients.

Beware of diet plans that seem too restrictive or require you to cut out an entire food group. A proper diet shouldn’t involve strict calorie-counting or make you think, “will I constantly be hungry?” Strong cravings, mood swings, or fatigue are signs of a poor diet.

Though diets often pose as one-size-fits all, every person has nutritional needs based on factors such as health, family history, physical activity, and expectations; a sustainable eating plan should fit those unique needs and specific goals. The right plan will preserve the joy of eating, empower you to enjoy meals with friends and family, and does not leave you feeling hungry. It should also be realistic to follow for more than a few weeks.

While societal messages often imply that emotional eating, body fat, body changes, and indulgence is “bad,” the reality could not be more different. Our emotional connection to food is an instinct that should be valued and utilized as a tool to build intuitive eating habits. Our bodies are strong and built to change and adapt, and food plays a critical function in our lives.

I challenge you to shift focus away from socially-driven aesthetic goals, and work toward repairing your relationship with food. With a personalized plan, you will be able to achieve sustainable, healthy results. Remember that you need to nourish in order to flourish.

Ariel Rearick is a registered dietitian nutritionist with Barton Health. Rearick will host a free Wellness Webinar: The Downsides of Diet Culture and How to Improve Your Relationship with Food at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 10. Register in advance, or view previously recorded webinars at Barton Dietitians are also available for consultation. Schedule a consultation by calling 530-543-5824 or visit

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