Why I Quit Dieting! True Stories from Real Women

COURTESY OF RAGENBy Ragen Chastain

These women finally realized that diets can do more harm than good. So, they quit. And they all got healthier the right way…without powders, magic pills or mean people that yell at you and call you liar. Here's how they learned to be quitters.

Ragen Quit Because:

"I was shocked when I found out that there is not a single study where dieting was successful for more than 5 percent of people. Most people can lose weight, but the body has physiological and psychological responses that cause the weight to be regained in almost everyone. Research showed me that the best chance I had to be healthy was to focus on healthy behaviors. I started to eat a whole foods diet and kept exercising (I'm a competitive dancer so I work out a lot.)

My life is so much better since I quit dieting. Focusing on my health means that I am successful simply when I make healthy choices, instead of using the scale as the jury. I no longer obsess about food and calories, and my cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure etc. (which were all out of whack when I was dieting) have all come back to normal ranges. Weight loss is a Galileo situation: 'Everybody knows' that weight loss is the 'way to go,' but the research doesn't support popular opinion.

I have chosen to focus on healthy behaviors and be grateful to my body for what it does for me!"


Virginia Quit Because:

"I stepped back from consciously dieting and gave up the aesthetic goal of looking smaller because I didn't want to jeopardize my mental health to get there! I started working on loving my body and honoring its health needs. I stopped thinking in terms of 'good' and 'bad' foods -- I can't outsource my food decisions like that. I have to decide for myself whether to have seconds or a glass of wine with dinner. I have to focus hard on listening to my body -- but it feels healthier and more empowering. I also stopped trying to exercise according to some external notion of the 'perfect workout schedule.' I do yoga because I love it; I don't have to drag myself like I did when I had a gym routine I hated. So I go more often -- win!

I'm still working on loving my current size and shape, but I'm proud to say that I'm making progress on this front! I've realized that loving your body doesn't happen at the expense of somebody else, or even your own "before" pictures. It's about understanding that there are lots of different kinds of beauty in the world and they are all equally wonderful."


Katja Quit Because:

"I spent lots of energy thinking about what I shouldn't eat. It wasn't fun and didn't lead to lasting weight loss or better health. I had no idea there was an option that was so much more joyful and healthy.

My daughter is so capable with eating. Seeing how natural it was for her to seek variety and eat the right amount when she listened to her body, inspired me.

Turning my back on weight loss has been liberating. I exercise because it feels good. I don't deny my appetites. If I want a Reese's with coffee after lunch, I enjoy it, and have much more joy and feel fewer cravings.

I freed my mind from thinking about eating and exercise. I left my work as a family physician to dedicate my career to helping parents raise children who feel good about food and their bodies. That is the best "preventive medicine" I can think of!

I stopped participating in negative body talk, I didn't want my daughter to learn that from me. Initially it took a conscious effort. Now (almost) always, it is how I really feel. Fake it at first if you have to, you'll get there."


Alaura Quit Because:

"Diets like Weight Watchers, which was the last diet I tried before I quit, reinforced the message that my body was not to be trusted. It wasn't working for me and I was trying to recover from an eating disorder. When I took the terrifying leap into a world without food rules I learned to really listen to my body. Since I no longer exercise as punishment for my food choices or with weight loss as the end goal, I have identified many forms of exercise and movement that I LOVE. Walking, yoga (my favorite), swimming and dancing around my room ridiculously are a few examples. I have so much more time and free mental space available to me now that I actually have the ability to recognize positive aspects of my body. I am now grateful for all of the amazing things my body can do.

Check in with yourself and, when it comes to exercise, if it doesn't make you feel good, don't do it. Notice and appreciate all of the amazing things your body does for you on a daily basis. Maybe even say, 'Thank you.' :)"


Stacy Quit Because:

"I have spent most of the last ten years losing weight and then gaining it back. My mood fluctuated with the numbers on the scale. I always let my weight hold me back. I finally came to a realization that if I were going to love myself that I had to accept that I am not, and never will be, a skinny girl.

I started focusing on adding positive things to my life instead of denying myself. I focus on eating the foods that I want, and that I am active in ways that make me happy.

I feel a lot better about myself. I'm not deprived or depressed. Once I stopped trying to change my body, I was able to begin the process of loving it.

Next month I'm graduating with my B.A. in Community Health Education and Psychology. For a long time I thought that I couldn't be an effective health educator if I was overweight. I've learned that the only thing that would truly prevent me from being a good health-education specialist is the discrimination that I held against larger people. While being unhealthy can lead to obesity, being obese or overweight does not mean that someone is unhealthy."


Rebecca Quit Because:

"On rare occasions when I am really low I think about dieting again, then I remember I don't actually want to get fatter.

Slowly, my eating is changing since I quit dieting. I am less driven by food. I feel less need to eat everything there is. I am more attracted to 'healthy' food rather than 'junk.' It's a slow process because I spent 40 years training myself to eat in unhealthy ways.

Not dieting is hard. In many ways it is much harder than dieting. You don't get the high of weight loss or the reinforcement of smaller clothes and compliments. There is a constant subtle fear that it is wrong not to diet. On the other hand, not dieting brings much more stability, consistency and peace.

There are various places where I have learned a lot and some people who have changed with me that offer me support. But honestly, the work is my own, it is a very internal process. I am the one who has to accept who I am and work toward good health. Information is easy to find. Implementation is harder."


Ani Quit Because:

"I remember being at the gym when I was 6 and my cousin told me I couldn't have a pop later because that defeats the purpose. Dieting taught me that I couldn't know if I was hungry, full, sad, happy, angry. I became detached from my body to survive. My tummy would say, 'I'm hungry.' I would respond, 'Shut up, here's some water.' I learned that the body is not something to be beaten into submission.

Oh, and my body did start falling apart. I wasn't getting enough nutrition. One day I was running and my quad just tore. My poor body was so hungry and thirsty that it stopped working. I decided to quit DIEting and start living: I stopped reading fashion magazines which helps my mental health immensely. I cook, enjoying foods in their natural state as much as possible. I listen to my body. I try to be gentle. I find FUN ways of moving that are pleasurable and comfortable.

I don't feel like a prisoner or victim to myself anymore."


Substantia Quit Because:

"I was among the first people in the US to do Fen-Phen in the '90s. That was the last of many diets for me. I learned the diet industry is a massive and unscrupulous money-making machine, of which the media (and a good many medical professionals) are complicit, often even participatory.

I actually phoned my doctor once, worried I might die from never putting food into my mouth. I decided to quit dieting and be healthy instead. I listen to my body, respect nature and human variation, and I focus on overall health, which includes happiness.

The shame associated with food and body have fallen away, making room for the pleasure and function provided by both. The results of altering nature for the sake of misguided vanity are temporary, but the damages can last a lifetime. I've developed a more critical eye when reading media coverage of medical studies, and find my methods supported there. I also get regular medical check-ups and am reassured by my stats. I think the best thing that you can do for your body is to give it pleasure and attention."


Annabel Quit Because:

"I believed, falsely, that every 3500 calories cut would result in a pound of weight lost and that would somehow bring me closer to 'happiness' which I mistakenly linked to my weight. I began to resent food and those who enjoyed it. Restriction meant I could not find a way to enjoy foods without binging. Since I feared getting fat, I purged. Bulimia developed as I cared more about being thin than my own life.

My recovery was jolted at Green Mountain at Fox Run, an anti-dieting retreat. I came back a changed woman who wanted to declare peace with her body and use her energy to grow as a person and treat herself well. I now understand that living my life hoping that I'll do/be ___ when I weigh ____ was the worst thing I could do for my health.

Now I work out because it's challenging and I feel great doing it. I eat a whole-foods and plant-based diet because it makes me feel healthy. You can be healthy without hating yourself. Treat your body like the most precious gift you've ever received. Because it is."


Candice Quit Because:

"I spent my girlhood on a diet: Gritty Alba shakes, Nutri-System, Weight Watchers - everything. My dear, loving father desperately wanted his black, very fat daughter to "fit" in a white mid-western majority where I so clearly didn't and never would. Sadly, it was only after he died that I quit dieting.

I created space and funds for exercise and dance. I tapped into the local food movement and the divine pleasures of home cooking, eating intentionally and fortifying nutritional value into everything. I learned how to detach and breathe. I became a mother and my love for my son and the importance of my family's health and wellness started to trump everything.

I feel more brave and bold - less apologetic and sensitive. I find deep meaning in being fat, in making people take a second or sixteenth look at what beauty, femininity, motherhood, and sexuality should look like. I am a fat mother of a skinny kid and the fat wife of a skinny woman. My amazing family understands me and never puts limits on what's possible for me.

Live richly with what you have and treat yo' self as often as possible (word to Tom Haverford)."

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