Norman Regional Health System

Woman prepares to step onto the scale.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

By Anastasia Thomas, MS, RD/LD, Norman Regional clinical dietitian

Summer is around the corner, which most likely means that “ideal” body is at the top of many to-do lists. Did you know that half of all New Year’s resolutions in the U.S. are based on weight loss? Thirty billion dollars are spent on diet products each year and approximately 45 million Americans diet every year.

What is diet culture?

Diet culture is a social expectation that tells us how we should eat and look, and that if our bodies look a certain way – we are more accepted. Diet culture is dangerous and could harm people of all sizes, sex, and age.

There are so many different diets out there that are confusing, restrictive, and overwhelming. Food has plenty of appropriate uses in our culture, including nourishment, celebration, enjoyment, and satisfaction, but trying to manipulate our body size is not one of them.

Diet culture focuses on thinness over health and well-being. Often times, diet culture encourages us to cut out entire food groups (like carbohydrates) to lose weight and makes us believe that some foods are “good and bad,” “real and fake,” and “clean and dirty.” When we associate carbohydrates with gaining weight and losing weight, it only creates food fear, guilt, and even more insecurities.

Health is not based on your size or number on the scale because health cannot be determined based on how we look. According to statistics, there are 36.8% of adults in Oklahoma that are obese and 17.3% of high schoolers who are obese or overweight. Yes, obesity is associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers, but obsessing with thinness is risky on many levels because food restriction can lead to unhealthy relationship with food, mood swings, dehydration, constipation, malnutrition, decreased metabolism, muscle loss, and even an eating disorder.

How does yo-yo dieting affect your health?

Most diets don’t work long term and are simply a “quick fix,” which do more harm than good. Diets are unrealistic, hard on your body, and fail 95% of the time. Weight cycling, also known as “yo-yo dieting,” is linked to poor sleep quality, greater risk for insomnia, sleep disturbances and daytime dysfunction, and sleep apnea. Poor sleep quality is associated with weight gain due to increased intake of fats, overall quality of food, and total calorie intake.

Recent research suggests that poor sleep and weight cycling are associated with poor cardiovascular health among women (because women are more likely to diet than men), lead to increased disposition of visceral fat (fat that surrounds your vital organs), and can reduce arterial oxygen tension (inability of the lungs to properly oxygenate the blood).

Stop dieting

The bottom line is that we should not fear food and should not allow some social media influencers (or even family and friends) to tell us how we should and shouldn’t eat. No one is perfect, especially when it comes to our dietary habits. Instead of jumping from one fad diet to another, reach out to a nutrition professional such as a registered dietitian nutritionist who can help you find healthy alternatives and smart solutions to address your unhealthy eating habits. Focus on balance and moderation of ALL FOODS, perceive food as nourishing, delicious, and satisfying.

Check out to learn about a balanced plate for every stage of life, sex, and age. Also check out one of the latest videos about balanced nutrition from one of Norman Regional’s registered dietitians.