Paleo, Gluten-free, Low-carb, Sugar-free, Vegan, the list goes on. Regardless of age or body type, many of us have tried one (or all) of these diets, or wanted to. Dieting is what the internet tells us to do when we want to shed the few pounds (read: the extra insulation we accumulated over winter break) to get ready for swimsuit season, or just to feel better in our own skin.

Dieting permeates our lives and often ends up in our conscious spheres without our desire for it; it's written about in the health and lifestyle magazines we read, it appears in news articles that we stumble upon, and it can often be seen in the actions of those around us. It's not surprising that it often feels like something that we should be doing, even if we don't necessarily want to.

However, it's easy to overlook the role that dieting can play in our wellbeing, aside from its impacts on our relationship with food. I'm not here to say that dieting is inherently bad, or that if you diet, you are not properly taking care of yourself. Rather, I'm highlighting the effects of doing so that are often brushed under the rug.

Dieting is often something that we start suddenly. We are eating without restrictions one day, and the next, we are under a strict consumption schedule. The few times I have "dieted" (I put that in quotes because I have failed miserably every time), I felt the need for a lifestyle change, a sudden desire to take up that New Year's Resolution I made six months earlier to eat healthier in 201_. Each time, I knew if I didn't act fast the impetus I had for this healthy change would die down; ultimately, this resulted in changing my eating habits virtually overnight.

However, the sudden nature of dieting makes it incredibly easy for us to revert back to old habits. We are essentially quitting cold turkey, no longer eating foods which were our previously go-to or favorite meals. Dieting thus inherently sets us up to fail; it is nearly impossible to sustain the sudden change in food and lifestyle that defines dieting. Not only can it make us frustrated and resentful at ourselves for the limited food repertoire that we can now consume, but when we do slip up, the feelings of guilt can be overwhelming. 

We feel disappointed in ourselves for not being able to uphold the standard we set for ourselves, a standard that those around us seem to be easily exceeding. Even if we have had success after success, we only focus on the one time we failed at our diet. We abhor our lack of self-control, how we couldn't hold out, how we indulged when we knew we shouldn't have. These feelings often feel isolated to the instance, but can impact how we feel about ourselves overall; feelings of inadequacy in dieting can translate to similar feelings of failure in aspects of our life in which we don't feel in control.

When we fail at one diet, we often think to try another. Maybe it was something about the other one that didn't work for us? Or maybe we just want a second (or third or fourth) chance. However, the issues with dieting are inherent in its concept, and the struggles we encounter early on are likely ones that we will continue to battle throughout our dieting journey. By continually subjugating ourselves to these same patterns, we often end up in a constant cycle of disappointment. The feelings of failing at one diet get amplified on a much larger scale, and can be a detriment to how we feel about ourselves.

However, just because a diet is "successful," doesn't mean it can't hurt us. For many, dieting is a way to exert control, often control that we don't have in other areas of our life. The success of a diet can feel empowering, something we were able to control for ourselves, something that we can be proud of. However, these feelings can also bring us into risky territory, as they are feelings often associated with negative food relationships and even full-blown eating disorders. We need to accept these feelings with a grain of salt and be careful when skirting this line in order to put ourselves and our wellbeing first.

We need to be introspective and understand why were are dieting in the first place, knowing the risks that we could be faced with during the process. Only then can we approach the endeavor knowing that our wellbeing is not on the line. Ultimately, our happiness, undefined by our weight, is what truly matters.