Are you stuck in a cycle of jumping ship from one failed diet to the next? Do you blame yourself every time a diet fails? Are diets actually worth the stress they produce? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about desperately seeking weight loss and the never-ending journey to nowhere.


  • My diet history
  • It is a set-up
  • Be real with yourself about diets

My diet history

I know for myself I was forever on the search for the holy grail of diet plans, and I cannot tell you the number of years I spent searching for some magical formula that would tell me exactly what I needed to eat and exactly how much or how little I needed to exercise so that I could finally look the way I wanted to.
I desperately wanted somebody to tell me what to do, it felt as if there was a secret out there that I needed to get in on. In treatment, I thought I would somehow be saved and would finally be told what I needed to do in order to achieve this unreachable dream. But I’m here to tell you that there is no magical diet. There is no magical manual. I would work so hard to succeed at this diet but it would always fail, and I would always blame myself. Or, because the diet was so restrictive and I was exhausted between working and going to the gym, I would crack and have an oreo. Due to this all or nothing mindset I would eat the whole box instead of just one, crashing and burning. The next day I would feel horrible, be bashing myself, and kickstarting into a new diet with a vengeance. This situation can, if not handled soon, lead to a full-blown eating disorder. Here is a question: if diets worked, why are there so many? If they worked, would we not still be on the very first one that came out? There are so many diets that claim to have the answers but they are all contradictory and vastly different, so it is impossible for them to deliver on what they promise.

It is a set-up

The system always repeats itself where you are bombarded every day with images of people with unattainable beauty standards. They are unattainable because they do not exist, the people in those pictures do not even look like that themselves due to all the photoshopping and digital editing that happens. We believe that they are the goal and that once we look like them, we will also be happy. So we seek out diets to follow in order to make us into these people. Ultimately, the diet fails and we end up blaming ourselves for this failure – when we should be blaming the diet – and we end up feeling worse off than we did before. Now we have been set up to follow the diet and beauty industry and will do whatever they tell us to because they have us insecure, desperate to purchase a diet – we are exactly where they want to have us.
There’s so much research that shows that diets almost never result in long-term sustained weight loss.
Most people may lose weight at the beginning of a new diet because there is a shift in their eating and exercise, but this weight loss slows down until it plateaus.
But, 95% of people who lose weight by dieting will regain it back within 1-5 years. Why? Because diets don’t work. Nobody can stay on anything that strict and restrictive for forever.

Be real with yourself about diets

The purpose of food is to nourish and sustain you and fuel your body. We have to eat food as our energy source, but people talk about food as if it is an option, or that it is a nuisance, or because it is something that they fear. People who diet regularly or for many years may now be out of touch with what it feels like to be hungry because they have ignored it for so long, or they have a distorted view of how much to eat when they are hungry.
I sincerely doubt that you’d be foolish enough to drive all the way from California to New York on half a tank of gas, but how often do you push yourself to keep going and going without stopping to eat?
We are social beings and diets impact that. We would decline social invitations or spending time with friends because we know that might mean being around food that could pull us off our diet. Diets restrict too much to make it realistic to follow one for extended periods of time. Ask yourself, why would you want to start something that has a 95% failure rate? Rethink it the next time you want to lose weight and start considering trying a new diet and rather ask yourself, what would be the sustainable way to do this?



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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[CRISTINA]: Behind the Bite podcast is part of a network of podcasts that are good for the world. Check out podcasts like the Full of Shift podcast, After the First Marriage podcast and Eating Recovery Academy over at Welcome to Behind the bite podcast. This podcast is about the real life struggles women face with food, body image and weight. We're here to help heal, inspire and create better, healthier lives. Welcome. ________________________________________ [CRISTINA]: Well, hello, everyone. If you're back after podcast number one, welcome back. And if this is your first time joining me, welcome to Behind the Bite. We're here getting real about your struggles with food, body image and weight. And as someone who has struggled with those issues myself, and is now a certified eating disorder specialist, I'm here to give my personal and professional perspective. So let's get going. Today we're going to talk about the topic I encountered the most in my professional and in my personal life. No matter what I do, I just can't seem to escape it, and I bet you can't either. I'm talking about diets. In fact, just a few minutes before I got on here, I was looking on my Facebook page, and my feed had no less than three ads promising me a fast, quick and easy solution to ending all my struggles with weight. Now, I get it, I could easily be more targeted because I'm an eating disorder specialist. However, I can only imagine that most people, most of you are probably getting these ads with an equal amount of frequency as I do every day. But the reason I want to bring it up now is because I know diets are discussed by a lot of people all the time. And I certainly know for myself that the second somebody finds out I'm an eating disorder specialist, that's the number one topic that everybody wants to talk with me about. So I figured let's talk about it. So when I was in my eating disorder, my goodness, I was forever on the search for the holy grail of diet plans. I cannot tell you the number of years I spent searching for this magical formula that would tell me exactly what I needed to eat and exactly how much or how little I needed to exercise in order to finally look the way I wanted to. I just wanted somebody to please tell me what I needed to do. I felt like the answer was out there and it was being kept from me for some reason. I mean, I saw people, I saw pictures of people who certainly seemed to have gotten their hands on it. And I think to myself, okay, come on, I've been so good, and I've struggled so much. Certainly it's my turn to get my hands on it, right? How much longer do I have to wait? And I recall being so desperate to just know, I thought certainly the next diet or program that I do, it just has to be it. It just had to be the next one around the corner and it would save me from all my misery, finally. It's got to be there. And I remember having such hope when I finally entered treatment. I naively thought that I'd finally just be told what to do. After all, in treatment, these were the experts, right? Okay, how wrong I was. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there is no magical diet. There is no magical manual that exists out there. And every day, I see that same longing I had in the eyes of patients who sit across from me in my office. They have that desperate hope that I'm just about to pull out that magical manual and send them on their way. And when people find out I'm an eating disorder specialist, one of the first topics of discussion that inevitably comes up is dieting. People want to know what they need to do to lose weight and keep it off, which to me is an interesting question. If they worked, if diets worked, would there even be a question? If they worked, then everyone would still be on the first one they went on. They would have never gotten off of it. Why would they have gotten off of it if it worked? Think about it. How many have you personally been on? I know for me, there have been way too many to count. And they've all been so different. That's what gets me when I really think about it. How can they all claim to be the one, the "solution", if there are so many of them? They can't all work and they're all confusing and contradictory. Well, one says one food is the best for you; another will say that same exact food is to be avoided at all cost and that food is the culprit and ultimately responsible for all your weight loss struggles. Now, I'm old enough to have seen the waves of dietes coming in out of popularity just like anything else. Each one has what I call their fifteen minutes of fame, and then another new, better one comes along until that one too, is replaced. So when I was a teen, I talked about it last time, it was SlimFast, and everything was high carb and low fat. Fat made you fat. Everything was no fat or low fat and carbs were King. And then carbs were the devil. Protein suddenly came out of hiding and fat was good. Just to name a few over the years, and I know I'm gonna miss, like, so many but Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, Master Cleanse, Paleo, Keto, Gluten free, Intermittent Fasting. And I just sit back and I wait to hear what's coming next. Because it is. It's coming. The next new diet always keeps coming. They have to, you see? If one actually worked, then what? The diet and beauty industry would have nobody to market their new product or new diet to. It's a setup. You are constantly bombarded with images of unattainable, ideal body types in all types of media: internet ads, commercials, magazines. These images are photoshopped and filtered, so even the people in the pics don't look like this. But you don't really know this. All you know is that you want to look like them. You feel like you should want to look like them. You need to look like this to have that life that it appears that these people have. People who look like this, they're attractive. We're told they're attractive, they're desired, they're wanted, they're happy. And you compare yourself to them. And when you do that, you don't look like them. So you feel inadequate, you feel bad about yourself, not good enough. You believe you can only be happy once you look like them, and will do anything to look like them. And the worst part is you believe it's possible to look like them. And you feel bad about yourself because you don't look like them. So when a product or a diet or program presents itself promising you the hope that if you follow it or buy it, that you'll look and finally be happy, you buy it. You're so desperate to look like them and be happy that you buy it, you do it. Only there's a problem. When you don't get the results, you blame yourself. You don't blame the diet or the product, which by the way you should because you didn't fail. That product, that diet failed. But the problem is you feel even worse about yourself after than before you did it. You tell yourself you failed. It's your fault. And when you're in that spot, and you're feeling really down, guess what? The diet and beauty industry now has you right where they want you. You're vulnerable, you're feeling defeated, you're bad, desperate for more help, and primed for yet another one of their products or diets. Yep, you are a repeat customer and they prey off your insecurities that they created. I know that for me, it would usually start out with me feeling pretty disgusted with myself and I'd be desperate to get my weight off. I was convinced that the source of my unhappiness and I would tell myself, hey, my life's not the way I want it to be because I don't look like that. I need to look like those people. So once a new diet a product, or program came down my path, especially during those low moments in my life, and it promised me some quick, easy, surefire way to achieve my goals and ultimately look the way I wanted to, and have the life and the happiness I so desperately wanted, of course, I was all in. Of course. I couldn't wait to get started. I would be so focused and my entire life would become so consumed with making sure I followed everything perfectly. There was no way I was going to fail yet another diet. Nope. No. I'd finally do this one, right. If I had failed all the other ones, if I had lacked the willpower, nope. I was gonna stay the course on this one. All I'd have to do was be good and I'd have those promised results. But each and every time, I would, I would be so good. I'd measure, I'd weigh, and I'd eat things I hated. I hate beets, truth be told, and there was this one diet that promised me if I ate all these beets that I was gonna have glowing skin and immunity, and it was gonna be the answer to everything. And I will never eat a beet again. But the fact that I did that, believing this, and suffered so much, like, I mean, the things that I did because I was promised all these things, I think back and go, oh my goodness. And I spent time I didn't have doing things, like meal prepping. I was a student, I was working, I didn't have time to meal prep, but I did it. I spent money I didn't have on expensive supplements and ingredients. Again, I was a student. But these diets said, hey, you know what, you have to get these things or else it's not gonna work. And I deprived myself of foods I loved. And another thing that was really bad was I was young. And so I lost some of my youth because I would decline invitations to events I knew I would have fun at, but my goodness, like, these events would have food that would cause me to get off track. And I couldn't get off track because I had a goal to reach. I told myself, I was going to be perfect and I was going to do this one, right. And then I also lost sleep. I was exhausted because I'd choose time at the gym over time for sleep. This was awful, the things I did. And yet no matter how devoted or how much I tried, or how much I sacrificed, it was ultimately the same result each and every time. No matter which died it was or which program it was, it was always the same. I’d be excited and all-in in the beginning. And believe me, I'm a perfectionist so if I take something on, like, I am all about it. So I would really be all about it and get really into it and I would be totally motivated and convinced I was doing the right thing because guess what? Initially I'd see changes and that usually got me attention and compliments. And let's be honest. anytime anyone changes what they eat, and their activity level, there's going to be some kind of change in their body. And it's usually the most noticeable when you first start making those changes. And that was motivating. But over time those changes, they aren't as dramatic, which was always the case with me. My weight loss would plateau over time, and I'd get so frustrated. And I'd blame myself. I'd think, okay, I must be doing something wrong. But I'd be starving, and I'd be tired from not eating, and I'd be tired from not sleeping enough, and I'd be tired from all these things. And there would be moments where I'd be so stressed and I'd give in and I'd do it. Yeah. Inevitably, it would happen every time. I love Oreos, and I'd have my Oreo or my bite of ice cream, or I'd finally just say, you know what, I miss my friends and I'd go out with them, and I'd have that drink. And I'd think, well, okay, I blew my diet for the day. It's totally shot, the dam's broken already. I might as well have everything anyway, since I don't know the next time I'll let myself do it. This is my opportunity. I will get right back on track tomorrow. I'll be good tomorrow. It was this all or nothing. So rather than just have like one or two Oreos, or a little bit of ice cream, I had an entire bag of cookies, and the ice cream and more. And there would be one day a week where this would happen. Until there was two days a week when this would happen until I was just completely off track. And there I would be again, just berating myself for failing yet again. And guess what? I would yet again be desperate and primed to be susceptible to the next best diet to come. And then these things that would come along, they'd again give me false hopes with their empty promises. And it was horrible because I gained weight plus more after each one. And now for me this roller coaster eventually led to a full-blown eating disorder. And I know that's not the case for everyone. But the reality is that diets are a precursor to having an eating disorder. And about twenty-five percent of people who engage in dieting, they go on to develop an eating disorder. So in that alone, they don't work. They can result in a disorder that can result in some horrible complications, and even kill you, which, by the way, is a very important topic I'll be devoting some time to in a podcast coming up. So I'm not going to get into that today and I don't want to just gloss over it. I wanted to mention it because it's really important. But let's just say you don't develop an eating disorder. Let's say you start dieting to try to lose weight. Honestly, please save yourself the misery and the pain. There is so much research that shows that diets almost never result in long-term, sustained weight loss. Yes, most people lose weight in the beginning of a diet. Like I said, anytime someone alters what and how much they eat, or their exercise, their body is bound to change. But ninety-five percent of people who lose weight by dieting will regain it back within one to five years. Why? Because diets don't work. Nobody can stand anything that strict and restrictive forever. Nobody. I don't care who you are. Look, like I said, I'm a really disciplined and driven person, and when I set my mind to something I stick to it. But I have to tell you, I have never, ever been able to stick to a diet for very long. And I don't know anybody who has. There's many reasons for this. But just on a basic level, diets are too restrictive. They deprive us of what we need for our bodies, as well as for us to live our normal daily lives. Okay, if we just focus on food first, what's the purpose of food? It's fuel and nutrition. That's it. It's pretty simple. Food is the only thing keeping us alive. It's the only thing that keeps your heart pumping, your blood flowing through your veins, your cells replicating, your lungs breathing. The only thing is food. We don't plug in like a cell phone, we don't get to drive up to a pump and fill up on gas when we're empty so we can keep going. No, we have to eat food to keep going. That's our energy source. Yet, what's interesting is that I hear so many people talk about food like it's an option, or a nuisance, or something they fear. I'll have patients for instance, come in for a five o'clock appointment and I'll ask, hey, what did you eat today? And it's very common that I'll hear well, I'm never really hungry for breakfast so I had coffee, then I was so busy with meetings and running around that I didn't even notice how fast the day flew by, so I didn't have any time to grab something. So I just grabbed a protein bar and something on the way over here. For some reason people think that we don't actually use food once we eat it. Like, whenever we eat, it automatically sticks on them as fat and now they're calculating how they need to exercise or burn it off. Which is strange to me, because we do use the food we eat. It's like a car. When we fill up our tank, we use the gas when we drive. It doesn't just stay in there when we're driving around. But for some reason, people think that whatever they eat doesn't have a purpose. They just fear food, worry about how much weight it's going to make them gain, how much time in the gym they must now spend to burn it off. You know, we truly are much better at making sure we keep our things fueled up so they can function... things function at an optimal level at all times, that we own. Let me give you an example. I bet you would scramble like your life depended on it to find a charger and an outlet if you saw a low battery alert on your cell phone if you were on a once in a lifetime phone call with the CEO of a company you'd been dreaming of working for your entire career. I bet you would. But how often do you ignore your own hunger signals? Or even really know when or if you're hungry? Likewise, I sincerely doubt you'd be foolish enough to drive all the way from California to New York on a half a tank of gas. But how often do you push yourself to just keep going and going without stopping to eat, saying, hey, I'm too busy? I don't have time. The reality is that if you've been on enough diets, you've probably lost your ability to know when you're hungry and when you're not. You probably have a really distorted idea about how much fuel you really need on a daily basis. Now, I know I just focused on saying diets don't work because they simply don't provide us with enough fuel and nutrition. But we aren't just biological beings. We're social beings too and diets just don't allow us enough to engage as social beings. They restrict us there too. Way too much actually. They don't allow us to have a realistic life. Not for any length of time. Let me ask you something: do you ever want to go on a vacation again? Do you want to go to the movies and be able to enjoy popcorn or candy? Do you think you will ever be asked out to a dinner party or a family event where you won't know what's on the menu beforehand? What about if your life is completely thrown off by something like a flat tire, or a late flight, heavy traffic, or an illness? How do you think you'll be able to stick to your diet for the rest of your life and actually live your life? If nothing else, I just want you to walk away asking yourself this: why would you ever start something that has a ninety-five percent failure rate? The results of dieting are not what we imagine they should be, in that attempts to deliberately control food intake are associated in most cases with weight gain, rather than weight loss. So in all honesty, diets are just awful. If I could, I would make a law to make them illegal. I would do it in a heartbeat. It would save so many people so much pain and suffering. Truly, I would, I would make them illegal. But since I can't, I just hope what I'm saying here on this podcast sheds some light and helps someone out there to rethink the next time they start to consider taking on their next diet. So with that being said, make sure to tune in to my next podcast where I'm going to talk about what to do instead of dieting. Alright everyone, thank you for being here. Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed the show. And if you did, you can rate, review, and subscribe to the podcast. You can also go onto my website at where you can get a free email course and start your own journey to making peace with your struggles with food and your body. Until next time, to your health, everyone. ________________________________________ [CRISTINA]: This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical or any other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.