May 6: Celebrate International No Diet Day!

Billions of dollars are spent every year on the latest diet programs, diet pills and diet books, yet most dieters regain all of, if not more of their weight within one to five years . On May 6th, International No Diet Day, the National Eating Disorder Information Centre is encouraging Canadians to break free of dieting with four alternatives that will help lead to a healthier outlook and relationship with food and with oneself.

“Many people go on a diet to lose weight in order to gain acceptance,” says Merryl Bear, Director of NEDIC. “They believe that thinness is the recipe for health and happiness.”

Children are watching and modeling this behaviour. In fact, 30 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys between 10 and 14 years old have been on a diet, despite being within a healthy weight range. 

“Dieting has become a rite of passage for girls as young as 8 years old,” continues Merryl. “This is concerning, because dieting can be a precursor to developing an eating disorder. We need to break this cycle and teach our children to respect and appreciate the diversity of body shapes and sizes, including their own.”

Instead, NEDIC promotes Health At Every Size(R) (HAES). The HAES model emphasizes size and self-acceptance, as well as healthy day-to-day behaviours, without focusing on weight.

To help break these detrimental dieting deeds, Registered Dietitian Kori Kostka offers these four alternatives:

1. Tap Into Your Own Intuition – As babies, we cried when we were hungry and stopped eating when we felt full. Most of us were taught from a young age to eat what was on our plate and not to nourish our tastes and needs. Re-becoming intuitive can take time to rebuild trust with food and your body, but it is possible!

2. Be Mindful When Eating – Don’t eat in front of the TV. Chew thoroughly and enjoy the taste of your food. Listen to your internal cues of hunger and fullness and allow your body to guide your food choices.

3. Recognize and Respect Your Set Point – Your body has its own natural set point - the weight it naturally wants to be in order to be healthy. Gaining and losing weight can wreak havoc on your natural set point. This cycle of yo-yo dieting confuses the body and the brain between binging and starving.

4. Measures of Health and Happiness – The number on the scale does not determine how healthy you are. Wellbeing can be measured in other ways. Laughter, learning, rest, play, reflection, socializing, volunteerism, these are just some of the other ways that people can begin to feel good about themselves and their bodies.

“The body is built to store and survive, not lose,” Kostka says. “When you diet, you starve yourself of energy, nutrients, as well as pleasure. That’s no way to live.”

Instead, Kostka suggests, “Balance eating for health and eating for enjoyment, while rediscovering the joy of physical activity.”

If someone you know is a frequent dieter, he or she may have an unhealthy preoccupation with food and weight, and may need help. Encourage them to celebrate International No Diet Day on May 6th and to visit or call 1-866-NEDIC-20 for more information. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter (@NEDIC85) and tag comments and photos with #NoDietDay.

2. McVey, Pepler, Davis, Flett, & Abdolell, 2002; McVey, Tweed, & Blackmore, 2004; McVey, Tweed, & Blackmore, 2005

Facts and Stats
Dieting and Body Based Bullying

Dieting and Youth

  • Adolescent girls who diet are at 324% greater risk for obesity than those who do not diet.(1)
  • In a study of 14 to 15 year old adolescents, girls who engaged in strict dieting practices:
    • Were 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder within six months than non-dieters
    • Had almost a 20% chance of developing an eating disorder within one year.
    • Girls who dieted moderately were five times more likely to develop an eating disorder within 6 months than non-dieters.(2)
  • Children learn (unhealthy) mainstream attitudes towards food and weight at a very young age. In a study of five-year-old girls, a significant proportion of girls associated a diet with food restriction, weight-loss and thinness.(3)
  • 28% of girls in grade nine and 29% in grade ten engaged in weight-loss behaviours.(4)
  • 37% of girls in grade nine and 40% in grade ten perceived themselves as too fat. Even among students of normal-weight (based on BMI), 19% believed that they were too fat, and 12% of students reported attempting to lose weight.(5)


Body Based Bullying

  • In a survey of adolescents in grades 7 to 12, 30% of girls and 25% of boys reported teasing by peers about their weight. Such teasing has been found to persist in the home as well – 29% of girls and 16% of boys reported having been teased by a family member about their weight.(6)
  • Body-based teasing can have a serious impact on girls’ attitudes and behaviours. According to one study, girls who reported teasing by family members were 1.5 times more likely to engage in binge-eating and extreme weight control behaviours five years later.(7)
  • Overweight and obese children are more likely to be bullied than their normal-weight peers. For example:
    • In a survey of 11 to 16 year-olds, 10% of normal-weight children reported being bullied, compared to 15% of overweight and 23% of obese children
    • Obese girls were 2.7 times more likely than normal weight girls to be verbally bullied on a regular basis and 3.4 times more likely to be excluded from group activities.(8)
  • In childhood (5 to 12 years), the ratio of girls to boys diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia is 5:1, whereas in adolescents and adults, the ratio is much larger – 10 females to every male.(9)



1. Stice, Cameron, R. P., Killen, J. D., Hayward, C. & Taylor, C. B. (1999). Naturalistic weight-reduction efforts prospectively predict growth in relative weight and onset of obesity among female adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 967-974.
2. Patton, G. C., Selzer, R., Coffey, C., Carlin, J. B. & Wolfe, R. (1999). Onset of adolescent eating disorders: population based cohort study over 3 years. British Medical Journal, 318, 765-768
3. Abramovitz, B. A. & Birch, L. L. (2000). Five-year-old girls’ ideas about dieting are predicted by their mothers’ dieting. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 (10), 1157-1163
4. Boyce, W. F. (2004). Young people in Canada: their health and well-being. Ottawa, Ontario: Health Canada
5. Boyce, W. F., King, M. A. & Roche, J. (2008). Healthy Living and Healthy Weight. In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. Retrieved from
6. Eisenberg, M. E. & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2003). Associations of Weight-Based Teasing and Emotional Well-Being Among Adolescents. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 157(6), 733-738.
7. Neumark-Sztainer, D. R., Wall, M. M., Haines, J. I., Story, M. T., Sherwood, N. E., van den Berg, P. A. (2007). Shared Risk and Protective Factors for Overweight and Disordered Eating in Adolescents. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 33(5), 359-369
8. Janssen, I., Craig, W. M., Boyce, W. F. & Pickett, W. (2004). Associations Between Overweight and Obesity With Bullying Behaviours in School-Age Children. Pediatrics, 113(5), 1187-1194.
9. Public Health Agency of Canada. Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program, 2003 Results. Retrieved from