We are a nation that is obsessed with dieting, and yet we are facing an obesity crisis of epidemic proportions.

So why don’t the hundreds of diet books and fat-free snacks seem to be working? One diet may seem to work for a few months or even a year, but long-term diets have been shown to be unsuccessful and unmaintainable. Most people gain the weight back (or never lose it in the first place), and begin to blame themselves and their apparent lack of willpower for yet another failed attempt. However, maybe the dieter isn’t the problem. Perhaps instead the deprivation, lack of self-trust and biological mayhem brought on by the yo-yo dieting cycle is truly to blame.

When a new diet starts, so too does the deprivation. Instead of a balanced meal plan full of variety, many of the dieter’s favorite foods and even whole food groups are labeled “bad” and off limits. Deprivation of forbidden foods often results in obsessive thoughts and a fear of never tasting the food again. Eventually the dieter gives in to these feelings of deprivation and ends up binging on whatever food they had been avoiding.

Dieting also erodes trust in one’s self and their relationship with food. Instead of believing that you have the innate ability to decide when you are hungry, what foods sound good and when to stop eating because you feel full, a diet relies on strict rules and regimented eating. With the beginning and end of each new diet, the dieter has a harder time recognizing the biological signals of hunger and fullness, causing most people to overeat and regain any weight that might have been lost.

Biologically, dieting teaches our body to enter a state of starvation. Because most diets do not provide our bodies with adequate energy or carbohydrates, the body becomes unsure that it will ever be fed again. This causes a long list of biological changes in our body including increased fat retention, decreased metabolism, changes in body shape and increased cravings.

Instead of the never ending highs and lows of dieting, try normalizing your relationship with food for good. Pay attention to signs of hunger and fullness, help yourself remember which foods you enjoy (and which ones you don’t), and aim for a sustainable diet of moderation instead of perfection.

Taryn Palmer is a registered dietitian for the Magic Valley YMCA.

Mediterranean Three Bean Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

½ lb. green beans, trimmed and snapped into 2-inch pieces

1 (15 oz.) can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed

1 (15 oz.) white beans, drained and rinsed

1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, seeds removed and chopped

1 cup chopped seedless cucumber

1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half

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1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves, pressed

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes, covered. Remove lid and fluff with a fork. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl.

2. Meanwhile, blanch the green beans. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until tender crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain the green beans and place in a bowl of ice water. Drain well and pat dry.

3. Add the green beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese, olives, and basil to the bowl with the quinoa.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Pour dressing over the salad and gently stir until salad is coated with dressing. Season with additional salt and pepper. Serve.

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