I used to diet a lot. I started as a teenager with my mom’s encouragement, because I “needed to lose weight.” I do not remember whether she thought I should lose weight or whether I thought it, but we agreed that I needed to go on a diet. Through the years, my weight has gone up and down and no diet worked over the long term. I cannot tell you that I have been on “every diet” (as many people say), but I have been on enough to know that they do not work for me and actually lead me in the direction of overeating, gaining weight, and feeling bad about myself. A diet is a restriction of food and it relies on me being hungry and severely limiting what I eat. Meriam Webster’s dictionary definition of a diet is,” to eat sparingly or according to prescribed rules.”
At this point, there is no real start of diet season, although you can find more talk of it around the new year and the start of summer. There seems to be a new diet on the internet every day. There are often big name stars mentioning whatever plan they are on, while their followers try it in hopes of achieving the same results. It’s not that I think all eating plans are bad, but the preoccupation with eating sparingly (restrictive) and according to rules that feel restricting (the definition of a diet). I think there is room for everyone to eat in a way that works for them, but I encourage people to notice if they are physically hungry all of the time and preoccupied with food. I remember the group leader of a diet program I joined told us to go to bed early if we are hungry to discourage eating any more food that day. What!?
I have found there are a few sane ways to escape the diet rollercoaster and preoccupation with food. First, give up the diets. Commit to no more starving to lose weight. No more kicking out foods that are “bad.” Food is not bad or good. It is just food. Some food gives your body the fuel that it needs and some food doesn’t. Programming yourself to label food as good or bad demonizes some food and actually will make you want it even more. If you tell me I cannot have something, then I will want it even more. I like to think about what food my body needs to function well, and this helps me get out of thinking of good and bad foods.
I have heard many people say that if they do not restrict what they eat, they will eat sweet/fatty foods all day. That will not happen if you are really focused on what your body needs. Getting off the diet rollercoaster does not mean you get to have a free-for-all. It means eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full, and eat foods that nourish your body. As I tell my clients, this is simple but it is not easy.
I want to encourage you to ditch the diet mentality. It is not going to take a diet to get you and your body where you want it to be. One way to challenge the diet mindset is to write out your dieting history and write down what the results were (here is a template). This method puts it all into perspective and can challenge that diet mindset. It is possible and you can change your relationship with food so that it just becomes nourishment for your body. I know you can do it.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Kim McLaughlin, MA is a Counselor and Motivational Coach who specializes in working with people who suffer from binge eating and emotional eating. She is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.
Kim McLaughlin has been identified as writing one of the Top 50 Blogs about Emotional Eating by the Institute on Emotional Eating. Sign up for her free Special Report: Top Strategies to End Binge Eating here or visit her website at www.FeedYourSoulUnlimited.com.