You may be “dieting” and not even realize it. Check-in with the following questions:
• Living with certain self-imposed “food rules,” like low-carb or fat-free?
• Dreading upcoming holidays because you fear loss of control?
• Rescheduling your annual physical until you “lose the weight”?
• Eating foods that are not truly satisfying, then experiencing a binge?
• Continually “falling off the wagon” on the weekends?
• Starting your “eating plan” over each Monday morning after indulging?
• Trying to control your portions by obsessing, weighing and measuring?
• Believing that you are “good” or “bad” based on something you ate?
• Getting caught up in the media hype about “what works” for weight loss?
And the list goes on. If you can identify with even one of the above points, then, my friend, you are dieting. Simply stated, dieting does not just mean following some popular, commercial plan (although, yes, that, of course, is a diet). If you are trying to follow through with your own set of food rules, restrictions, and control that is leaving you defeated and frustrated, you are dieting.
However, if you feel a sense of powerlessness over this relationship you have with food, I am here to tell you that it is not your fault. We have been conditioned for decades to fight our weight with the scale, to harness willpower to help us suffer through eating boring, tasteless food in mouse-sized portions and judge ourselves harshly when we “mess up” and “eat the thing we told ourselves was off limits.”
What happens then? We dust ourselves off, re-group, and undertake the same restrictive tactics again, only to repeat the same try, fail, repeat the experience — all at the grand price of our self-respect, dignity and self-trust with food. In essence, we create a toxic reference for controlling food to achieve an outcome that improves our health. What happens, frankly, is that dieting promotes a weight-regain problem, not a solution to weight loss.
Based on current data that indicates a 95 percent failure rate, this is cause for pondering. To add to the dreaded phenomenon, the current weight-loss industry cashes in at a whopping $72 billion and growing.
Let’s be clear about something. Diets for weight loss do work, if the rules are followed with a laser-sharp focus, leading up to an endpoint — typically a weigh-in date. Many of us have achieved the gold standard of our “goal weight,” only to land in an emotionally panicked state, because our truth often is that we have no idea how to sustain our tactics that led to the so-called “weight loss success.”
Many times, we then relapse into old food habits upon the first holiday, vacation or Sunday family dinner, because while we lost the weight, we did not learn any tools to help us keep our results and we actually intensified an already damaged relationship with food and our bodies. We eat in a no-holds-barred fashion, with our inner rebel celebrating like wild animal that has been let out of a cage for the first time, and you know what happens next: the weight returns, and we sit in a sea of shame and self-loathing.
So what is the solution, then, to weight loss, improving health and learning to eat healthier in general?
It is rather simple. Stop dieting.
Vow to end living in a war with food “rules” and consider adopting a mindset of open “curiosity” with your food choices.
You see, dieting teaches us to “check out” when we eat. To disembody and follow a set of rigid boundaries with food that keep us in stress mode internally. When we choose to let go of food rules and take on an attitude of “curiosity” with our food, we then begin to repair the damaged relationship with eating by learning to pay attention to all aspects of the eating experience.This is becoming embodied in our relationship with food.
This is where the healing opportunity begins. How does this food choice make me feel? How do I want to feel in my body as I live my life? Those two questions have the wisdom and power to help us eat to nourish ourselves with self-love and care, not fighting for weight loss.
In this manner, it makes it easier to want to eat whole, natural, unprocessed foods that are chock full of loving vitamins, minerals and fiber to help us feel better from the inside out, rather than appease an out-of-control palate that has been hijacked with standard American salt- and sugar-laden foods.
OK — so if you are thinking, “But I love my sweets, or pizza, etc.,” consider the thought of saving your treats for occasions, rather than so frequently. That seems like a reasonable, responsible gesture that is health-promoting, right? This is different from dieting-restrictive rules. When we consider what vibrant health looks like and feels like to us, we can begin to be curious as to how our food choices react in our bodies and make us feel.
Once we become curious in our food choice approach, we are on the road to re-wiring our brains to connect with what is truly best for us, on our terms, not some restrictive plan that the world says we should follow. When we stop the war on food, we learn to connect with ourselves at a deep level and take back our self-trust, upon which we can rely to truly nourish and support us in the mission of self-care.
It’s funny how, when we say no to diet culture, and yes to our own wisdom and food intuition, those stubborn, excess pounds that we fought for decades, begin to shed in their own timing, revealing a natural, healthy weight that is sustainable.