Want to lose weight, go on a diet, right? Any reasonable person would believe this to be true. Isn't that what you hear all the time? And no matter how hard you work or how much you diet, you never end up with the results you desire. Sometimes, you gain weight. Instead of ending up with your dream body, you are left with feelings of guilt and shame. You must be some kind of fool if you can't the diet to work for you. But the thing is, it isn't your fault
the diet doesn't work, it is the diet's fault.
Most diets require you to cut a large number of calories because you are looking to see quick results. On a biological level, your body begins to think it is starving. As a result, you eat more when food does come along or when you fall off the wagon. Plus, your body is in a stress state and so it stores more fat than usual to hold you through the famine.
Think about a restrictive diet, think about the amount of food you eat. It isn't very much. Think about what you eat when you are not dieting but eating healthily. Think about the food guides and the food pyramids. They expect you to eat a lot of food. When we diet, we under eat. You end up overeating because, well, you need more food!
Restrictive dieting also makes you start to think of your behaviours as 'good' or 'bad.' When you follow your diet, you feel happy and proud and are filled with a sense of accomplishment. When you don't, you feel like a failure. When you fall off your diet, you know you will have to restrict everything all over again so you figure 'hey, might as well eat all I can now and start over again later.' Following a strict diet can make you gain because it causes people to lose touch with their internal hunger and fullness cues.
The more diets you go on, the more out of touch and confused you become. Strict diets can lead to emotional difficulties with food. Restricting can make you irritable, depressed, bored, and anxious. On top of that, if you mess up on your diet, you are likely to feel like you've failed which does nothing to help your self esteem. Couple this low self esteem with your confusion about fullness cues and there is NOTHING stopping you from eating the entire contents of your kitchen in order to feel better. You eat for excitement and distraction from the reality that you have fallen off again.
There are countless studies out there that point to the fact that diets just don't work. The example above are only a few. But if dieting won't work, what will?
Here are some helpful tips:
1. Start to tune into your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
Relearn how to trust your body and know that it is far stronger and smarter than you and your willpower will ever be. Notice when you are hungry and when you are full and try to eat according to those cues. The cues are your body's way of counting calories. If this surrender feels too scary at first, commit to doing it for 2-3 days and see how you feel.
2. Work on rejecting the diet mentality.
The more you buy into the mentality of dieting, the more difficult it will be to eat the way that is right for your body. When you say to yourself "I will start again next week" or "that food is bad" or "I messed up today," remember that there is no way to be 'bad' or 'good' when it comes to food .There are certainly foods that are better for you than others but they are not 'good' or 'bad.' Applying those terms just creates shame and it speaks to the worthiness or value of your actions. Remember, it is all a story we've fed ourselves for too long. It does not need to drive your decisions around food.
3. Learn what foods are right for your body, not anyone else’s.
This one is key. Part of why you fail on a diet is that you are not eating the foods that work for your body and that you think taste yummy. Take time to figure out what makes you glow. Find foods that are both nourishing and satisfying to you. In doing so, you will also find what foods don't work so well for your body. Your body naturally wants to be at a healthy weight - listen to it. It will tell you want to do.
This makes sense to me. Diets have only worked for me for short periods of time. When I stopped focusing on what I couldn't eat, and switched to a mostly vegan diet, I lost close to 35 pounds. I found a system that worked for me. I eat a tonne of food and never feel badly about it. What are your experiences with diets? How did you find the right way to eat for your body?