Most of my clients come to see me when they’ve hit “diet rock bottom” – they have tried every diet or fad, only to feel like a failure, but they also recognize that they aren’t sure how to eat healthfully without following a diet. We call this diet rock bottom for a reason – they’re at that point where they realize diets haven’t served them, and really don’t want to go on another one, but also are at a loss as to what to do next. In comes intuitive eating and slowly getting out of the diet mentality, to find a balanced way of eating that works LONG TERM, while also prioritizing other aspects of health – like mental, social & emotional health, too! (Because let’s face it – diets aren’t good for our mental or emotional health)
Diets set you up to fail – they literally only work for less than 5% of the population. Would you take a medication that had a 95+% failure rate? And came with harmful side effects? No way! Yet here we are, always trying diet after diet, when the research shows that they simply do not work long-term.
So whether you’re truly convinced that diets are ineffective, or you simply recognize that dieting causes a strained and stressful relationship to food for you, let’s discuss some helpful tips to Reject the Diet Mentality – one of the ten principles of Intuitive Eating.
The reason why most non-diet Dietitians get fired up about intuitive eating and quitting diets is that we know the extensive research of how harmful diets can be. This isn’t shared enough — people only share the “highlights” of their diet – “I lost ___lbs!”, yet they don’t share the dark aftermath when they’re obsessively counting calories, have worse body image, increased stress, and ultimately gain the weight back.
Here are some of the top evidence-based side effects of dieting:
Even if you aren’t on an obvious fad diet, you could still be dieting! This is because dieting really is any imposed food rules, trying to control portions, or following a way of eating to control your body shape.
Here are some signs that you could still be dieting:
Willpower is B.S. We know from research that the more we restrict, avoid, and have off-limit foods, the more rewarding they become to our brain, and ultimately it’s much easier to “give in” and over-consume them. It literally increases cravings for that food. Our bodies are way too smart for willpower! If willpower actually worked, would you still be trying that new diet? Dieting also sets you up to fail – yet after we can’t sustain a diet, we often feel like the failure! (how ironic)…In intuitive eating there is no failure or willpower. So learn to get rid of these terms and thoughts to get out of the diet cycle.
One way to start challenging the diet mentality and break free from diet culture is to get rid of the “tools” – that’s right, the scale, the phone apps, the magazines, the books, the instagram feeds, etc. One of the first things my clients and I do together is delete their My Fitness Pal app – it’s a big first step in quitting the diet mentality, and I encourage you to do the same! We also work in nutrition therapy to slowly put the scale on the back-burner – for some they are ready to throw the scale out, and others it takes quite some time to get to that point. Remember, your journey isn’t going to look like anyone else’s and that’s A-Okay!
Challenge those thoughts that pop up that say you are “good” for eating a salad and “bad” for eating a hamburger. Bring awareness to your diet thoughts – that’s the first step to being able to change them!
When we feel out of control, it’s easy to feel “in control” (falsely) when we follow rigid food rules. So maybe ask yourself, what have the patterns been like in my life when I was compelled to start a diet? What was going on for me – mentally, socially, emotionally? For example, most of my client started dieting when they had a life event that was tough – whether it was a loss of a loved one, increased depression, feeling “lost” in life career-wise, feeling lonely/moving to a new place, etc. When we focus on lifting up other areas of our life (Friendships, community, job, hobbies, spirituality, etc.), we are less likely to be compelled to diet.
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