Are you tired of dieting? Are you stuck in a binge-restrict cycle? Do you want to heal your relationship with food? Then let me help you break free from the diet mentality and live a life of health and freedom!
Hi, I’m Jen, and for the past 10 years, I’ve been a chronic dieter.
I know this first sentence sounds like something you would say in an alcoholics anonymous meeting. But I can honestly say that I finally came to the realization that I needed help with breaking free from my dieting.
For years, I’ve been worried about the food I eat, how much I eat, when I eat, how much I exercise…and this constant restriction has actually led me to an eating disorder called orthorexia. Orthorexia is when someone displays obsessive behaviour in pursuit of a healthy diet.
What obsessive behaviour you ask?
- I wouldn’t go out to eat if it didn’t match the “time” I was “supposed” to eat.
- I wouldn’t go to functions if there wasn’t food that was “healthy.”
- I wouldn’t participate in my own children’s birthdays because I “couldn’t” eat cake.
- I would avoid ALL “unhealthy” food ALL the time.
- I would exercise to punish my body and push it harder to “burn” more calories.
Those are just some of the obsessive behaviours I displayed. But finally, when I reached 40, something in my mind shifted, and I knew I needed to change.
And now that diet season is in full swing, I wanted to share with you 5 tips on how I’ve broken free from my old diet mentality, have made peace with food and my body, and have found freedom.
Everywhere we turn, there is talk of dieting, losing weight, and promises to swear off junk food for good.
But come Feb. 1 (or even sooner), where are most of these people? Stuck back in old ruts, bad habits, and even more frustrated than where they were before.
Let me share with you this simple, profound truth: Diets do not work.
Sure, you can lose weight going on a “diet.” But every diet has an end, and with that end usually comes weight gain. People reach their goal weight by dieting, then go off the diet, and end up re-gaining the weight back. The majority of people who go on a diet gain the weight back, plus some.
Or, in my case, the diet leads to an eating disorder.
Despite the fact that dieting has become the norm in our society, we aren’t getting healthier or thinner. We are getting more desperate, crazier, and more obsessed with food, weight loss, and the perfect body than ever before.
Dieting is just a quick fix, a Band-Aid to a physical problem that often lies in our mental, emotional, and spiritual state.
And even if you think, “I don’t diet” you still probably have an issue with food.
How do you know? Before eating something, do you think:
- Do I deserve this food?
- Did I workout enough today to eat this?
- If I had a treat earlier, I’m not allowed another treat the rest of the day, right?
- This food is too many calories, I shouldn’t eat it.
- I just got on the scale and didn’t like what I saw, so I’m just not going to eat (or on the flip side, I’m going to emotionally binge.)
- Rice cakes are a food group.
Yes, going on a diet may give us that instant gratification of losing the five, 10, or 15 pounds we have been frantically trying to get rid of. But when the pounds pile back on, when we still crave sweets when life gets tough, and when we still feel like food consumes our lives, we are no better off than before.
What is Diet Mentality
I soon realized that even though I wasn’t actively sticking to a ‘diet’ lately, I still had an emotional attachment to food in terms of what I ate and didn’t eat, which meant I was still very much on a diet.
As soon as we turn food into a moral issue, or rather a moral failing (i.e. ‘I can’t believe I just ate that…what’s wrong with me??!!’), we are very much emotionally dieting.
Here are some examples of what I would do:
I would find myself in a coffee shop with a friend and I would order the skinny latte because it’s got the least amount of calories.
I would replace the fries with my lunch and have salad instead (and naturally hold off the dressing) as it’s the “healthier” option.
I would pass on dessert at my favouring restaurant because I was ‘trying to be good’ even though the hot chocolate fudge cake looked divine especially with the vanilla ice-cream on the side!!!
Or I would tell myself not have that third slice of pizza even though I’m still hungry.
As soon as you have rules and judgement around food, you are on a diet!
I think it’s important to appreciate what dieting means and ‘dieting’ (whether a traditional plan or diet thinking) is the root cause of dysfunctional food relationships, binging, and losing your control around food.
What can you do?
Once you can appreciate that dieting is something which actually causes your messed up relationship with food, you are already heading in the right direction.
5 Ways to Break Free From Dieting
Find the root cause of your diet mentality
Why do you want to diet? What do you think you will achieve? What is going on mentally, emotionally or spiritually? Recognize the fundamental reasons BEHIND why you want to diet.
Are you not satisfied with yourself? Are you unhappy in other areas of your life? Are you unhappy with yourself? One of the main reasons people eat is to fill a void. A void of emptiness, loneliness, or discontent in some area of their lives.
Take a look back on your life and determine at what point you started dieting, restricting, binging. I’m guessing you will find a life event that happened that made you turn to using food to fill your emotions. For me, it started after I had my children.
Recognizing the fundamental reasons behind your desire to diet will help you move forward to a gentler, more compassionate approach around food.
Stop living by rules
Become a rule breaker, de-categorise food, allow yourself to eat what you like. Food is NOT a moral issue despite what the diet culture wants you to believe.
When someone says you should eat Paleo or Keto or 21 Day Fix, that is allowing yourself to label your food choices. And when you don’t follow that certain plan, you are being “bad,” or have no willpower, or are a failure.
I have to tell you a sad yet common story.
I had a women message me telling me she had the stomach flu, and all she could stomach was toast. But since she was following a “low carb” way of eating, she didn’t want to eat toast, so what could she eat?!
Eat the F***ing toast!!!
Yes, I do promote eating lower carb, higher fat for health reasons, but that doesn’t mean I avoid all carbs! If I really want a burger on a bun, I’ll have the burger on the bun! If all I can eat is toast to help my tummy feel better, I’ll eat the toast!
STOP living by food rules. Stop allowing food to control your every thought, your every action. Food is just food. There is no “good” food or “bad” food. Of course we should aim to nourish our bodies with healthy, wholesome food, but there shouldn’t be labels attached to it.
Give yourself permission
With rule breaking comes permission. Always.
Permission to eat cake for breakfast if your body desires it. Permission to eat cheese with your pasta. Permission to have a full fat latte AND a cookie if your body desires it. Without permission, we stay stuck in diet mentality.
When you are confronted with or start desiring a previously forbidden food remind yourself, “I can eat this food if I want…it’s my decision.”
Then ask yourself, “but do I really want it?”
Understand what might be driving the desire (emotions, convenience, or a true desire for the food.)
Then decide what you’ll do – eat the food or not eat the food.
For example, I got some dark chocolate covered almonds for Christmas (my crack!!) I gave myself permission to eat however many I wanted, when I wanted.
On Christmas Day, I had 2 chocolate covered almonds and felt satisfied. Since then? I’ve only had one! When I was dieting, I would have eaten that whole bag in an afternoon!! Because when we restrict foods, we naturally want them MORE!
I no longer allow the food to control me and my emotions. I give myself permission to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. But because I choose to nourish my body with healthy foods too, I find that I’m less inclined to want the chocolate, or the cake, or whatever food I labelled as “bad” before.
Stop the judgement
It’s so easy to fall into the ‘I-can’t-believe-I’ve-just-eaten-that’ trap. Beating ourselves up for something which we didn’t want or said we wouldn’t eat. That will FUEL food dysfunction.
So instead, what if you could step back and just observe yourself?
Drop the judgement.
When I ate the chocolate covered almonds, I didn’t judge myself. I felt good and satisfied about my decision because I really wanted to eat them, and I enjoyed the experience of it.
Trust your body
Each of us has our own innate wisdom. Our bodies, if we learn to listen to them, will tell us exactly what we need. Are you reaching for potato chips when what you really want is a nap? Do spoonfuls of peanut butter beckon to you when you just want to feel loved and comforted?
Every day, our bodies give us signals. As we learn to slow down, breathe, and listen to the wisdom within us, our bodies relax. The dieting mentality fades away. We trust our body to tell us what we need, and we let go of trying to control our diet and weight. THIS is when change happens easily and naturally.
But what if I do overeat while changing my mindset?
Yeah, that might happen. And you know what? IT’S OKAY. Even the most mindful of eaters overeat sometimes.
In fact, episodes of overeating can be wonderful learning opportunities. When we can non-judgmentally reflect on what led us to overeat, we can use that information to help fine tune our eating experiences in the future. The key is, being constructive with the information, not critical. Harsh criticism doesn’t typically take us anywhere we want to go.
This is a process. It takes time, practice, and patience. Change won’t happen overnight, but these tips can help. Most importantly, remember that real and sustainable change is possible and that you do have the power to make it a reality.
And you don’t have to do it alone.
I am here to help!
Each month, I run my Drop the Diets support groups. I’ll share with you how I’ve broken free from dieting and now live a life of health and freedom. For more information, please check it out HERE.