I am not sure if I have ever mentioned this, but I am currently a dietetic intern in my master’s program and on my way to becoming a registered dietitian. For the most part, I generally like to let people test the waters with diet to see what they do and do not like and more importantly how it makes them feel. However, it is that time of year again when I see the new diet trend sprawled across social media. What I want to ask each person who openly displays their new diet adventure across social media is why? Why are you so insistent that this time it will be different when every other diet you have tried from low-carb, low-fat, keto, Atkins, south beach, and so forth has led you to now try a different approach.
Have you ever felt like it was YOUR fault that you “failed” again? That you just were not mentally strong enough? That you were not *insert fallacy here* enough?
What if I told you that it really was not your fault? Clearly, you care and are making an effort to better your health and your life but you find yourself going down yet another rabbit hole… I am here to tell you that it is not you that is the problem, it is that you have been told to start “dieting.” Have you ever thought about the fact that the word diet has since transformed into a verb as opposed to a noun? Your diet was only ever supposed to be your way of eating and not a strenuous and unforgiving way of life to lose a few pounds here and there just to repeat this same vicious cycle.
How about I suggest something to you that will end your not-so-loving and more so hatred-based relationship with dieting and food. My suggestion to you is to start establishing a LIFESTYLE. A lifestyle is comprised of your interests, opinions, and behaviors as opposed to a diet composed of someone else’s interests, opinions, and behaviors for their body and their life, not yours!
I fully understand that the thought of no longer dieting anymore may be nerve-wracking or make you feel as though you have given up on yourself. If you are feeling this way, what feelings does the thought of food and life feelings bring about? What if you did not have to look up every menu at a restaurant before agreeing to go out to eat? What if you could go out to dinner and drinks with friends without feeling stressed or guilty? How much stress, time, and money have you spent on trying to find the “right” diet for you?
If you have even the slightest feeling in your gut that there may be a better way, I encourage you to read on.
It is time to stop cutting foods out of your diet.
Often when we restrict foods or cut them out of our diet in their entirety, we start to want that much more. You want what you cannot have, yet this time, it is because you have decided to limit yourself as opposed to outside circumstances. It is generally much easier to let yourself down than someone else and we are bound to revert back to our old food habits. Also, when you are trying to curve a craving you will often end up eating significantly more foods trying to appease your craving than if you would have just let yourself have the dang food in the first place. Then once you ate the “forbidden” food you feel guilty and beat yourself up and say I’ll do better tomorrow and the cycle begins again.
There are no forbidden foods. There are no good foods. There are no bad foods. There is just simply food. The more you are kind to yourself and stop restricting foods, the more you will stop obsessing over food. We all have foods we love but when you know you can eat them whenever you want, the less you tend to want the item.
Get in touch with your body.
Chances are you have been tracking what you have been eating either mentally or on an app. Over time it is easy to have adapted to ignoring your hunger cues and your fullness cues. When re-establishing these cues, it is best to eat once you feel moderately hungry as opposed to a hangry and stop eating when you feel satisfied but not so full that you feel the need to unbutton your pants. It is also important to know that food is more than just nourishment for your body and that there are times when you don’t eat because you are hungry. You may eat for emotional reasons as well (and that’s not innately a bad thing). This is normal to eat because you are happy and celebrating or to eat when you are sad or nervous and in need of some comfort. As long as food is not the first and only mechanism you resort to when you are feeling emotional, then emotional eating does not have to be a “bad” thing.
The nerdy details about dieting.
Our bodies have a weight point that our body has become accustomed to. When you start to diet, there is a biological change in your metabolism. The body does not want to starve and be deprived of the energy and nutrients it needs. So, when attempting an overly-restrictive diet, the body in turn reduces the metabolism making it harder to lose weight. Your body’s metabolism will slow down to use the calories provided as efficiently as possible so that your body continues to function as close to normal as possible. When you lose fat, there are also corresponding hormonal changes. The hormone that triggers hunger is produced more while the production of the hormone that makes you full is produced less as the body believes it is in a period of famine and needs to find food when possible to store for later. This is the exact opposite of what you want when trying to lose weight. The premise of the story is that it is better to adopt eating habits that consist of more whole foods and stop restricting them so that your body does not feel as though it is being starved.
My final words to you.
Stop dieting and start creating habits and making choices that can be maintained throughout life into your lifestyle. It is time to get in touch with your body again and relearn your hunger and fullness ques. It is time to start being kind to yourself and giving yourself the chance to learn and grow so that you don’t find yourself back in the vicious dieting cycle once again.
One step at a time is all it takes to get you there.Emily Dickinson
I hope that you have a lovely day!
~ Madison Eran ~