I hate diets.
The dieting cycle is a trap that many people get caught in after repeated attempts at losing weight. Again and again I hear the same stories from many of my clients that have been caught in this trap and it breaks my heart. It goes something like this.
"I started following (insert diet name here) diet because (insert my friend/my colleague/the internet/the tv) said it produced great results! Which it did! I lost (20/30/50) kg from following the diet! But then (insert significant life event) happened and I fell off the wagon. Now I've regained back all the weight I've lost plus more! I'm so angry and disappointed in myself and I feel like such a failure!"
Can you relate to this?
Diets severely restrict your food choice and they are difficult to continue for very long. The number one thing I ask anyone who says they're on a diet is whether they can see themselves on this same diet for the rest of their life. Most of the time the answer is no.
Dieting damages your self esteem by setting you up for failure. But instead of blaming the diet and its ridiculous rules and restrictive nature, we blame ourselves for not having the "willpower" to continue and 'falling off the wagon'.
The dieting cycle goes like this (and I'm sure many of you can relate):
1. Food restriction or "dieting"
You restrict food to lose weight.
You feel deprived because you haven't had the foods you want and enjoy for a long period of time. Your desire for the restricted foods increase
3. Eat to feel better
It's been a while since you've eaten the foods your enjoy. You give in to temptation and eat the forbidden food. During eating, you may think to yourself "I shouldn't be having this." You eat it quickly, and don't enjoy the time eating it. You may also think "Well, I've had one, I may as well have the whole lot".
4. Temporarily feel better
For a short time you may feel better as you've eaten the food you so badly wanted.
5. Disappointment and guilt.
The feelings of guilt make you feel uncomfortable and you may feel like a failure and angry at yourself for not having the willpower to resist. You may feel negative emotions such as guilt, stress, anxiety, depression and low self esteem.
6. Food restriction and dieting
You feel like a failure. You feel like you're going to gain weight from all the food you've eaten. You start to restrict yourself again to make up for the binge you recently had. The cycle starts again.
Dieting can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Food becomes the enemy and deprives you of the joy and satisfaction of eating.
Food is not the enemy. Food is fuel for our bodies and we need it to survive.
So with all this said, how do we start to break the cycle?
1. Eat for health, not for weight loss
Chuck out the scales and avoid dieting at all cost. Why keep doing something if it doesn't work? Make food choices that nourish your body, taste good and make you feel amazing! Swap diet's for lifestyle and mindset changes. You don't have to be perfect all the time. No one is perfect. It's unrealistic to aim to be perfect.
2. Respect your body
I think this is one of the hardest parts. It's very difficult to stop dieting if you are very critical of your body and weight. Accept your genetics, your positives and your flaws. It's unrealistic for someone who is a size 8 foot to fit into a size 6 shoes. The same goes for body size.
3. Make peace with food
There are no good or bad foods. I repeat, there are no good or bad food. All food is morally equal. Labelling a food as "bad" means that we should not eat this food, and potentially eating the food can mean we are a bad person. All foods are available to you and can be included in moderation, even when you are trying to lose weight. Once we realise this, we can start to eat particular foods not just because they're in front of us, but because we actually feel like them.
4. Deal with negative emotions without using food
At some stage of your life you will feel negative emotions. THIS IS NORMAL. However, this is not a reason to eat. Food won't fix our feelings, it may provide comfort of distraction for a short period of time, but it won't solve the problem. In fact, it may even make us feel worse. Use other methods of dealing with negative emotions such as going out for a walk, speaking with a friend (or with a dog!), meditating, using mindfulness apps or reading!
Kiah Paetz is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and founder of Plant Nutrition and Wellness. She operates her private practice clinic at North Lakes, Hamilton and offers online consultations via Skype/Facetime. For bookings, please call 3040 6911 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org