In week 1 of my series on Intuitive Eating (IE) I explained what IE entails and outlined the 10 principles that we are going to go over for the next 10 weeks. For a look back at that you can click here. This week we are going to dive into principle number one: Reject The Diet Mentality. With this principle it is your goal to reject the books, articles, websites, social media channels, and environments that tell us that we are less than if we are not a certain weight. Learn to ignore the next best diet trend that is going to change your life for good and make the decision to reject anything that gives you hope of getting you to the best shape of your life or to that magic number on the scale.
As with anything, before you can see improvement or change, you have to first accept that there is a problem or an issue. In cases of addiction for instance, one has to admit he or she has said addiction in order to make progress. This is similar, but the problem here is not you, the problem here is diet culture and the messages you have been absorbing your entire life. As a baby we are a blank slate. We know how to eat when we are hungry and we know when to stop when we are full. Unfortunately, diet culture tells us that we should not trust those signals and we lose touch with our natural biology. It is my goal to help you trust yourself again and improve your mindset around food and exercise.
Diets do not work in the long run. We have all been there before right? We get to our goal weight and we are elated and feel great. Slowly, however, your weight starts to creep back up to where you started and often times even higher than that. This is your body telling you that the starvation and deprivation you have put it through is not something it can sustain so it fights back. It hangs on to whatever it can and strives for homeostasis.
Dieting actually increases your risk for gaining even more weight than you started with. When you diet you put your body into a famine state and your body and your cells will do whatever it takes to survive. In addition, dieting hurts your psychological health and well-being by damaging trust in your own body because you are following food rules rather than listening to what your body wants and needs (Tribole and Resch, 2017).
Some other harmful effects of dieting are:
- extreme food preoccupation and obsession
- dangerous weight-cycling
- increased stress
- mood swings, depression, and anxiety
- increased likelihood of developing an eating disorder
- low self esteem
- body dysmorphia (unrealistic body expectations)
Below are some suggestions that will help you to begin to reject the dieting mentality. I recognize that it is hard to make sense of that concept and that it is hart to let go of control. In my discussions with clients I often hear the fears around letting go of control and mainly that if they don’t diet they will gain 100s of pounds and become obese. This process takes trust and patience and will be a lifelong journey of self discovery and honesty with yourself. I recommend getting a journal or notebook to work through this process as we go.
What will I do instead?
Ask yourself what you will do once you reject dieting and drop out of diet culture. In other words, what will you focus on instead of calorie counting, weighing yourself, exercising just to burn off food, and body perfection. Preoccupation with food and the scale tends to take us away from real life and true happiness. For instance, are you truly able to experience a family dinner out if you are too busy calculating the macros of every menu item you are going to order? Are you truly able to enjoy your family beach vacation if you are obsessing over how you will get your exercise session in each day? You get my point here. What are you missing out on?
Explore your dieting history
When you think back on all of your diets you may think that they worked but if you sit down and reflect upon them, you get a chance to see if they truly helped you in the long run. Make a list of all of the diets you have tried over the years and try to remember how long you were on the diet, if you gained or lost weight, how long the weight stayed off, how much you re-gained if any, and how you felt before and after each diet. Consider the why behind why you began dieting in the first place. Notice any trends? Is it more difficult now to stay on a diet? Was it easier at first to be successful on a diet? What is the longest period of time you were able to keep weight off following a diet?
Get rid of the tools of dieting
We all have them. Apps, calorie trackers, step trackers, food scales, and scales to weigh ourselves. One of the most important steps you can take in rejecting the dieting mentality is getting rid of these tools. All they do is keep you from your natural born intuition. Delete the apps. Throw away the scales. Unfollow and delete any social media accounts that make you feel like you need to lose weight in order to fit in. Throw away any diet pills, teas, or elixirs that you have in your pantry. Take this one slowly. Delete one tool per week if you have to but set a goal to remove it all from your life.
Be mindful of the script in your brain
As I mentioned above, the diet culture script is engrained in our brains from an early age. This won’t happen over night but take note of the things you say to yourself in relation to diets. For instance, do you deem carbs bad, feel guilt when you miss a workout, tell yourself you need to burn off that cake, or starve yourself in order to prepare for a dinner out? These are just a few examples of the lies we tell ourselves. When you hear yourself say anything related to diet culture explore it. Write it down and take note of any patterns or feelings that emerge. What can you replace these lies with?
Set a goal for yourself to try one of these things over the next week and please share with me. Also, if you want another resource on intuitive eating I recommend Eating Enlightenment and this article on the principles of IE. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook and I’d love to hear your progress and questions. Next week we will be going over principle 2: Honor Your Hunger. As always, be sure to sign up for my weekly email to stay informed on all things Eat The Banana!