When you’ve consumed a thousand holiday treats and feel awful about your body, the lure of “starting over” on January 1st entices us to make that infamous New Year’s resolution: “I’m going on a diet!” (or your version of dieting…cutting out carbs, eating clean, limiting food groups, etc)
Everywhere we turn, there is talk of dieting, losing weight, and promises to swear off junk food for good.
The words, “I’m going on a diet” seem to become what you hear in everyday conversation at this time of year.
But come February 1st (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.
I found that in the beginning of my journey, I needed to remind myself of this thousands of times. Because when I was stuck in self-loathing, feeling like a failure because I had binged, or hating what I saw in the mirror, dieting DID seem like an easy, quick fix.
Understanding that diets don’t do what we really want them to do can be tough news to swallow.
We’re inundated almost daily with the latest and greatest diet, cleanse, and insta-fix that all promise quick, rapid weight loss. And I know when you’ve binged on a million holiday cookies and feel awful about your body that a diet can be SO tempting…
But let me say it to you again, lovingly and gently…
Diets. Do. Not. Work.
So, what’s the problem with dieting?
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. (**If you go ON something, by law, you must go OFF of it, as well).
99% of people who go on a diet gain the weight back, plus some.
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. (Tweet that!)
We keep looking in the wrong places to solve our weight problem and food issues.
We’re looking outside of us-what we see in the mirror, instead of what’s going on INSIDE. We aren’t looking at WHY we are overeating in the first place.
We eat because we are sad, lonely, frustrated and unhappy.
We look to food to fill that void in our lives if we have an unfulfilling career, family, or home life.
We use sugar, sweets, and junk food as a quick fix to feel better from our pain, longing, and desperation.
To solve our obsession with food and body size, we need to look deeper within ourselves.
Yes, going on a diet may give us that instant gratification of losing the 5, 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.
Diets are based on rigidity, punishment, deprivation, guilt, and fear.
“Do not eat that cookie!”
“Go work off that cake you just ate!”
“Don’t you dare eat that third slice of pizza!”
The mind is relentless, screaming at us and criticizing us around every bend. This rigid approach is just not sustainable.
Yes, it may last weeks, months, or even a year. But, at some point, the pressure builds, becomes too much to bear, and we cave in and devour the foods we have “forbidden” ourselves to eat.
This method does not work. We may see “results”, but they never last. Ever.
So if diets don’t work long term, what is the alternative?
The alternate way is a gentler road. A road filled with compassion and kindness.
Releasing ourselves from our dietary imprisonment.
Using awareness instead of deprivation to lose weight.
Tending to our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Spending time on what makes us feel alive, engaged, and excited instead of believing we need to be rail-thin to deserve feeling loved and accepted.
Instead of focusing on dieting, strict food rules, and exercise regimes to get your food under control and obtain the perfect body, let’s shift our focus to these 4 things:
1. Focus on the why.
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. Recognizing the fundamental reasons behind your desire to diet will help you move forward to a gentler, more compassionate approach around food.
2. Revisit your past.
Take an honest look at your dieting history. How many times have you gone on a diet before? Has any diet ever worked? Did you feel pressure to cave in and eat the foods you told yourself you would never eat again?
I know that EVERY single diet I have gone on has resulted in overeating. Every. Single. Time.
In the early stages of dieting, the diets I went on lasted for months. Then, I wouldn’t be able to sustain the pressure and gave in to eating all the delicious treats I forbade myself to eat.
I would promise myself that the next diet was REALLY it-this would be my final diet and I would stick with it forever.
Inevitably, I’d succumb to temptation again, and go off the diet. When I got extremely honest with myself, I faced the truth: no diet has ever worked for me. (Tweet that!)
Take a hard look at your past experiences with diets and examine how these patterns have kept you stuck in the same old habits.
3. Eat to satisfy.
Eating from a gentler, more compassionate place allows us to treat ourselves with kindness. And this love and kindness is what really heals us. Instead of depriving yourself of all sweets, have just one small treat a day.
Rather than forbidding yourself to have dessert on a special occasion, share a piece of cake or take a small sliver.
Tuning in to your body and what it needs to feel nourished and healthy forces us to eat from a different place within ourselves. We are not eating from our crazy, thought-ridden, compulsive minds. Eating to satisfy comes from a different place, a DEEPER place within ourselves.
That place is beyond mind, beyond habit, beyond compulsion. As you go to this place over and over again, it will become more familiar. It is more subtle than eating from the mind, and therefore more satisfying.
4. 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 weight loss happens easily and naturally.
As we shift away from the calculated, strict regime of dieting and into a kinder, calmer way of eating, our whole world changes. And that peace and contentment around food is what we are really looking for as we resolve to diet those pounds away.
It’s your turn, now! How do you feel about diets? Which mindset shift can you bring into your life to feel more freedom around the way you eat? Share below!