Ask yourself how many years you’ve been dieting for. How long has it been since you first started to count those calories, weigh your food, follow a meal plan, eliminate carbs or fat? Then ask yourself - how successful has this been? Have I got the results I wanted? Have I been able to stick to this strategy long term for sustainable weight management? Has this been a successful strategy for me that has allowed me to live my life in the body I love?
If your answer to this is more than ten years dieting with minimal long term success – I strongly encourage you to consider re-evaluating your strategy to weight management. You owe it to yourself to ask why you continue to do something that’s been largely ineffective. Why do you keep looking for success in a place that’s failed you? Often it’s because that’s all we know, that’s what we’ve been told in the past, it's what we see in the media or that’s what’s worked for someone else in your circle of family or friends so surely it must work for you?
Perhaps you have had some success in the past with dieting. Perhaps you were able to lose weight previously through diet/restriction, but you got there through unsustainable measures that resulted in eventual weight gain because you couldn't be consistent with the diet. Perhaps it became too hard and resulted in the binge/restrict mentality? But you continue to do it as you are seeking that high; the high that comes with weight loss. You can become state addicted to this - that is addicted to a state of mind or being. Many get addicted to the state of weight-loss that comes as result of extreme restriction and feels like the ultimate high but it’s not sustainable long term. These state addictions are what can keep people dieting for decades. They keep searching for that high again but it becomes more and more elusive.
Others are hooked on what they think they will get from a diet – ie weight loss. We think our life will be far better if we can fit a size 10 than it is right now. We think when we can diet and get to this revered weight goal that we will be happy, that we will find eternal peace, that everyone will like us so much more, that we will finally fit in, that we will be able to really live our life again. However, weighing a certain amount guarantees nothing. I have seen many people that have reached their goal weight yet still been very unhappy. We are seeking external accomplishments to reach happiness but unless we address what was holding us back in the first place happiness may continue to elude you. Self confidence and worth are all wrapped up in this. Having a smaller body doesn't necessarily correlate with increased self worth. So addressing the emotional and psychological side of the health equation is just as important as weight.
Please know there is nothing wrong with you.
It makes perfect sense as to why you would be seeking the perfect diet to reach that elusive weight loss goal. There is science for why it hasn’t worked sustainably for you. Diets’ don’t work because when we consistently reduce/restrict calories for what the body needs, our metabolism adjusts downwards. Overtime low calorie dieting instructs the body to store fat, not burn calories effectively, not build muscle, not assimilate nutrients and more. When the body is faced with starvation conditions ie longer term calorie restriction, the best chance of survival is to store fat for emergency, halt muscle building and not use calories effectively.
Low calorie diets mimic this starvation response. The body thinks you’re on a desert island so your body responds to protect you. It’s a clever survival response on the body’s behalf. It’s its form of protection, it is there for a reason and we need it. This is why physiologically over time your dieting efforts will be in vain, your weight loss goals will continue to elude you and you will continue to feel disappointment in yourself, in your ability to lose weight, in your search for happiness that is far out on the horizon.
So what do you do? How do you shift your thought process from one of restriction to one of nourishment without the fear of weight gain? How do you let go of your outdated toxic nutritional beliefs that have been holding you back for so long?
Where do you start?
You start with the focus on learning how to be an eater again. You start with slow, mindful, present eating. Pay attention when you eat, get pleasure from your food, eat your food slowly and without distraction. Focus on how you want to feel from food. Slow, mindful, pleasurable eating is critical to healing any dieting mindset. It forces us to be present with our food, to pay attention to appetite, to notice hunger and fullness and so much more.
When we want to lose weight, we focus on losing the weight but often there’s other things we need to lose first before we can lose the weight. Sometimes it’s losing some of the self attack, or shame or perhaps perfectionism. Sometimes before we lose the weight we have to lose the intense need to lose the weight. Otherwise what you resist can persist. To do this, think about taking 7 days and say to yourself for 7 days I’m not going to think about losing this weight. I’m going to live my life, not trying to change my body. There’s a place where you can like your body the way it is right now, welcome it, embrace it – say I’m not going to try to make you do something for the next week and just hang out and make friends with the body you have now. It’s the body you have right now and there’s something healing in relaxing into that and easing the intense pressure to change it right now. That can happen over time. When we can want the body that we have, it’s easier to have the body that we want.
Try a no diet diet – for some we have lived in dieting consciousness for so long. For now I am going to nourish and care for myself but have a little fun too. Don’t be so intense. Give yourself permission to let go of counting, scale, fat grams, start to live your life. Enjoy it and see what you learn.
Try working a “treat” or two into your week. Give yourself permission to see how this feels, letting these otherwise forbidden foods into your week. People always think that they can’t let go of their intense dieting rules as if they do they will end up eating everything and lose all control they have over food. Put this theory to the test. See what happens when you allow yourself a little of the forbidden food. Do you lose control? Or do you realise it is no longer off limits, that you can have it whenever you want and therefore it loses some of the power it previously had over you?
I will leave you with this thought.
Food is not your enemy and dieting isn’t your friend.
Begin to make friends with food and with your body. once you do this you will have the best chance to shape shift your body in a sustainable way.