It’s January, the beginning of a new year, and I’m feeling a kind of liberation.
Is the source of my release a new declaration? Does it come from deciding to be more organized or take more time for vacations?
Nope! My sense of freedom comes from ditching the weight-loss diet mentality once and for all, for good.
If this feels like a big undertaking, it is, because this kind of radical thinking goes against the “thin is in” mindset I’ve known just about my whole adult life. And it’s a double challenge since as a healthcare practitioner, trying new diets has been for me an exploration into what is possible in terms of health and weight loss—from Atkins to paleo to keto, and on and on.
Sorry to say, but I’ve found that regardless of which diet plan undertaken, great results have not been happening for most of the people I know. Instead, the quest for the perfect diet just continues, leaving a sense of failure and regret in its wake.
And that’s not just my observation. Studies demonstrate that diets are 90% sure to fail. Yes, dieters may experience an initial weight drop, but poor mindset, diet fatigue (e.g., “cheat days”), and human biology soon starts to kick in, resulting in the dieter gaining back what was lost—plus extra pounds. And then the next eating plan begins (“I promise this time I will be good!”). Voila—yo-yo dieting.
How frustrating, not to mention unhealthy, counterproductive, and discouraging. Today, let’s explore how to put an end to this cycle once and for all—not by trying the newest shiny fad diet, but by throwing out the diet mentality altogether.
The Problem Pattern
Do you continually feel the need to find that “one” plan so you won’t fall out of control with food? You’re not alone. Many of my patients and clients are trying to lose weight, and time after time, I see their struggle. The pattern is similar with each attempt: dieting and food restrictions, then bingeing and feeling like a failure, followed by a fresh attempt to find a new magic-bullet diet plan, hoping that this time will be different, and extra weight will disappear—to be gone forever.
That endless pattern is why I am launching my “quiet revolution” for weight loss. Dieting sets up a deprivation mindset. It backfires, tossing in a heaping dose of shame and remorse over lack of results.
But Why Do Diets Fail?
Most dieters have a distorted relationship with food that prevents them from enjoying what they are eating, eating consciously, or even really tasting their food. Whereas a healthy mindset comes from a sense of acceptance, the dieter’s mindset, instead, is based on deprivation.
This negative angle is not a sustainable way to think, let alone to view onese
lf. Negativity, and the failure it invites in, keeps people in diet prison. The result is what they don’t want: more weight gain, every time, over the long term.
Yet the diet business is booming because we’re told that we’re unacceptable unless we’re thin. What happened to respecting our bodies for whatever shape we happen to be, without having to “shrink to fit” cultural norms. The “fear of fat” is a form of brainwashing in our culture, the very prevalent idea that thinness is a prime measure of one’s worth and attractiveness. This is old-world thinking, my friends, and now’s the time to adopt a new thought: Suppose we didn’t have this dark cloud of failure and pressure hanging over us 24/7, and instead we embraced the bodies we have?
Appreciating Our Bodies
I mean every body type we may be—shape, size, and color. Appreciating our bodies for all they perform for us every day, and being neutral at the very least, even if we can’t fall in love with our bodies yet—that’s the next horizon for all of us. The truth our culture doesn’t tell us is this: No matter our weight, our bodies provide us with life, movement, thought, and a world of opportunity to experience. And we can have that, healthfully, without a diet plan.
Breaking the Pattern
So if diets don’t work, and we have no real need to count calories or stick to strict food plans that set us up for failure, what’s the best next step when it comes to eating and food?
I say, start with the concept that it’s all okay. There are no “bad” foods, just the ones that you’ve decided are bad for some reason. (Of course, if your healthcare practitioner has determined that some foods are medically best avoided by you—like gluten if you are a celiac patient, for instance—it’s important that you heed this advice.)
As you begin to turn over the “no bad foods” concept in your mind, you may find yourself resisting it. What fears might be holding you back from accepting this idea? Whether these fears are rooted in realism or completely irrational, you need to face those head on. For example:
- Real: Are you afraid that you will become untethered without a strict plan to rein you in? True, abandoning the diet mentality is new, unexplored territory. But when you realize that no plan has helped you achieve your long-term goal before, loosening up going forward will be easier.
- Irrational: Will you sit on the couch and eat chocolate until you explode? Relax. I, the chocolate lover, can assure you that that is most unlikely!
The New Food Mindset
It’s simple, really: Be conscious. Consider what and when you eat. Slow down, and learn to read your body’s cues so you are eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. If you are really tuned in, you may even discover that your body sends precise signals about what kind of sustenance it needs—but detecting that takes practice, and you have to consciously listen to pick up on those messages.
A mindful eating practice offers so much more than any diet can. It’s a sustainable, lifetime eating strategy. Best of all, this kind of plan is not just effective but perfectly portable, coming along with you to every place and every time—and yet it doesn’t cost a cent.
Changing habits may not be an easy task at first, but with practice, this approach can work! (See my previous newsletter on the hunger/fullness scale for help with achieving this goal.) Will you be perfect every time? Probably not…and that’s absolutely okay. In fact, making this kind of shift takes self-care and self-compassion. And it will change your life.
So this year, let’s toast a new reality and ditch the weight-loss diets that have kept us in an imaginary prison. Your emotions and mindset are driving this sense of restriction and deprivation, so first learn what your ideal fuel mix is, apply gentle nutrition, and determine how to become free from the dieter’s trance once and for all. Begin to trust, honor, and respect yourself and your body. Let’s be free together!