Dieting sucks – learn how to reject the diet mentality

A little while ago, I wrote about how to identify diet culture and to become more intuitive.

My very best girlfriend came into town this past weekend and we spent the weekend hiking here, going to yoga, eating pho, and making a ton of food. Basically my dream weekend. We also made a mass amount of cupcakes with like the BEST coffee chocolate frosting, recipe here. Chocolate + coffee makes me very happy. I wanted to write more about intuitive eating because making delicious food and eating it is one of the best things in life. And being able to eat intuitively, and not feel “bad” or “guilty” or try to run off what you ate is really what life is about.

So, I want to chat a bit about how to start rejecting diet mentality.

This is the next step in the path to intuitive eating and one that I think is incredibly important!

rose mattson - hike desolation trail
Hike on Desolation Trial

First, you have to recognize that dieting causes biological, psychological, and emotional damage.

Going on and off diets, or yo-yo dieting, can slow down your metabolism. Over a long period of depriving yourself, this may mean you have to eat less in order to stay the same weight. Additionally, your body may go into starvation mode when you aren’t eating enough, essentially causing you to hang on to extra weight since your body isn’t getting enough energy. Finally, yo-yo dieters often lose weight and gain weight again in their middle sections, which actually increases your risk of developing heart disease.

Dieting also increase binges and cravings. I had a woman tell me the other day, “I can’t go on a diet. The minute I am on a diet, I want everything I can’t have.” I was like yessss! Often, when you tell yourself you can’t have something, you want it even more. Do you find this happens to you?

Dieting can also cause your satiety cues to disappear. This refers to the little pangs in your stomach that tell you it is time to eat or signals that tell you have eaten enough. If you aren’t aware of how hungry or full you are, it can be easy to over or under eat throughout the day.

In terms of psychological and emotional health…

Dieting can cause extreme stress around food. This is more important that you may imagine. Increasing your stress levels around food increases cortisol and epinephrine levels in your blood. Subsequently, this causes an increase in glucose levels in your bloodstream, which is helpful if you were climbing up a tree to get away from a predator. However, if you don’t actually need that glucose in order to climb a tree, it is converted to fat and stored. Cortisol also works as an appetite stimulant, encouraging you to eat. It is not surprising that there is research to support the link between chronic stress and weight gain (here & here).

Constant dieting can also decrease your confidence and self-trust regarding food. You may feel that you have a loss of control, or feel like you failed, if you go off your diet.

Have you ever felt good about yourself while on a diet? Bad? Did you lose weight? Gain weight? Did you feel happier after? Worse? These are good things to check in on.

rose mattson - eggs benedict
Post-yoga eggs benedict

Second, be aware of diet mentality.

We chatted about this a little bit in my last intuitive eating post, but we can touch on it again because it is so important!

I encourage you to forget discipline, obedience, and failure.

You know when people say, “oh you have such discipline! I could never do ___ at the gym, or eat at healthy as you.” Forget this. Stop saying it to yourself. Stop saying it to other people. If you feel a thought coming on like, oh I need to overcome this urge to eat ___, stop. Your body may naturally want that food and that is ok! Depriving yourself of said food will not simply make that craving go away. In fact, it will probably make it worse.

Next, forget about being obedient. You alone are responsible for when, what, and how much you eat. Don’t let anyone else tell you anything different. This may require talking to your spouse, partner, and/or friends that you eat with often about this. A no food comments rule can be helpful. If you have this freedom, you may not feel the need to rebel against whoever is telling you what to do otherwise.

Finally, forget about failure. There is no failure, clear and simple. This whole eating journey is a process, no setbacks, just growth and learning. Eating French fries is not failure. Eating ice cream is not failure. You are not a failure because you ate French fries and ice cream. No failures.

rose mattson - cupcakes
The beloved cupcakes

Third, get rid of all your dieting tools.

I am a huge proponent of getting rid of your scale. I think scales suck. Do they really ever make you feel good? Maybe for a brief second, but then pretty much no. Most importantly, this number is NOT a reflection of you. Just because you weigh more or less than you wanted does NOT make you a bad person. That scale number does not make you “bad” or “good”.

Scales also don’t reflect body composition. So, if you have gained muscle, but not lost fat mass, then the scale will go up. Basically making the scale a stupid invention.

Just an FYI, you can ask to not be weighed at the doctor’s office. Or, if they insist, you can ask to not see or be told the number. I know this can be helpful for some people.

In this time period, the scale is not the only thing that is a dieting tool.

Apps like MyFitnessPal, Lose-It, FatSecret, Fitbit and many more allow you to add up calories, and grams of carbs, fat, and protein throughout the day. If you are someone who utilizes an app like this, try going without for a day and checking in with your hunger instead. I am a huge advocator of not using any type of number tracking tool and I would urge you to do the same.

If you are using weight loss products such as shakes, smoothies, or meal replacement strategies of any kind, can you get rid of them? Food should taste good and I can guarantee those products aren’t it.

Finally, social media platforms such as Instagram may motivate you to eat a certain way, cut out food groups, purchase diet type foods and/or fitness programs, and generally make you feel shitty about yourself. If you see someone on social media promoting a detox tea or shaming you for eating meat, unfollow them! No one should make you feel poorly about your food, exercise, or life decisions!

rose mattson - latte
Best latte I have had in awhile!

Finally, be compassionate towards yourself.

This is probably the most difficult of these steps thus far and this will take a long time. Not going to sugar-coat it.

Here are some ways to start being more compassionate:

  1. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about you. Those who uplift you, make you feel smart and beautiful no matter what. And this isn’t just a sometime-thing. I am talking about people who consistently make you feel good about yourself. Can you think of maybe 5 people who can do that? Hang out with those people.
  2. Take time in the day for some self-care. That may look like a bubble bath, taking 30 minutes to read, going for a walk, or meditating in the morning. Think about all the good you can do in the world and what you have to offer.
  3. If you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself, check in. What did I do prior to feeling like this? Have I eaten? Moved in a way that feels good? Do I need a coffee date with a friend? More sleep? Trying to tune in with what your body is saying, without being judgmental, is incredibly helpful.

To recap:

  • Recognize that dieting causes harm
  • Be aware of diet mentality
  • Throw away all of your dieting materials
  • Be compassionate to yourself

Remember, you are so much more than how you look, or how much you weigh. In the bigger picture, those things simply don’t matter. It’s who you meet, where you travel, what delicious food you eat, how you move your body joyfully. Those are things that matter.

Cheers to cupcakes, good friends, pho, and the outdoors friends!!

Thoughts? Please share!!

References: Intuitive Eating

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