Stop Dieting - Is it as easy as that?Feb 06, 2019
One of the hardest things about leaving the diet mindset behind was to stop dieting.
It was something I had been doing for so many years: – Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Atkins, calorie counting, You Are What You Eat, eating clean, even Slimfast (YUCK!) not giving a stuff! You name it, I probably tried it, although interestingly I did draw the line at the grapefruit diet and the cabbage soup diet
Thinking about what I was going to eat, what I was “allowed” to eat, how much I’d eaten had been all consuming thus learning I was “allowed” to eat what I wanted, when I wanted was a revelation and took practice. Letting go of the feelings of guilt and judgement around food took a while and did not happen over-night.
If I stop dieting won’t I just eat rubbish?
It took time to recognise that just because I wasn’t on a diet didn’t mean I would just gorge on “bad” foods – I put that in inverted commas because no food is inherently bad. I had to learn that actually I would want to eat a variety of foods that were nourishing, gave me energy and left me feeling good. It was hard to imagine eating in a way without “rules” after spending so many years controlling or trying to control what I ate. Learning that it was the restriction that caused the cravings and binge type behaviours. It is more satisfying long term to eat a wide variety of foods (Practice makes Perfect Progress)
I was reticent to believe that I could trust the cues from my body rather than the rules. Through dieting, we’ve learnt to ignore our true cravings and desires thinking they would always be negative.
When I inevitably put back on the weight I had lost and frequently put on more, I would feel like I had failed again. We say we want to lose weight, but what we are really saying is that we want to feel better about ourselves.
As Kristina Bruce points out – weight loss on its own cannot do this forever. Yes, we may feel better when we have lost some weight -but what happens when that changes or we realise that being smaller hasn’t actually stopped any other feelings of dissatisfaction with our lives.
We so often say “I’ll do X when I’ve lost weight” – what we should really do is do X now which will help us feel how we want to feel in our lives regardless of our weight.
I stopped dieting but didn’t pay attention!
At one point I’d just had enough and gave up dieting. What I failed to notice was that at this point my weight stabilised – not going up, not going down. I wasn’t particularly paying attention to this, mentally I had just given up so did not notice the positive effect stopping dieting had. This was at a higher weight than I wished to be so yes, you guessed it, I decided to try again to lose weight.
This was at a time when I was working with a personal trainer who introduced me to Jill Coleman, and I discovered her concept of moderation365. I still didn’t believe it would work for me, but it did spark an interest and desire to find out more.
Gradually over time I introduced more of that thinking and through working with another coach focussed on changing habits, started to find out what foods made me feel good, worked on my mindset and let go of the restrictive behaviours and scarcity mindset that caused me to binge/pig out on certain foods that I usually avoided. (Leaving a diet mindset behind). I stopped seeing foods as good and bad – food isn’t moral – and this helped me to stop seeing myself as good and bad for eating certain things. As depicted in this image from Taylor Chan letting go of the moral definitions around food makes life simpler.
The benefits of stopping dieting
I started to trust that I could eat until I was satisfied, learnt about my hunger cues and what truly made me feel good. The emotional energy required around choosing what to eat reduced. I stopped worrying about losing weight and prioritised eating foods I enjoyed in order to feel nourished, satisfied and energised and exercise that I enjoyed for the purpose of feeling good – not just aesthetics. (What has strength training done for me?)
Stopping dieting and embracing an intuitive way of eating has benefitted me in ways I could not have imagined. I am more confident in myself, generally feel more positive. I feel in control without controlling – by that I mean I trust that I will not binge and overeat due to restriction. There were obviously hiccups along the way and do I always respond in the right way? No! But it is a continual learning process without judgement.
To find out more tools I used to leave dieting behind click here to sign up to my email series #freedomnotrestriction.
Stopping dieting may not be as easy as it sounds. It takes practice and learning to trust. But IT IS SO WORTH IT.