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5 Ways Dieting is Setting You Up

It's not your fault!

Ben White via Unsplash
The pressure to be thin and fit is everywhere you look. On television, the internet, magazine covers. There’s no escaping it. Every time you stroll through the grocery store you find more fat-free, sugar-free, everything-free foods to help guide you to the promised land; a thin, “toned” physique.

Think about it for a second. Imagine that it’s Sunday night, and you’re ready to launch into a new diet (because Monday is the new beginning, right?). You’re ready to white-knuckle it and lose those last “x” number of  pounds, so you can finally be at peace with your body. But is it that easy? I’d argue that this new diet you’re ready to jump into could be setting you up remain stuck in a dieting cycle that you’re already all to familiar with.


But why?

  1. Just the thought of a new diet brings on thoughts of “bad” foods. Ice cream, bread, fried foods, you name it! And, you’re preparing to avoid them at all costs. You convince yourself that you have the willpower to get through it. And you do for a little bit. But, eventually, you just can’t white knuckle it anymore. You break your dieting rules and have a taste of that “bad” goodness. And you can’t stop. Studies show that food restriction initiates intense impulses to eat more. Even the thought of enjoying one of these forbidden foods can spark an episode of overeating.
  2. Now, you feel guilty. Like a failure. The negative self-talk begins. You berate yourself for not having the willpower, the strength, the resolve. Because you slipped up you restrict even more and isolate yourself from social situations that could tempt you. Researchers have actually found that dieting has a direct relationship with increased social anxiety, increased feelings of failure and lowered self-esteem.
  3. Dieting dismantles your ability to feel and trust your internal cues for hunger and fullness. You’ve been relying on a set number of calories, or points to prepare your meals. You prep, do the math and eat what you’ve planned. If you’re still hungry, oh well! You’ve used your allotment of points for the day. If you’re full and you still have a few hundred calories left over you keep eating, because who knows how hungry you’ll feel tomorrow. So, what happens when the diet is done? You’re not sure how to maintain because you’ve been out of tune with your biological clues for so long that you don’t know when to stop. Or how to stop, for that matter. Because these foods that you haven’t had in “x” number of days/weeks Taste. So. Good. And your body has been starved. It’s only natural for it to want nourishment.
  4. Your metabolism takes a shot with every diet you go on. After each diet your body prepares for the next time it will be starved. Your body learns to slow down to make use of every calorie as efficiently as possible. And although you’d like to believe your body is only burning through that layer of fat you’d like to lose, it is also burning through muscle. The more muscle you lose the more your metabolism suffers. So, what does that mean? Your body is now primed to receive less calories than pre-diet, making it even easier to gain weight back and have a higher fat-to-muscle ratio. So much for that toned look the magazine promised!
  5. Instead of using your mental energy to embrace how badass you are in the here and you’re using it to calculate points, calories, white knuckle it through the day. When all of your energy is spent focusing on these types of things it is easy to lose track of all of the things that make you who you are. Your identity and self-worth is now tied up in how well you remained on track and what the scale will reveal in the morning.

Here’s the Cycle that most dieters find themselves in:

Desire to be thin -> Diet -> Cravings -> Break diet rules ->Loss of control leading to overeating -> Regain of lost weight -> RINSE AND REPEAT

This cycle is what psychologists John P Foreyt and G Ken Goodrick call the Dieter’s Dilemma. Over years of engaging in this cycle people typically end up heavier and struggling more with their relationship with food than they have ever been. In fact, studies show that in the long term, 95% of dieters regain the weight that they have lost.

Defeating the initial purpose of the diet.

So, what’s the solution? 

Stop dieting.

Give yourself permission to push back against the on again, off again, dieting mentality by learning how to eat and move intuitively.

Reclaim your relationship with food and your body.

Discover how you can have a healthy relationship with food and your body at any size.
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