How to Replace Dieting with Enjoying Food…and Weight Loss

Eating should not be a source of anxiety and judgment, but rather one of delight and nourishment. These strategies can help you make this mindset shift.

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There’s a lot more you can do to replace dieting and overcome your food-related anxieties, self-recrimination, judgment, and guilt. Here are some suggestions–based on our original research–to transcend the cycle of dieting and obsessing about food and weight. 

Don’t obsess about dieting. One consequence of ongoing dieting can be increased obsession about food, eating, and weight. Indeed, more and more research is linking traditional dieting with increased risk of weight gain. Consider dieting in the best sense of the word: as a way of life and eating we’re telling you about in this book. 

And consider this: from the perspective of the Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle, food in itself is not “sinful,” “good,” “bad,” “right,” or “wrong”—unless you’re projecting moral attributes onto it and onto yourself! Nor is food something to be counted, feared, and analyzed. In other words, I’m suggesting that, instead of viewing food through the lens of today’s new normal of judgment, relate to it as an expression of the ancient meaning of the word diet, in the lens of Whole Person Integrative Eating: as a social, ceremonial, and sensual delight and as a gift that enhances your physical, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being each time you eat.

Stop counting calories compulsively. Traditional diets that ask you to restrict calories and to eat by the numbers (counting calories, fat grams, and so on) don’t work for the long term. Counting calories by itself is not a problem; a compulsive and obsessive attitude about calories is. To lose weight, consider other ways of relating to food so that each time you eat you have an enjoyable experience that nourishes your entire being. Instead of staying lost in a maze of measurements, nutrients, and numbers, focus on fresh foods (see chapter 8, “Fast Foodism Rx: Get Fresh” for more about this), delicious flavors, the profound pleasure of eating, and the de- light you take in dining with others. In other words, bring heartfelt appreciation to all aspects of the dining experience. 

Give up guilt-tripping when you overeat. Guilt and its relatives—self-reproach, shame, remorse, and blame—are part of a food fretter’s relationship to food. It’s all about what is “right” and what is “wrong.” Eat something “wrong” that isn’t in your diet, that you “shouldn’t” eat, or that tastes “sinful,” and—if you’re a food fretter—you’re likely to respond with guilt. 

Consider this: guilt isn’t a real feeling. At its core lies the belief you’ve done something wrong, and now you must suffer for it. To break that conviction and get the upper hand over guilt, change what you choose to believe with the WPIE guideline of bringing heartfelt appreciation to food—and its origins. If you overeat, appreciate and savor the experience. Should you relapse, enjoy the experience—especially if it was with food you like! Finally, forgive yourself, for forgiveness is a necessity in any relationship—including the one you have with food. Then return to your usual Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle. 

Cease obsessing. If you’re fixated on and preoccupied with food-related thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, if you think or worry about food or weight constantly and compulsively, you are obsessing. The way out is to step from the shade in which you’re living, into the sunshine. Our WPIE Guided Meal Meditation in chapter 13 in this book can help you do this. It can show you how to replace obsessive, food-related thoughts and feelings with the nourishing guidelines (fresh food, positive feelings, mindfulness, gratitude, loving regard, and sharing) inherent in Whole Person Integrative Eating. 

Cultivate awareness. To overcome Food Fretting, familiarize yourself with the strongest elements of food fretters: obsessing about food; anxiety about the “best” way to eat; food cravings; and feeling bad, guilty, or gluttonous in response to overeating. The second step: when one of these elements surfaces, cultivate awareness by having a self-monitoring strategy in place that you can turn to, such as keeping a log of any critical, judgmental, or obsessive thoughts you may have. Then pause, take a slow, deep breath, and let the thought pass on.

Excerpt reprinted with permission of the publisher from Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Breakthrough Dietary Lifestyle to Treat the Root Causes of Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity by Deborah Kesten, M.P.H. and Larry Scherwitz, Ph.D. (White River Press, 2020)

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