I’m about to start a new 21-day eating program and, to be honest, it’s bringing up a bit of resistance. Today’s post digs into the topic of the diet mentality, along with a gentle reminder of why diets don’t work. Let’s dive in.
By this stage, you know that I’m no fan of dieting. So it’s with mixed emotions that I’ve decided to follow a somewhat strict eating plan for the next three weeks.
A Quick Backstory
For the past few years, I’ve been struggling with some aspects of my health. Despite eating well, exercising appropriately and getting to bed on time, I often feel like a semi-trailer has hit me.
These (minor) issues may have to do with my gut health, they may be hormonal, or perhaps lifestyle related. I need to put on my detective cap and dig a little deeper to figure out the root cause, but in the meantime, I’ll be eliminating foods that might trigger a negative response in my body. It’s not all bad news, as I will still chow down on lots of veggies, meats, yummy fats, and non-grain starches. But here are a few ingredients that I will sorely miss:
- Wine & champagne.
- Cheese & yogurt.
- Bread & grains.
- Chocolate & coffee.
Intellectually I feel ok about eating this way, it’s for a finite period after all, but emotionally I’ve noticed a LOT of resistance. So I started asking WHY.
The answer is my history of dieting and the unhealthy relationship that I had with food for a decade of my life.
You may know that for many years I struggled with eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia & orthorexia (being obsessed with only eating the healthiest food). Along the way, I’ve also taken regular rides on the fad-diet rollercoaster, and while I’ve now left that carnival for good, there is a residual fear of food restriction.
I bring up this up as you may also be tainted by the diet mentality. Perhaps, like me, the idea of starting a new “healthy eating” routine brings up panicked feelings around food-restriction and makes you want to dive headfirst into a bag of bagels. Or maybe you feel untethered when you’re NOT following a rigid meal plan, even though you know it’s not the best option for your longterm health.
Either way, I wanted to gently remind you of the physical, mental, and emotional reasons why we should not diet, and then explain how I can disassociate a new way of eating from a diet.
Side Effects Of The Diet Mentality
Diets make you gain weight
Diets help you lose weight quickly because they restrict calories. This works at first, but after a few days or weeks, your brain notices that you’re not getting enough food and it starts to panic. This triggers your hunger hormones (leptin & ghrelin) to team up and protect you from starvation. Their solution is to lower your metabolic thermostat to burn less energy, which causes you to store the few calories that you ARE eating as protective body fat. This consequence can be short term or long term.
Diets ruin your stomach
Restricting certain healthy foods, or eating science-lab food, alters how your stomach and digestive system function. There’s a natural, chemical process to this eating and digesting thing. Mess with this process too much, and you’ll end up spending date night telling your significant other about your leaky gut.
Diets mess with your mind
Many women that I speak with use diets because they worry about weight gain, or they feel concerned that they’ll be judged (or judge themselves) for eating certain foods. Diets exacerbate this mentality, causing you to swallow a hefty dose of guilt and shame with every bite you eat.
Diets kill willpower
You only have a certain amount of willpower each day. It’s highest in the morning and decreases as the day wears on. Every decision you make taps into your willpower reserve; from food to fitness, or trying to keep your cool during a particularly frustrating conversation, choices zap willpower. Diets deplete your self-control doubly fast, which makes you irritable, exhausted and with a hand in the cookie jar after dinner.
What To Do Instead
First, ditch the diets and eat like this.
Next, if you do decide to change how you eat — healthily and sustainably — consider how what you’re doing is different from a diet. You can reframe your experience from one of restriction to one of abundance by focusing on the bounty of deliciousness that you are eating, rather than the foods you’re not.
Most importantly, unlike dieting, adopting a healthy eating mindset means that no food is off-limits, but there are sometimes foods and everyday foods (and eating well is about moderation and balance).
So as I follow my mini-program for the next 21 days, I will remind myself that I’m in charge of what, when and how I eat. It is up to us as individuals to choose foods that will fuel our healthiest, happiest selves, and by adopting that mindset you and I will both find that it’s easy to eat well without willpower or feelings of deprivation.
Chew on that thought and let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.