It’s no secret that dieting goes hand in hand with success and failure. The very nature of the cycle is one of extremes. The absolutes of ‘being allowed’ one food and ‘avoiding’ another altogether are bound to create disharmony of the mind. We are torn between what we are told to eat and what we want to eat, and often recommended foods that are far outside our social and cultural norms. In a sense we are often convinced to eat in a way that does not come naturally to us and goes against everything we grew up with. Whilst I don’t argue that cutting out certain foods and methods of cooking can optomise ones health, it is painfully unrealistic to expect most to change their ways overnight.
Day in and day out I work with people who are traumatised by food and diets, confused about what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to eat and emotionally attached to the idea that it is their fault the diet didn’t work. In reality the diet had set them up for failure from the start. Much of my job is helping people to actually deal with the emotional fallout from a lifetime of dieting. They are often in so much pain emotionally from the whole diet cycle that they don’t even realize the damage that has been done. Here are a few of the emotional fallout signs most common in serial dieters.
- They think they lack willpower: Diets set us up for failure. Too often the calorie restrictions are too severe and leave us hungry. They deny us all pleasure in food and create desperate guilt cycles. Eventually something’s got to give. We binge! It is not you personally that is lacking in willpower or weak. This happens to everyone. It makes sense then that it is the diet with the problem, not you! The diet doesn’t suit your needs if it leads to bingeing. This is why I spend hours with my clients assessing their likes and needs so that we can design a lifestyle that is right for them!
- They don’t eat enough or have erratic eating cycles: After years of counting calories and cutting foods out until all you can really eat is broccoli without feeling guilty, one of the most common problems is that people aren’t eating enough! And when they do it is out of control. It’s no wonder this happens! I see people restricting their calories at the beginning of the day so they can eat more later and then beat themselves up for being starving by bed time!
- They are addicted to the cycle without realizing: Dieting creates extreme emotional highs and lows. The excitement of stocking up the fridge with healthy foods and all those good intentions. You have a plan to follow, how can it fail? But then life gets in the way, or you find yourself starving and you become derailed. The lows are so low that we actually hate ourselves deeply in these moments of supposed ‘failure’. We must find another diet to either punish ourselves or feel that ‘health kick high’ again. The yoyo dieting continues.
- They engage in extremely negative self talk: all this failure makes us hate ourselves! We are useless, we lack willpower, we are greedy, how does everyone else do it? It must just be us! WRONG! Its not you! It’s the diet cycles ugly grip on you.
- They only see foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’: If you see foods in absolutes, it is extremely hard to find balance. The trouble is when we demonize a food, chances are we will want it more! When we completely cut out everything we ever loved because its ‘bad’ then our lives have no joy! The beautiful food is gone! And chances are it wasn’t that bad for you anyway. For example you have probably cut out all fat at one point and now struggle to eat even good fat. Same goes for sugar and carbs and so on.
- They suffer anxiety around food and social occasions: Because we crave the highs of the diet cycle and the control we have when we are ‘on top’ of the situation, it can cause extreme anxiety when we are out and about because we don’t feel we have any control around food. We cannot control what is given to us at a dinner party and we don’t trust ourselves to be around anything delicious because we might give in and spoil everything. We would do anything to avoid that ‘low’. In these situations we find ourselves avoiding social situations and hating our lives.
- They tend to have an all or nothing approach: Once they have made a mistake they struggle to get back on track: The desperate feeling of failure we experience after bingeing on a diet or simply letting things slide a bit cause us to go into a complete meltdown. We throw a tantrum and decide to give up and ‘just be fat’, perhaps we cry and tell ourselves how useless we are. Instead of saying ‘ok so I ate a cake I’m going to eat well for the rest of the day’, we tend to aim for a Monday again or give up completely.
- They struggle to find balance: Finding balance in this world of extremes is nigh on impossible. One of the biggest challenges I face with a new client is trying to get them to eat enough, often enough so that these highs and lows stop happening. The bingeing does stop, but it’s important to find a place of balance specific to you and your needs. To start to see food as food and not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is key in succeeding in your weight loss journey. The biggest struggle is in being afraid to loosen the reigns on yourself enough to let yourself enjoy food again and trust yourself enough to know your limits. Sometimes this has to be relearned entirely.
- They lack self-belief and struggle to trust their own decisions: After many years of being in the highs and lows of the diet cycle, we literally don’t believe we CAN lose weight anymore. We know we are going to fail again and we feel that we don’t even deserve to live a happy and healthy life. Trouble is, often the people around us have stopped believing in us too. This confirms our negative self talk. In actual fact, it is not you that is failing but the weight loss systems that have appealed to you the most!
- They don’t trust their body: The most common problem with all of us is that we lose the ability to connect with our bodies. We feel that they have let us down and that they are failing us. We don’t really trust that they can ever work properly enough to allow us to lose weight. As a result we stopped listening to our bodies and find it hard to identify cravings and do right by them! Dieting is putting your mind over your body, and not listening to its needs. It is us saying we know better. Or worse still, its some guru that has never met you or your body, telling you what to give it! Everybody is different and to really choose a healthy lifestyle, you have to get back in touch with your body and try to stop seeing it as the enemy.
If any of these sounds like you and you are looking to break out of the diet cycle then browse my blog or for more!
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