Many women spend much of their lives going from one unsuccessful diet to another, convinced that they just haven’t found the right one yet, or that they lack the willpower necessary to stick to one. But what if the problem is actually DIETING itself?
Dieting sets us up for failure
Serial dieting can lead not only to chronic frustration and body dissatisfaction but also, paradoxically, to weight gain.
Many people are caught in a cycle of dieting, falling off the wagon, feeling guilty, comfort eating, and then resolving to start another diet.
Unfortunately with each cycle, weight tends to increase and our relationship with food worsens.
How diets ruin our relationship with food
The problem is that diets encourage us to see food as an enemy, rather than as something which nourishes us and is essential to our health.
Dieting encourages us to view food as either ‘allowed’ or ‘forbidden’,
as ‘good’ or ‘bad’; and this is where the trouble starts.
It’s human nature to want what we can’t have, so as soon as we tell ourselves we can’t have something, we want it all the more. What’s more, dieting means we have to think about food and food choices more often, and the more often we think about food, the more we feel like eating it.
Food then takes on an increasing importance and status in our minds. Instead of just eating when we we’re hungry and stopping when we’re full, there are rules to be followed, portions to stick to and constant temptations to resist.
If we eat ‘good’ foods we see ourselves as ‘good’ and if we eat ‘bad’ foods we see ourselves as ‘bad’.
The feast and famine see-saw
The act of being ‘on a diet’ means that at some point you’ll be ‘off’ that diet which encourages you to establish an all or nothing approach to food and eating, whereby you’re on a constant see-saw of feast and famine.
You’re either on a diet, staring woefully at the cakes and pastries as you pass the bakery, or you’re off your diet, shovelling in as much of that forbidden food as you can before the next diet starts.
This process is guaranteed to ensure that you regain any weight you may have lost
and possibly add a few kilos more.
So what can you do?
- Instead of embarking on yet another diet, hoping that this one might just be ‘the one’ take a look at your relationship with food.
- If you’re getting ready to start the latest diet in 2016, now might be the perfect time to remember that the vast majority of dieters eventually go back to their pre-diet weight and often gain even more. So, instead of investing your time and energy on the latest diet fad, try repairing your relationship with food instead.
- Stop looking at food as the enemy and see it as a source of nourishment and an essential part of our wellbeing. Accept that quick fixes are not the answer and start thinking about making sustainable changes, changes you can maintain long term and that don’t make you miserable.
- Add a little more physical activity to your daily routine – take a look at these Foodwatch posts:
- Physical activity. Don't just watch it – do it!
- How much exercise do you need to stay healthy?
- Read Catherine’s post Rating your hunger and fullness
- and fill out Catherine’s downloadable Hunger/Fullness Log so you can understand when you are most hungry and why you are eating;
- Learn to eat mindfully, take a look at Catherine’s post The mindfulness of yoga can promote weight loss.
- Take a look at Catherine’s Everyday Diet Secrets that are staring you in the face. (Spoiler alert: they’re not about dieting but about how to eat sensibly and sustainably.)
- Or download her fact sheet Diet Secrets for Busy Bodies.
And remember, one chocolate won’t make you fat, but a whole box will.
Guest post by Skye Swaney, a Sydney dietitian and founder of Shift Nutrition. You can find more information About Skye at www.ShiftNutrition.com.au.
Image courtesy shutterstock.com