Just before my wedding, I got together with friend and Body Positive Personal Trainer, Shreen El Masry from Be You, Be Free to chat about dieting and how, independently, we’ve come to do a 360 on our approach to food and body.
Neither of us diet like we used to, we don’t even eat clean, eat paleo, or listen to any kind of ‘rules’ around food anymore. We both believe diets just don’t work and so often, lead to an unhealthy relationship to food and body.
In this audio we chat about:
The problematic side of “on & off the wagon” eating and why the next diet won’t work
How you spot a diet (even sneaky, “wellness” lifestyle changes)
If not dieting then what? The first step to breaking the diet-binge cycle.
Here’s what I suggest you do to get the most out of the resources created for you here.
Listen to the audio below.
Read my extended summary notes.
Download the Intuitive Eating Journal so you can put into practice some of the concepts we talk about.
It’s a diet when..
It’s a diet when your rules, guidelines or values around food are about changing your body in some way. eg. Lose weight, tone up, strengthen your core.
The way diets “work” is to restrict food:
Restrict specific foods (bread, apple pie, choc chip cookies)
Restricing (counting) calories or macro nutrients - sugar, carbs, fats ect.
Diets have gotten so sneaky! And so the diet industry has rebranded itself to stay relevant:
6 Week Challenges
12 Week Programs
No matter what we call it, if we are restraining our eating in some way it’s a diet.
“We distinguish our obsession with plant-based diets and ancient grains from the punitive, calorie-obsessed diet culture that came before it—but in reality, it’s simply diet culture 2.0.”
-- The Wellness Bait & Switch
But what’s wrong with being on a diet, everyone “diets”, and don’t you want be healthy?
Diets teach us that there is “good” and “bad”, a “right” and “wrong” ways to eat.
It would be no surprise to you that diets have an incredibly high failure rate.
Why? Because biologically, our bodies respond to food restriction like they would starvation circumstances.
If we are restraining our eating, we “switch on” our primal response to deprivation, to eat so we don’t starve. Binge eating, is a natural symptom and response to restriction around food.
Your body cares for your survival, not our culturally thin ideal and expectation to stay the same weight that you were at 19 all throughout your 20’s and 30’s!
So if you’re physically restricting food (portion, carbs, sugars ect) at some point the pendulum is going to swing, in response to deprivation, landing you in that moment where your covered in chocolate cake, eating it really fast, when nobodies looking.
This happens in the same way if we emotionally restrict food (“I can’t have those sweet potatoes because I’ve already had bread today”). The belief that you can’t or you shouldn’t eat bread because of the rule of your diet.
Thinking and talking about that food you “can’t have” typically makes us want that food more.
These “off the wagon” moments so often turn 1 or 2 cookies into 4 because we’re afraid there won’t be a “next time.”
Your food rules keep you in your head and focused on the shame of “I’ve been bad.” This focus on the rules moves you away from the sensitivity of your body and moment to moment opportunities to meeting your needs and connection to internally cues like hunger, fullness and satisfaction, emotional state, energy levels, hormones responses ect.
I know that you worry that if you don’t apply some kind of control over your eating your going to eat and eat and eat and eat and eat.
I totally understand this, I use to think that I could never trust myself to eat without food rules.
But using a binge moment as as evidence that you “can’t be trusted around food” just keeps you stuck in diet-binge cycles.
Distrust in your ability to listen to your body is so often a sign that you’ve been on a diet for so long, that there’s a long time disconnect from those body cues.
So, if not dieting then what?
How do you go from restriction, and preoccupation with food to freedom, ease and trust in your body?
To be able to eat a croissant until satisfied, then pack half away for later, takes firstly letting go of control that you place over food. Letting go and unlearning some of that dieting mentality because it’s incredibly hard to trust and listen to your body if you’re hung up with guilt, shame and self blame about how you failed your diet again.
The process isn’t as straight forward as eat when your hungry, stop when you’re full or “eat your “bad” foods until you’re sick of them”.
Healing your relationship with food runs so much deeper than conceptual ideas we’ve talked about here just to “fix” your food stuff.
Real healing takes practice, time and support.
I’ve got just the thing to help you process this connection to food and body with my free resource; The Intuitive Eating Journal.
It’s a practical guide to strengthening your muscles of listening, learning and gathering feedback. It teaches mindsets and tools of intentional eating so you can so you can get on living your LIFE with more freedom, trust and joy! Get the journal below.
And remember, you’ve tried dieting. It doesn’t work. You might just need some help to identify how diet mentality has wedged it’s way in between every crack of your thinking but the truth is you can relearn to trust the process of connecting back to your body’s natural ability to regulate its nutritional, hunger, fullness and satisfaction needs. You just need to be shown how, and be willing to practice!