When people learn that I am a holistic health coach the topic of dieting is bound to come up. I‘m often asked what I think of <insert diet program here> or <insert eating “lifestyle” here> and while they all have their own little intricacies in so many ways they are all the same.
You see, dieting depends on drastic changes – usually a decrease in how many daily calories are consumed and abstaining from specific food types. And while you may see results in the first few months they are more likely than not to be short-lived.
This is because dieting doesn’t keep the long term in mind.
Today I’m breaking down three common factors diets have that set you up for “failure” in the long term and what you can do instead.
Diets depend on self-control.
Which at first doesn’t seem like a problem. However, our idea of self-control when it comes to food is completely inconsistent with the way we apply it to other areas of our life.
According to Traci Mann, author of Secrets From The Eating Lab, we think of saying no to a donut as one moment of self-control that we either win or lose.
But that’s not the case at all. You actually make many decisions to not reach for that donut before that “cave in moment” finally comes.
Each time you see or walk by the box of donuts you are making a decision to not eat them. Essentially, each individual time you make this choice is an act of self-control. But we write ourselves off as a failure as soon as we reach for the donut no matter how many times we said no beforehand.
We end up writing ourselves off as failures or that there is no hope for us when this just isn’t the case!
Dieting encourages eating less than your body requires to lose weight.
Which means you are literally living day to day in varying degrees of starvation. Your body gives you hunger cues to tell you that it requires energy. Energy which is obtained from food to be used to continue to fuel body and brain function for the day.
Feeding your body enough nutrient-dense food allows you to power through the day with enough energy and focus to enjoy life without constantly thinking about food.
Let’s be honest, when your body is in a state of starvation for an extended amount of time how could you think about anything except food?
Diets don’t keep the long term in mind.
Diets cash in on being quick and temporary fixes.
They leave you on your own after you’ve finished the 30-day plan and then what?
You gain the weight back. Your body adjusts to the drastic changes to counterbalance the effects.
You go back to eating according to your old habits and your body goes back to its previous weight.
Diets don’t aim to teach you how to eat healthily for life. They teach you how to shock your body into a state that lends to weight loss with extreme (and unsustainable) habits.
What to do instead
Our bodies are intelligent and know what they need best yet by dieting we are trying to outsmart them.
Instead, we need to learn to tune in and listen to our bodies through intuitive eating. We need to hear our cravings out and find foods that feel good to eat. That leave us feeling bright and vitalized.
Intuitive eating has a bit of a learning curve. It’s a scary step for many to actually listen to our bodies – because what if we eat ice cream every day for the rest of our lives?!
But the thing is, you won’t. You will want other foods eventually.
At first, it may truly be all you want. I believe it’s important to indulge those cravings and learn to become okay with our food choices without villainizing or glorifying them. Because when you can drop this judgement of your food choices, you won’t be tormented over each decision and will finally be able to focus on how they make you feel instead.
Because sometimes we need a salad, but sometimes we need cake too.
Food provides so much more than just physical nourishment and it’s important to care for our psychological wants as much as our physical needs.
Once we can let go of the fear of food that dieting has instilled in us, we can free ourselves to make more health conscious choices that best suit our individual needs.