What if your body is trying to deceive you?
Try to think back to a time in your childhood – maybe you were celebrating a birthday, having a picnic in the park, visiting friends in another state – a time where you remember feeling completely free and safe to enjoy what you were eating.
…This may be tough, but spent a few moments thinking back into your memory.
What was your favorite kind of food? What did you crave eating? Remember, this is before all of the “should’s”, “can’t”, “must”, and other rigid rules around food surfaced. Just a time where true joy was associated with eating.
Now think of today and of the rules that you have created around what you can and cannot eat (or rules that were imposed on you by a diet or influences in your environment). Can’t eat past 7pm. Shouldn’t have carbs or gluten. Must eat under XXX number of calories every day. Should exercise every day for X amount of time….
Why? Who are you listening to?
These rules are most likely not borne of internal signals, but are enforced on you by external sources. In other words, they are rules that are not about listening to your body.
When you think of these two different scenarios, check in with your body. Which one does your body respond more positively to?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and make an assumption — probably the first one.
I don’t think any body truly wants to be controlled by someone else’s guidelines.
Since we are all unique and have our own genetic make-up, environmental factors, and personalities, it doesn’t make sense that we could all conform to a similar diet mentality.
So why do we diet? Here are some of the common answers:
- to lose weight
- to feel better about ourselves
- to be healthy
- to appear more attractive for a potential mate
- to have some sense of control
I am sure there are many others that you could come up with. Yet research shows that diets don’t work, and that over 90% of people who diet will regain the weight (and then some).
Why? According to Dr. Traci Mann’s article You should never diet again: The science and genetics of weight loss,
“Weight regain after a diet is your body’s evolved response to starvation. When you are dieting, it may feel as though you are about to starve to death, but you know that you can open the fridge at any time and find more to eat, if you really wanted to. Your body doesn’t know this, however, and you have no way to tell it that you just want slimmer hips or a flatter stomach. All your body knows is that not enough calories are coming in, so it kicks into survival mode.” After your diet is over and you begin to eat normally again, your body will naturally put weight back on (and then some) as a way to survive.
Diets are the antithesis of listening to our bodies, and are one of the biggest risk factors to eating disorder development and body image distress.
In my work over the past six years with people who have experienced a disconnected, destructive and unhappy relationship with their bodies, I have heard many fears of letting go of their diet sand listening to their bodies. I get it – I have myself been on the diet rollercoaster, and for me that tipped into the dangerous territory of an eating disorder for ten years.
But I know intuitively, from my own experience and from witnessing others’, that your body is wise and you can trust it.
Here are three common fears about letting go of the diet mentality – and how to overcome them:
- My diet is helping me lose weight to be healthier. This is a very common reason to go on a diet – to be healthier and lose weight. Look out for: no flexibility with the “rules”, cutting out food groups for no health related reason, and feelings of deprivation. Try instead: ask your body what it is really hungry for right now. Broaden your definition of “healthy”.
- My diet helps me have a sense of control around food. My guess is that if you are feeling out of control with food, that going on a diet is not going to solve that problem and may actually result in a more rigid and extreme form of controlling food. Try instead: Ask yourself what else is feeling out of control in your life that you are using food to try to soothe?
- If I am not on a diet I will feel completely out of control with food. Again, a common fear around dieting/not dieting. I believe this is founded from a deep disconnection between mind and body – one in which you do not feel connected to your body and like you can trust it. In truth, going off a diet may result in binge eating – the mind goes from rigidity to chaos pretty quickly in response to a perceived trauma. Try instead: eating all foods in moderation to begin listening to your body and getting out of that all or nothing mindset.
Above all else, honor your body. Listen to it. Ask your child-like self “What sounds good right now?” “Am I truly hungry or am I feeling something else”?
And if you need support in this process of listening, connecting, appreciating, I can help.