Maybe that’s the reason why dieting is so popular?
When you diet, you’re told what to do. You are given rules and regulations you must follow. Calories, points, green or red, carbs or no carbs. You are given lists of what’s acceptable and so part of the thinking is taken away.
And for many this is great, because we have busy lives. We don’t want to have to think about what we should and shouldn’t eat. We just want to lose weight. Following a plan takes the stress out of our days.
Many diets will tout themselves as a “Lifestyle change” If you keep this up and make the changes, you “will lose weight and maintain a weight loss”. On paper it all looks so simple. Eat less, eat low fat, no fat, diet branded foods. It’s all there for you. No critical thinking, no assessing your thoughts or feelings, and often no real need to worry about whether you’re actually hungry, or just bored, so long as you follow the plan.
What does not dieting involve if you still want to lose weight, but are fed up of the diet cycle? What does it mean if NOT DIETING does not mean giving up on yourself?
When I first decided to step off the dieting bandwagon, several people assumed I no longer cared about myself or my appearance. I had given up on myself and on life. And I suppose that’s an understandable assumption to make. Dieting is so ingrained in society’s thinking, that not dieting MUST mean doing nothing and giving up, right? Because you’re either on a diet, or you’re off a diet. And if you’re off a diet, then it must mean you’re eating all the pies and inhaling all the chocolate, yes? No.
Not dieting means you’ve finally accepted that dieting has not helped you through life. For every diet you’ve encountered the anti diet period would follow. You’ve stuffed yourself full of all the things you weren’t allowed. You’ve allowed yourself to never feel hungry after months of a stomach constantly rumbling. It is easy to think “If I’m not going to diet again then surely it means I will never gain any self control and will always eat in this crazy fashion.”
Not dieting is not about having no self control. It is not about giving up. It is NOT about letting yourself get fatter and fatter because there is no other way.
My first introduction to Intuitive Eating, and NOT dieting was through the people at this site Intuitive Eating. They gave 10 principles to addressing your hunger and living a life free from diets.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
2. Honor Your Hunger
3. Make Peace with Food
4. Challenge the Food Police
5. Respect Your Fullness
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
8. Respect Your Body
9. Exercise–Feel the Difference
10 Honor Your Health
Looks simple, doesn’t it? “Honour your hunger” for example? How hard could it be listening to your body, paying attention to when you are hungry and what you are hungry for. “Honour your feelings without using food” can’t be so hard! And “Respect your body”, what could be simpler?
The book was great, and opened my eyes to a real alternative lifestyle, one no longer led by the deprivation-binge cycle. And one that could help me out of the binge-purge cycle that I’d dropped into as my faith in my own body and my own willpower had diminished to nothing. It was a beautiful revelation, and I will be forever grateful to those women at Intuitive Eating for creating such a safe space for people like me. It also opened my eyes and introduced me to others who were fighting the diet mentality; Geneen Roth, Susie Orbach, and eventually Sophie and Audrey Boss.
Being a typical English non gushy person, finding Beyond Chocolate was lovely. A book written by British people, in a British style, and I appreciated their relaxed manner. The also have 10 Principles in their book and every chapter went into detail as to why and how these Principles are important and would impact your life. In short
1. Tune in
2. Eat when you’re hungry
3. Eat whatever you want
4. Put it on a plate, sit down and focus
6. Stop when you’re satisfied
7. Own your body
9. Support yourself
10. Be your own Guru
Again, it all looks so simple. How hard can “Tune in” be? How difficult can it be to “Eat when you’re hungry” and “Stop when you’re satisfied?” But the fact is, and for me it is fact, after years and years and years of dieting I didn’t know when I was satisfied! I wasn’t even completely sure when I was hungry! I was used to eating through the diet times often because it was there and it was “free”. Often I ate more than I needed because I was craving one thing not allowed on my diet, so instead, to try and fill that craving hole, I’d eat everything else I was allowed on the diet! I remember many a time I’d eaten my daily quota of food by midday. Sitting and focussing on my food was not something that would happen. Before I knew it, my plate would be empty and I’d realise I had just finished an entire meal without tasting it! Have you given yourself time to focus on the food you eat? Even a mouthful? You’d be amazed at what you might discover if you actually taste your food. Turns out I don’t much like chocolate, and I’m not all the fussed on crisps! Meat doesn’t float my boat as much as I thought, and wow, those low fat noodles I used to eat all the time, are truly disgusting! But on a diet, tasting food wasn’t something I was encouraged or led to do. Often the food was tasteless, and spending time actually paying attention while I chewed would just have shown me how bland some of that food actually was, or full of sweetener….can’t stand that stuff anymore.
The thing is that Tuning in and body awareness takes time to master, and 5 years on I’m still learning. 5 years on my body and mind are still overcoming the diet mentality that has been fed to me for over 25 years. And so it’s hard. There’s no quick fix, no instant weight loss results. Occassionally the lure of diet land has called me back, because I want to lose weight. Fortunately though, the lures are fewer and farther between and the reality of a beautiful life without dieting prevails. And for every diet where I’ve lost weight, I’ve gained that weight back as the same anti diet time as followed!
Gradually, over 5 years I have learnt to come to a place of acceptance and love of my body (Own Your Body). A body, that while dieting was always considered my enemy, something I had to fight and defeat to lose the weight I so desperately wanted to see the back of. In accepting my body, I have allowed myself to buy a plus size wetsuit and get out into the see. Owning my body allowed me to be bold enough to say “This is me, take it or leave it, but I’m going to move this body in the way that I want!”
That’s not to say I don’t look for other ways to support myself when Intuitive Eating alone seems to slow and hard, and it is yet another principle of the Beyond Chocolate duo, “Be Your Own Guru”. Currently I am using some audio messages from Thinking Slimmer and I am finding they support the messages the I have learnt through Beyond Chocolate and Intuitive Eating. Not Dieting is not a one size fits all solution to weight loss, and it doesn’t happen miraculously overnight. With help we can get back in tune with our bodies and stop treating it as an enemy, but it’s a hard slog changing the years and years of dieting lessons and messages.
My body is changing though, slowly, safely, and permanently. A diet cannot ever promise that.