6 Things That Happen When you Ditch the Diet Mentality
Are you tired of trying one fad diet after another? It’s time to ditch the diet mentality, and here are 6 great things that happen when you do!
What is dieting?
Dieting is defined as “restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of foods in order to lose weight”. Have you ever experienced dieting? If so, you’re not alone.
It’s estimated that 45 million Americans try dieting every year. Americans spend 33 billion dollars on diet and weight loss products every year. But something isn’t adding up, as about two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. If all these diets actually worked, we’d expect that number to decrease drastically each year.
Dieting doesn’t work
While you may successfully lose 5-10% of your body weight in the short term with dieting, research shows you will more than likely gain the weight back in the long run. One review showed that one-third to two-thirds of dieters even gain more weight back than they had initially lost (1).
Since diets are inherently temporary, this totally makes sense. You restrict during the diet and lose weight. But once you’re off the diet, restriction stops and the weight comes back. The act of restricting perpetuates weight gain in several ways, including obsessive thoughts about food, intense cravings for carbohydrates or sweets, and promoting binging.
Dieting may also be harmful in other ways, including slowed metabolism, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and feelings of stress and guilt (2, 3). Restrictive dieting causes the body to enter a starvation mode, in which it becomes more efficient at holding onto energy and storing it in the form of fat.
Why you should ditch the diet mentality
Ditching the diet mentality can be scary if you are a long term dieter. You may feel you’ll lack control and never be able to stop eating energy dense foods. But with the proper re-training and positive self-talk, you’ll find an eating style that works for you, in which you maintain your healthy weight and have a positive relationship with food.
Dieting perpetuates the idea that being thin is more desirable than being overweight, for both aesthetic reasons and health reasons. But emerging research is showing that your weight or BMI may not actually be defining determinants of health outcomes.
One study found that adopting four healthy lifestyle habits (eating 5 or more servings of fruits/vegetables per day, limiting alcohol, regular exercise, and not smoking) had several benefits for all participants, including decreased mortality, regardless of weight/BMI (4).
So, with the knowledge that you don’t need to be thin in order to be healthy, you can begin to ditch the diet mentality. Read on for 6 amazing things that will happen when you do!
6 things that happen when you ditch the diet mentality
You stop obsessing about food and eating.
When we diet, we constantly think about food and when we can eat next. This is again a product of restriction: when we can’t have something, we tend to put it on a pedestal and think about it all the time.
Rejecting the diet mentality means you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. You give yourself unconditional permission to eat and enjoy your food based on your hunger and cravings. Food becomes just food, not something to idolize or obsess about.
You stop intensely craving carbohydrates and sweets.
There’s science behind the reason we specifically crave carbohydrates when we restrict food. Carbohydrates are the body’s number one preferred source of energy. Without enough energy in the form of carbs, the body will go into starvation mode. Then, we naturally crave quickly absorbing carbohydrates, like pasta, bread, and sugar, to get more energy fast.
When we stop dramatically limiting carbohydrates during a diet, and instead eat a variety throughout the day, these cravings calm way down. Choose higher-fiber carbohydrates like whole grains, fruit, and starchy vegetables for added health benefits, but when you stop dieting, no carb is off limits.
You become better at recognizing hunger and satiety cues.
A big part of taking a non-diet approach to food is eating whenever you are hungry. Many diets prescribe specific times you must eat, or refrain from eating. The problem with this is that you’re probably not eating when your body needs energy. You may not even remember what it feels like to be hungry.
The body is really good at letting us know when it needs to be fed. Signs of hunger include digestive noises, fatigue, stomach pains, lack of energy, shakiness, and lightheadedness. You’ll learn to tune in to these cues to let you know when to eat, and how much.
On the flip side, you’ll also learn to respect your fullness and satiety levels. Instead of relying on portion sizes to dictate how much you will eat, your body will tell you when it has had enough (or needs more)! You’ll also become more in tune with your emotions and how those affect your drive to eat.
You’ll stop overeating or binging on food.
The reasons behind overeating or binging on food are more often than not rooted in restriction and dieting. When we tell ourselves we can’t have a certain food, we naturally begin to crave it more and obsess over it. When we finally “give in” and have the food, it’s likely we will overeat that food, rather than be satisfied with a sensible amount.
You’ll give yourself permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want with a non-diet approach. Therefore, there is no need to binge or overeat any food! You can have cookies today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of your life if you want! Foods end up losing their mystical power when we reject the diet mentality.
Eliminate food guilt.
When we diet, the foods we are told to restrict become “bad” foods in our minds. So naturally if we eat those foods, we feel guilty and ashamed, as if we did something wrong.
With an anti-diet approach, foods are no longer “good” and “bad”. Food is just food, and it nourishes our bodies, minds, and souls. Pair this with some basic nutrition education, you’ll feel empowered to eat foods that are good for your body, while leaving all the space you need for foods that are good for your mind and soul.
Weight will probably stabilize.
If you’ve been dieting on and off for many years, you’ve been participating in yo-yo dieting. Yo-yo dieting has a negative impact on health and weight, because you’re likely losing weight, then gaining it all back repeatedly.
Instead of focusing on short term diets, a non-diet mindset approaches health in long term lifestyle changes. You’ll feel empowered to make healthy choices that make you feel good, instead of solely to lose weight.
During this process, you’ll probably find that eating nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains make you feel better and give you more energy than processed, fried, and fatty foods. Loading up on those nutrient dense foods will naturally replace more energy dense foods, and over time you’ll likely lose weight and it will stabilize.
Looking for more guidance?
I’m here to help! With private nutrition counseling, I’ll help you create goals, navigate behavior change, and be an integral part of your support system on your journey to better health.
If you’re interested in working together, just send me an e-mail!