How Diet Mentality Is Ruining Your Progress
Eating is a biological instinct that we are born with. Babies cry when their bodies are in need of sustenance and they stop eating when they’ve had enough. It’s a system and it works, and their bodies are able to function and grow just as they were meant to.
Unfortunately, most of us lose that instinct over time, and it’s all due to diet culture.
Chances are, you’ve been on a diet before. And this diet (whether it’s atkins, weight watchers, paleo, or whole 30) has put you in a state of deprivation at one point or another. You’re either limiting or avoiding carbs, or fats, or meat, or processed food–the list goes on and on and on… Your focused on what you CAN’T have, not what you can. This presents a problem that, as a former or current dieter, you have dealt with. And that problem is the restrict-binge cycle–a direct result of diet mentality, and it’s likely keeping you from reaching your goals.
Diets, deprivation, and caloric intake manipulation work for individuals who do not identify with the majority of issues surrounding food.
Do you find yourself binge eating often? Do you consider yourself to be “falling off” your diet more than you are “on track”? Are you always thinking about food? If you answered yes to any of those questions, dieting is probably not the best route for you to reach your goals. Maybe you already know this. But maybe you are so desperate to lose weight that you continue to try–but the results are the same, the cycle repeats, and you don’t know what else to do.
Maybe you’ve heard of intuitive eating–the new approach to eating that will give you food freedom and solve all of your problems !!! The approach that’s not restrictive ! Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full ! Easy, right ?!
Yeah, not so much. Intuitive eating, or at least the intuitive eating that so many health and fitness coaches promote, is still restrictive. It’s still a diet. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. A.k.a. DON’T eat when you’re NOT hungry. It’s still limiting.
Which brings me to my next topic: Emotional eating.
Intuitive eating (a.k.a. the hunger/fullness diet) automatically tells you that if you are eating when you are NOT hungry–you are emotionally eating–and that’s bad, right? As if you weren’t feeling obsessive enough about trying to figure out your hunger cues, now you are being shamed for eating emotionally, and terrified that you will gain weight because of it.
Emotional eating is a coping mechanism. It’s not the only coping mechanism, or even the best coping mechanism, but it is what it is.
If you eat emotionally and feel guilty or ashamed after–it defeats the whole purpose of the ‘intuitive eating’ approach. Your emotions are a part of your intuition. Lots of coaches will tell you that if you are not hungry but you want to eat, to instead go for a walk, take a bath, sit on your hands, drink water, do ANYTHING to avoid eating. But that’s not going to work every time–maybe it’ll work most of the time, but the eventual release of a binge is still inevitable, because you are denying yourself food.
Most people diagnose the root of their problem as the fact that they are emotional eaters. It’s the reason why you can’t lose the weight, why you can’t have a healthy relationship with food, why you can’t love yourself.
It’s been cast in such a negative light–it’s the “don’t eat emotionally” diet. And that’s just it–another diet. If you fall off, you will binge. Because if you are depriving, depriving, and depriving some more, your inevitable release in the form of a binge will be intensified that much more but it could have all been avoided if you ate the dang donut in the first place and moved on with your life. You cheat, you binge, you feel awful, you hate yourself for doing this, and you swear you’ll be a new person starting tomorrow. Sound familiar?
If you are feeling an internal “yes, yes, yes I can SO relate” to all of this so far, stick with me–I’m about to turn your world upside down (in the best way possible).
And here it is: Binge eating is NOT emotional eating and you can eat emotionally and still maintain a healthy relationship with food.
We live in a society that completely villainizes emotional eating and so, naturally, we associate the reason for a binge with emotional eating. But here’s the game changer: Eating a donut when you’re sad doesn’t have to turn into a binge. It’s not wrong. It’s not something that will cause you to gain weight and be unlovable. It’s just like celebrating an accomplishment by going out to dinner with your family–the food there is tied in with the emotion–joy! It’s NORMAL.
Realize that binges are not about emotional eating–they are about hoarding food because you know that your diet resets the next day and you’ll have to be good again. Emotional eating is “I’m sad I want a donut” and binge eating is “I’m not supposed to have that donut so I want it even more. Since I ate it, I’ve now fallen off the wagon and I suck but my diet resets tomorrow so I might as well eat everything I can get my hands on right now”. See the difference?
Emotional eating will happen and it’s OK and it doesn’t have to turn into a binge.
Emotional eating is a part of life for the most “normal” eater out there. Can you picture that person? Chances are you know someone who can drink a milkshake and not think twice about it. It’s a milkshake, you’re not hungry, but you’re enjoying it–IT’S OK. A milkshake is just a milkshake. <<< And that is the hardest part of all to grasp. Because if you’ve been dieting for years, a milkshake is a triggering, emotionally-charged item.
You are programmed to be terrified of eating the wrong thing or eating something that will make you gain weight and you can’t let food just be food. It’s not the milkshake that causes the binge–it’s the diet mentality surrounding it. Be aware of this first, and then you can work to change it (one day, one thought, one baby step at a time).
Changing society’s distortion of health one movement at a time–who’s in?!