You’re finished with diets – you know they don’t work. Instead, you’re ready to embrace a “healthy lifestyle.” Nice, but there are a few things you should know…
Getting back to normal eating after years of dieting and restriction requires a complete mindset shift.
It can take some time to remove diet-minded thoughts and replace them with positive (intuitive eating) thoughts. Often times these thoughts are so entrenched in our brains that we don’t even realize that we’re actually “dieting.”
I know because today’s post is actually inspired by my own personal story of food guilt, which I’ll get to soon.
First, how can we detect these pseudo-diets? They often have the following characteristics:
Here are three common ways I see diet-minded thoughts creeping into “healthy lifestyles:”
1. You feel guilty after eating “bad” foods.
Here’s where my story comes into play:
I generally limit dairy products primarily because I notice benefits in digestion and my skin. I’m an animal lover too.
But I also love the taste of cheese. (I’m from Wisconsin, after all.)
I usually keep my home dairy-free (I don’t even really miss it) but on occasion, I’ll order a meal at a restaurant that contains cheese or put cream in my coffee when plant milks aren’t available.
No big deal, right?
Right, except that I realized I was allowing feelings of guilt and shame to creep up whenever I did consume dairy, like “I’m a registered dietitian, why can’t I just avoid a food that doesn’t treat my body well? What’s wrong with me?”
Since that realization, I’ve been working hard to remove my personal food judgment and guilt. By removing the emotional ties I had with dairy (i.e. not being a perfect dietitian because I was eating something that didn’t necessarily benefit me the most physically) I noticed that dairy began to lose its appeal. Once I could have anything, I really just wanted the foods that were going to taste good and help me feel energized, healthy, and confident.
It took some time to truly convince myself that I could have dairy whenever I wanted – without judgment – but I already feel more free. I’m probably also eating dairy less often. And I definitely enjoy it more when I do have it.
Do you ever feel guilty after eating a specific food or food group?
Try making a concerted effort to remove judgment from your eating habits. While different foods may vary in their ability to support your physical health, its important to make all foods emotionally neutral.
Focus on choosing foods that make you feel good.
2. You count calories, carbs, or fat.
I can’t even count the number of times someone has asked me to provide a meal plan with limits on calories and grams of carbohydrates and fat in order to lose weight.
I always cringe a little because, while I’m fully able to calculate the numbers, I also know that they’re not likely to be very helpful.
How can I know how active you will be that day or the unique way that your metabolism will absorb nutrients? How can I account for the fact that stated nutrition information is often inaccurate?
Usually, paying too much attention to the numbers is a sign of distrust in our own bodies and intuitions.
Instead, we need to trust that our bodies will adjust to their happy weights by focusing on internal hunger and satiety cues, choosing satisfying foods, and finding non-food methods for coping with emotions.
3. You eat conditionally.
Do you exercise more if you had dessert the night before?
Ever have a salad to “make up for” the burger you had at your last meal?
You may feel like you’re not on a diet because you can “eat whatever you want” but adding conditions like these is just another form of guilt and judgment and naturally leads you to deeming some foods as bad.
And once a food is “bad” or requires a condition in order to be eaten, you give it power.
You’re more likely to want it – even obsess about it because you know its not a food that you can just eat peacefully, it requires a condition. You’re also more likely to overeat once you finally do “give in.” (Usually inevitable and only a matter of time.)
So enjoy your cake without any sort of conditions on how you’ll make up for it later.
As long as you don’t have a severe allergy, no single food or meal will ever make or break your health, so just savor every bite and move on.
What are your thoughts on ditching diets?