Somehow at some point in my life, the word diet became a big no for me. I used to believe in dieting or so I thought, but truth is that every time I tried a new diet I would only last a few days or no more than a month and then would quit, horribly, I mean bench eating and giving myself back all the food that I "missed".
Suddenly diet became a no for me, I knew it was not my thing, however, I absolutely love my body and I love taking great care of it, I mean it does so much to keep me alive and healthy that the last thing I can do it's to love it and nourish it so it can keep doing its job right. So this is where I did some digging on how to create a new simple lifestyle where I could take care of my body, my health and still have some fun enjoying other foods at times.
On the book "7 Habits Of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey, he talked really strongly about the concept of paradigm shifts. A paradigm is a model or frame of reference by which we perceive and understand the world. In the world of weight management, dieting is the cultural paradigm by which we attempt to control our weight.
A paradigm shift is a break with tradition, with old ways of thinking, with old paradigms. This is when I realized that we must change our paradigm to reject dieting and that only then we can build a healthy relationship with food and our bodies. People are often drawn to quick remedies to solve symptoms without solving the problem, or sometimes they can be solving the problem but they don't care about the long-term implications of these "quick fixes".
So how can you start a no-diet lifestyle?
Recognize And Acknowledge The Damage That Dieting Causes
There has been plenty of studies on the harm that dieting can cause, and some of the major studies have described the side effects in two categories, the biological and emotional effects. If we want to change our diet mentality we need to recognize that this is a problem and that you need to break through this cultural myth that diet works, they don't.
Biological and Health Damage
Dieting is considered a way of starvation even if it is voluntary. This is because we are taking restrictions way too far, even to the point of not having enough calories to get you going through your day and very low or even zero amount of nutrients to keep you thriving. Here are some of the side effects of taking diet to the extreme:
- It teaches the body to retain more fat when you start eating again. This is because low-calorie diets double the enzymes that make and store fat in the body. This is a form of biological compensation to help the body store more energy, or fat, after dieting.
- It slows the rate of weight loss with each successive attempt to diet.
- It decreases metabolism because diet triggers the body to become more efficient at utilizing calories by lowering the body's need for energy.
- It increases binges and cravings. Food restriction stimulates the brain to launch a cascade of craving to eat more. After substantial weight loss, studies show that people have been shown to prefer foods that are high in fat and sugar.
- Increases the risk of premature death and heart disease. Studies had shown that regardless of initial weight, people whose weight repeatedly goes up and down have a higher overall death rate and twice the normal risk of dying of heart disease. Also, studies have shown that people who lose and gain at least eleven pounds withing a decade or so, don't live as long as those who maintain a stable weight.
- It causes satiety cue to atrophy. Dieters usually stop eating due to a self-imposed limit rather than inner cues of fullness. This combined with skipping meals can condition you to eat meals of increasingly larger size.
- It causes the body shape to change. Yo-yo dieters who continually regain the lost weight tend to regain weight in the abdominal area. This type of fat storage increases the risk of heart disease.
Other known side effects include:
- Menstrual irregularities
- Dry skin
Psychological and Emotional Damage
Psychological experts reported the following adverse effects at the landmark 1992 National Institutes of Health, Weight Loss and Control Conference:
- Dieting is linked to eating disorders.
Dieting may cause stress or make the dieters more vulnerable to its effects. Independent of body weight itself, dieting is correlated with feelings of failure, lowered self-esteem, and social anxiety.
- The dieters are often vulnerable to loss of control over eating when violating "the rules" of the diet, whether there was an actual or perceived transgression of the diet. The mere perception of eating a forbidden food is enough to trigger overeating.
Be Aware Of Diet Mentality Traits And Thinking
It is important to recognize common characteristics of the diet mentality, the diet mentality surfaces in subtle forms, even when you decided to reject dieting, so being aware can let you know if you are still playing the dieting game. For you to be able to create a healthy relationship with food and body you need to forget about will power, being obedient, and failing.
Forget About Will Power
Will power can be defined as an attempt to counter natural desires and replace them with prescriptive rules. It also implies the ability to do unpleasant tasks that are not essential. The desire for sweets is natural, it is normal and it is very pleasant. Any diet that tells you that you can't have sweets is going against your natural desire. The diet becomes a set of rigid rules, and these kinds of rules can only trigger rebellion.
Will power does not belong to mindful eating. Listening to your personal signals reinforces your natural instincts, rather than countering them. You don't need to have no one else's proscriptive willpower battle and make peace with food and your body.
Forget Being Obedient
Hearing words such as "You should have the broiled vegetables" or "You shouldn't eat those fries" can set off an inner food rebellion and your only arsenal to fight these words back it to make an order of double fries. If you look on physics, resistance always occurs as a reaction to force, the simple act of being told what to do, or what not to do can trigger a rebellious chain reaction, and dieters can initiate rebellious eating in response to the act of dieting, with its set of rigid rules.
However, this act of rebellion is simply a normal action of self-preservation, a natural way to protect your space and your personal boundaries. Think of boundaries like a tall brick fence surrounding you, with only one gate and only the people that you allow can be inside. When people assume they know what you need and tell you what to do, they are picking the lock to your gate, or invading your boundaries. You need to remember that you are the only one who knows your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and no one else unless you tell them by inviting them in. I am sorry to say this, but not even an "expert" can know when you are hungry or how much food it will take to satisfy you, no one can know or tell you what texture and taste sensations will be pleasant to you, it is all up to you and your body, we all beautifully different girl!
When you are dieting your personal boundaries get crossed over and over again. You should know the when, what and how much food you are eating by listening to your body and no one else. When you follow food restrictions, the longer you do the greater the assault to your autonomy will be, and this will likely end up by you rebelling on eating more to restore your autonomy and protect your boundaries. However, the act of rebelling can make you feel like you are out of control, and you have an inner food fight, and the intensity of this battle reinforces feelings of lack of control and the belief that you don't possess willpower and now your diet ended on a disaster.
With mindful eating, there will be no need to rebel, because you become the one who is finally in charge!
It is very important to know that when someone makes a comment about your weight or how you should look, your boundaries are again, being invaded, this will also end up in an act of rebellion, making you feel weak, out of control, and miserable. You need to stand up for yourself and tell them that they have no right to make comments about your food choices or your weight, then, they might respect your boundaries and never cross them again, but, if they still keep crossing your fence, then you need to consider to let those people out for good or as much as far as you can.
Forget About Failure
All of the chronic dieters, no matter if they are executives, celebrities, or A students, they walk into specialists offices feeling like they are failures, feeling ashamed, and doubting that they will ever be able to feel successful in the eating area. When you have a dieting mentality, this will reinforce the mentality of feeling success or failure, but the good news is that you cannot fail in mindful eating, this is a learning process, that at every point along the way, you will see a new learning and growth experience. As soon as you get right back, you will see all these progress and not a once of failure.
Get Rid Of The Dieters Tools
We are living in a world of way too many free resources and influences on how to obtain diet tools. Dieters are now more than ever relying on external forces to regulate their eating, sticking to a regimented food plan, eating because it's time, or eating only a specified amount, whether they are hungry or not. Dieters validate the progress by external forces, primarily on the scale, asking: "How many pounds have I lost?" "Is my weight u[ r down?"
It is time to get rid of those damn weights and scales and listen to our bodies instead.
The Scale As False Idol
Have you realized the power that a scale can have on you? Seriously, people go to their bathrooms or wherever they have their scale with hopes and desperation that that scale roulette will give you the number you want, to then form chaos inside your mind if it's not what you wanted at all and set and shape your mood for the rest of your day. This can trigger the feeling of defeat and overeating.
In just one second, that scale can sabotage your body and mind, and devalue days, weeks and even months of great progress. We give so much power to the scale that ultimately ends up sabotaging our efforts and all the progress that has been made till that moment.
When A Pound Is Not A Pound
There are way too many factors that can influence a person's body weight, without having anything to do with their body fat percentage. Two cups of water equals one pound, that means if a person is retaining water in their body, they can reflect some extra pounds on the scale, without having anything to do with fat gain, changing their eating habit or workout routine. Some people eat a dessert during the weekend, then on Monday they weight themselves finding that they "gained five pounds", girl, it is impossible for you to gain five pounds for just a dessert, this could have happened for any other reason than eating a damn dessert, this could have been water weight and now they are frustrated and going into ridiculous diet regimens for nothing other than causing harm to their bodies.
Usually when a scale goes up or down suddenly can be caused by fluids shifts in the body, hormones, sodium, and even the weather can influence your body's fluid retention. But it is important to keep in mind that it can work on the other way as well, you can do some good cardio, lose two pounds and it's just water weight and not fat. It is important that we forget about the scale, or consult for a health or nutrition expert before making any drastic decisions.
Your muscles are made up of mainly 70% water, and when we are hungry the body is not given enough calories so it cannibalized itself for an energy source, our bodies survival mechanism is part of our nature and when we lose ten pounds in a very short amount of time, we have put our bodies in an extreme energy deficit and the protein from our muscles are converted to valuable energy for the body. When a muscle cell is destroyed, water is released and eventually excreted and there's your quick precious weight loss.
This ends creating other negative side effects in the body such as lowering your metabolism. It is important to know that muscle mass weighs way more than fat, this means that while you are melting fat out of your body, if your workouts are good enough to build muscle, the scale will stay the same, you can see this when your clothes start to get big but the precious scale is not showing smaller numbers. Muscle takes less space than fat, but again, weights more.
In more simpler words, the scale does not reflect or tells you your body composition. Weights will only put your focus on how much you weight and eat, and will take you far, far, far away from practicing a mindful healthy lifestyle and nutrition.
Be Compassionate Towards Yourself
On a world of social media and it can be really easy to start being hard on ourselves when we see other females skinny bodies, but skinny does not mean healthy, and it is not right for you to be hard on yourself for something you don't know if it's as pretty as it seems. Be kind and compassionate towards yourself, and if you know you need to take care of your body by making small healthy changes in your eating lifestyle do it slowly, make sure it is good for your body and your mental health, and go as your body tells you.
When the world around you is dieting, and euphoric about how weight is melting away as a result of the latest diet craze you can get pulled in. But these pulls are more than just aesthetics, is a choice that can harm your body, your health! Even after reading this, and knowing that the pursuit of dieting is truly futile, you need to understand that it takes time to make changes and to change a belief that has been imprinted in your neurological pathways for years, it takes weeks to finally change an old pattern, 21 days to be more precise, so don't beat yourself up if you find yourself entertaining the old fantasies of trying one more diet or just wanting to diet in general, just acknowledge the thought and come back to your new habit.