Letting Go of the Diet Mentality
Ditching the diet mentality is the first step toward food freedom. Read on to learn more about this first principle of intuitive eating.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
What is the Diet Mentality?
The diet mentality is this idea that we need to be a certain weight or look a certain way, and in order to stay thin or lose weight, we have to control our input and output. Whether we do this by trying the latest diet, following a “lifestyle plan”, or simply controlling and restricting, it’s not a fun way to live. Moreover, it usually backfires.
Why is it Important to Let Go of the Diet Mentality?
Rejecting the diet mentality is the first principle of intuitive eating. Without fully embracing this principle you won’t be able to be a true intuitive eater.
Many people turn to intuitive eating while still holding on to the hopes that they may lose a little weight, even if they recognize that’s not the goal of intuitive eating. And while some people do lose weight when they start eating intuitively–perhaps because they become more in tune with their hunger and fullness or because they are no longer emotionally eating on a regular basis–there is no focus on weight with intuitive eating.
Shifting your mindset away from the traditional dieting mindset is essential to becoming an intuitive eater and improving your relationship with food. With intuitive eating, you are relying primarily on your inner guide to lead the way. You are also honoring your body’s needs with kindness. When you are focused on weight as the outcome you are always relying on an external goal or guide in one way or another.
Understand the Damage that Dieting Causes
Still not convinced that you should let go of the diet mentality? Here’s another reason. For thousands of years, our bodies have faced famine and starvation. Our bodies are designed to hold onto fat and gain it back after it has been lost. Your body doesn’t know the difference between dieting and starvation. When we restrict our intake our metabolism slows to help prevent us from starving, making it difficult to lose and sustain weight loss. Moreover, research shows that people who gain and lose weight on a regular basis have a higher risk of death and heart disease.
Understand the Diet Binge Cycle
Let’s take a quick look at another reason dieting doesn’t work. Think about the last time you went on a diet or restricted your eating. What happened when you restricted? How did it feel? How did it play out? If you are like most people, eventually you “gave in to your cravings” and ended up eating more than usual, leading to shame and feelings of failure, which led to starting all over again.
How Do You Recognize the Diet Mentality?
Fully dropping the diet mentality can take a while, after all, most people have spent years of their lives dieting or at least living in a diet-culture world. However, once you recognize its existence you will be able to become more aware of how it’s affecting you and can begin work on re-shifting your mindset.
Here are some tips and tools for recognizing diet mentality:
Notice What Influences Your Food Choice
Become aware of what influences your food choices. Are you always choosing food because it’s “healthy” or do you choose your food based on a variety of other reasons too (e.g., availability, socialization, cravings.) Ideally, there is a balance here. While it’s great to make nutrition a priority, it shouldn’t override the other factors.
Recognize What Motivates Your Physical Activity
Are you exercising primarily to burn calories or lose weight? Or are you taking a more holistic approach to exercise and focusing on movement that you enjoy and makes you thrive both now and in the long term?
Get Honest With Yourself
Do you like the idea of intuitive eating, but are still holding onto the hope of a little weight loss? If this is you, consider digging a little deeper into these feelings. What is about weight loss that you think will help? How have your past experiences with trying to lose weight been? Do you think it’s possible to try a different approach and see what happens when you focus on working to help your body thrive as it is today? Also, be sure to read up on HAES.
Consult Books on Diet Mentality
The Intuitive Eating book is a great resource for learning more about diet mentality and the workbook even has exercises to help you work through it. By working through each of the 10 principles you will be well on your way down the intuitive eating path. Check out the resources below for links to these books and other recommended readings.
How Do You Finally Ditch the Diet Mentality?
As mentioned above, it can take time. However, the good news is that there is no messing up with intuitive eating! Becoming an intuitive eater isn’t a linear process but rather one of learning and evolving.
Once you are aware of the diet mentality and ready to ditch it, you are on your way! There is no unseeing the diet mentality when you see it. So start by recognizing how you respond to your thoughts and aim always to treat your mind and body with kindness. When you find yourself slipping back into your old habits or ways of thinking, just recognize it and let it go.
Here are some final tips for ditching the diet mentality:
- Throw out your scale. Remember your weight is not your worth.
- Stop focusing on calories eaten and/or burned.
- Let go of the guilt. Food is just food and is neither good nor bad.
- Tune into your body’s internal wisdom. Listen to and honor your hunger and fullness cues. And while you are at it, honor your cravings too.
- Aim to move your body in a way that brings you joy and makes you feel good. Don’t view exercise as a punishment or choose an activity based on the calories it burns.
- And, finally, be compassionate and understanding with yourself!
Once you let go of food and weight obsessions you will find that your life is freer and that you have room for more enjoyable thoughts and activities!
Consider working with a Registered Dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating. I’m currently taking new clients and accepting insurance in Massachusetts. Learn more here.
OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT LIKE:
- Health Benefits of Intuitive Eating
- HAES – A Better Approach to Health and Weight
- Intuitive Eating for Teens
- Meal Satisfaction: 12 Ways to Increase It
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