The Vicious “Dieting” Cycle
Kelly, Natalie and I just had the pleasure of attending the second annual Women’s Fitness Summit in Kansas City this past weekend and to be honest, words just aren’t powerful enough to explain how inspired and empowered we were by these courageous leaders in our industry. We look forward to sharing ALL the amazing insights we gained, but I will start with this topic because it is so pervasive. Yes, this was a women’s event, BUT this particular struggle is by no means female exclusive!
Think about how many times you have vowed to only eat “clean or healthy” foods starting Monday in an effort to lose weight or fit into last season’s clothes or get ready for an upcoming trip. You deem certain foods “good” or “bad” based on information you’ve seen or heard. Monday starts out great, and you stick to your plan, but by Friday you are tired, hungry, feeling deprived and the weekend “cheat” starts. You may feel like you were so good all week that you deserve to treat yourself. You may say, hey, I worked so hard at the gym, and was so good with my eating that I earned these fries, ice cream, or whatever your thing is. Most likely you overeat on these foods you have deemed “bad” because the more we tell ourselves we CAN’T or SHOULDN’T have something, the more we WANT it! And to make things worse, you plan on going right back to your restrictive eating on Monday, so subconsciously, you end up eating even more of it because you know you’re about to be deprived again soon. Something else that may happen is that while you are eating this food, you may feel quite guilty and end up berating yourself with negative statements, which only make you feel worse about yourself, and further fuel the cycle where you feel you have to be even MORE disciplined come Monday. This cycle of clean eating or dieting (or whatever you want to call it) and then bingeing is probably the biggest reason people either don’t reach their weight loss goal or quickly regain the weight after.
One of the speakers gave her two biggest rules for weight control. The first one was “never go on a diet.” And the second was, “never restrict certain foods.” Both of these practices end up backfiring for the reasons I stated above. The more something is “off limits,” the more you are likely to want it and then over indulge when you do finally give in. The other thing that may happen is that you overeat the “good” foods because you are never truly satisfied without what you are REALLY wanting. You may be saying, “but I can’t control myself once I get a taste of xyz food.” I truly believe this is because you have given that food the power by deeming it a bad or unhealthy or fattening. The fact is, that NO FOOD IS BAD! It’s all about the context in which food is eaten. We’ll use fried food as an example, as I’m pretty sure most people think of it as “unhealthy.” Fried food in the context of a diet that is comprised of lots of veggies, whole fruit, lean proteins and whole grains 80% of the time, is PERFECTLY FINE, and – wait for it, could even be considered HEALTHY…both from a physical standpoint, but also a mental one!
Another speaker at the summit spoke about her “non-negotiables,” when it comes to nutrition. These are things that she knows, MUST be included on a regular basis in order to provide her with “nutritional relief,” that keeps her on track. Examples may include cream and sugar in coffee, a nightly glass of wine, or a piece of chocolate after lunch every day. There is nothing wrong with this, and it is NECESSARY! We just may have to figure out how to fit these things in to the exclusion of things we care less about. REMEMBER:: If you want to maintain weight loss, you have to ENJOY your new way of eating and your food choices. Weight lost while miserable and feeling deprived is surely weight re-gained in the long run!
Another super important mindset shift that needs to happen is that you STOP mentally berating yourself when you do indulge in a treat. If you truly allow yourself to enjoy and savor the food, you will ultimately need less of it to feel satisfied and content. If you spend the whole time talking negatively to yourself while you eat the brownie, you won’t get any enjoyment out of it, probably won’t really taste it, may end up overeating, and then, what a waste! Switch the tape in your head, and own that brownie! Confidently enjoy it. Over time, you will find that your abusive relationship with food can change, and I promise you it will only help you in reaching your goals. 
So you may be asking, well what the heck do I do then? To be honest, a lot of people come to me and already know that diets don’t work in the long term, but what they really struggle with is how to find that balance between eating to accomplish their goals, stay SANE, and figure out what works for them that is maintainable. It’s easier to go to extremes because it takes more time and effort to figure out your unique balance, which is different for everyone. Ultimately though, it is a journey that is WELL WORTH it. A great place to start is to focus on BEHAVIORS, such as protein and veggies with every meal and at least three strength workouts per week. Figure out what your nutrition non-negotiables are, and how to fit them in within reason. Once you have mastered those, move on to some more detailed or challenging ones. But make sure you can confidently and CONSISTENTLY practice the basics first. And I know you already know this, but remember that we are here to help you get off the diet rollercoaster, seek YOUR UNIQUE balance. If you are ready to do it a different way, reach out to either myself ([email protected]) or Natalie ([email protected])  We’ll be more than happy to help and support!