Most of us know the basics of nutrition and how to eat well – after all, it’s not rocket science. So why do so many people struggle to maintain a healthy weight, wage a constant war with their bodies and go from one diet to the next, convincing themselves that this time it will be different?
The truth is that basically any ‘diet’ will work, if you stick to it. The problem is that we can’t stick to them, they’re just not sustainable. Restriction always leads to overcompensation.
If you’ve ever tried going on a diet, you probably experienced some initial weight loss before inevitably ‘falling off the wagon’ when you got bored, felt deprived and decided it was all just too hard. Then came the guilt, despair and resolve to start another diet, (one that you would definitely stick to this time!). But first you would eat all those ‘bad foods’ because who knows when you’ll have another opportunity – maybe never! And so the cycle continued….
I see this scenario all the time. People come to me wanting a meal plan, to be told exactly what to eat and to finally find that elusive diet that actually works. And while there are generally a few nutrition tweaks that can be made, the reality is that it’s not a lack of knowledge that is the fundamental issue. It’s their mindset and relationship with food which is actually the problem.
Dieting discourages us from listening to our bodies. Our bodies are designed to tell us when to eat and when to stop eating, what and how much to eat. When we diet and follow certain rules about food, we ignore these signals and override our body’s in built regulation system, which can cause long term damage. I’ve seen many clients who’ve spent so long ignoring their bodies that they no longer even know when they’re hungry or not.
Diets encourage a negative relationship with food whereby food is seen as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and therefore we see ourselves as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on what we’ve eaten. And if we’ve been ‘bad’ we might as well just go all out and start again tomorrow right? It’s this all or nothing attitude that leads to yo yo dieting, chronic frustration and destructive body image issues.
So, instead or embarking on yet another diet, hoping that this will be ‘the one’, maybe it’s time to try changing your relationship with food instead. If you ate more than you intended to, got stuck into a tub of ice cream or overdid the wine, there’s no need to beat yourself up or sabotage yourself by continuing down that path. Just accept that it happened and move on. Food is just food, it’s not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and neither are we ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on what we’ve eaten.
Try really listening to your body – tune into your appetite, eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied. Focus on how food nourishes you instead of it’s fat, carbohydrate or calorie content. Choose mostly nutritious foods that are going to fuel your body best, but allow some room for foods that just taste good too.
It’s only through repairing your relationship with food that you can finally get where you want to be: a place where you can enjoy food without guilt, feel good about your body and not be constantly worrying about your weight. No diet is going to get you there.