Hello Lovely You,
I always joke that I used to be a professional dieter. Like many women, I have gained and lost hundreds of pounds. My dieting days started when I was a teenager, I did not need to lose weight but I come from a family that worshipped extreme thinness and always felt bad that my body was not thin enough. I found a book by Richard Simmons (remember him?), followed the food plan and exercise routines religiously and lost weight really quickly. The responses from people were very overwhelming and confusing, it was as if all of a sudden people saw me, I got comments and compliments on how great I looked and my feelings of victory were mixed with feeling insulted; Did I really look that bad before? How come people never noticed me that way before?
That was the first episode in a life-long series of diets, some extreme – like the grapefruit and cabbage soup diets, some rigid – like counting calories and exact portions and some where I would just stop eating all together, starving myself for days at a time. After each diet and the elation of weight loss came the unavoidable weight gain and at the end of every diet, I was heavier than before. I can honestly say that I gained weight through dieting.
After many years of being a “professional” dieter, working in the weight loss industry and being a holistic health coach I can see that my story is very typical. Women like me, who are intelligent, capable and brilliant, fall into the diet trap over and over again and come out wearing scars: food compulsions, unhealthy relationship with food and their bodies, low self image and feeling like a total failure.
I am here to tell you that your struggles with food and weight are not your fault and that the solutions you have been practicing are actually creating the problem.
Here is what is wrong with the whole industry of weight management.
“Your Goal Is To Lose Weight.”
When your main goal is to lose weight, health can take a second sit to results on the scale. Food choices are based on what is fattening or slimming instead of what is healthy. Many weight loss companies have food products that are low in calories and high on additive and artificial ingredients. Exercise is measured by calories burned instead of what is right and nourishing to your body.
“A Bag Of Tips And Tricks.
The weight loss industry has lots of tips and tricks to control your food intake and make you eat less.
Here are some classic ones:
“When baking, fill the bowl with soapy water so you won’t be tempted to lick it.”
“Use a small plate for your meals, that way you can trick your mind to think you are eating a full plate of food.”
“Put your fork down and have a sip of water after each bite, you will get fuller with less food.”
While some of the advice can be good, like slowing down and enjoying your food, most of it will give you the message that you need to be controlled, tricked and manipulated because your inherent nature is to devour the whole content of your fridge. It creates an attitude of not trusting your instincts and your body.
“Battle Of The Bulge.”
I have recently read an article that a client sent me about contestants from the TV show “The Biggest Loser” and how they all gained weight after the show, some even more than they lost. The article states that their body had a “set weight” that it will fight to get back to and that any weight loss is like declaring war on their body. Sounds depressing, right? The whole idea that your body wants to gain weight and you have to use all the weapons in your armory and all the will you can master depicts a grim picture of your body as an enemy instead of a friend.
“Step Away From The Food.”
Dieters look at food as a guilty pleasure. They love it. They want it. They shouldn’t have it. I know women who cook scrumptious meals for their family and then sit down and only have a salad. There is a feeling of “If I have a bite I will eat the world.” Food is seen as something dangerous to keep away from.
“Results Not Typical.”
Many weight loss companies put this disclaimer on their weight loss success stories. You’ve all seen those pictures, the “before” and the “after”. Well, look closer and you will see somewhere on the bottom in small print: “results not typical”, which makes you wonder… Why? If this weight loss system claims that it works shouldn’t it’s success results be typical?
In his book “What Are You Hungry For”, Deepak Chopra writes about the built-in failure in the weight loss industry. Most weight loss companies rely on the cyclical nature of ‘weight loss – weight gain’ and on the fact that their customers will return to follow their plans over and over again. After all, it worked before, right? Well, kind of, temporarily. If their plan really worked their customers wouldn’t have to repeat it again and again but we are all made to feel that it’s us who are not following the plan correctly and not that the plan is faulty.
“I’ve been bad.”
You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. We all probably said it. “I’ve been bad because I ate pizza.” “I’ll be good and won’t touch the cake.” “I’ve had a bad day and ate everything in sight, tomorrow I will be super good and…” You get the picture. Relating our goodness to our ability to stay on or off a diet does something very strange to our sense of worth. We feel virtuous when we follow our diet to a T, we feel horrible when we don’t. Feeling so bad about yourself is very poor motivation and usually leads to self-sabotage, low self-esteem and the vicious cycle continues.
In my dieting days I always joked that I am suffering from an incurable disease called “portion distortion” and therefore always need the medicine of counting, weighing, measuring and portioning my food. In America, portions are a real issue, we are given huge amounts of food at restaurants and are encouraged to eat more and more in direct and subtle ways. Practicing eating smaller portions can be a good idea, not because you want to “control” your unruly appetite but because you want to teach yourself a healthy way to eat and function. The obsession with numbers, whether they are fat grams, carbs, calories or whatever the popular count of the moment is are another form of telling ourselves we cannot be trusted, our bodies are designed to gorge and we need outside dictates to control ourselves.
“It’s A Lifestyle, Not A Diet.”
We are smart women and realize there is something wrong with diet plans and that they don’t work so now every weight loss system is claiming NOT to be a diet. A ‘life-style’, a ‘holistic plan’ and a ‘life long journey’ are things we know work. So before embarking on a plan, look for “diet in disguise” signs: Are there lists of forbidden foods or forbidden food groups? Is weight loss the main goal? Are there a lot of control tools? Are you instructed to follow outside dictates instead of listening to your body and what it needs? Are you getting negative messages about your body and yourself? If you answered yes to any of those questions, turn away, you have just met another diet that doesn’t work.
This is something I am hearing more and more from women and it makes me very sad. “I am a compulsive/emotional eater.” “I need to eat large volumes of food.” “I can’t control my binges.” I have experienced all of the above. In my dark days I even tried to cause myself to be bulimic unsuccessfully, I’m fortunate that I hate vomiting. Giving yourself a label that makes you feel like you are locked into a condition forever is very discouraging. You might be experiencing emotional hunger, a binge or an overeating episode but identifying with it as if that is who you are does not leave much room for healing and change.
So What Is The Solution?
One of my favorite quotes from the wonderful Louise Hay is: “Instead of trying to lose weight, try to gain health.” And by the way Louise loves to lick the bowl when baking! Pleasure from food is (gasp!) a good thing! When you are led by health instead of by weight loss you will make very different choices. I remember a time when I would not eat a sweet potato but would eat 100 calorie processed snacks because of the weight loss plan I was on. When health is your main motivation you will start asking yourself: “Is this the food my body needs?” and “Will it give me nourishment and energy?”
When someone you love betrays you and you decide to give them a second chance it will take some time to establish trust again. When you are so used to the control of diets it will take you some time to learn to listen to and trust your body. You might have to go through some weight gain in the beginning and be ok with it as part of the “healing from diets” process. I did.
Your body is not bad. You are not bad. On the contrary, you are a wonderful human being who has tried so hard to make things work in a system that does not work. Start being proud of yourself, you deserve all the appreciations in the world, especially from you.
Your body is not designed to gain weight, it does not fight you to stay at a set weight, it’s nature is not to gorge till kingdom come, it is NOT your enemy. Your body is your best guide to health and learning to listen to it will lead you to heal all your food and weight issues.
Learning to listen to your body and healing your food-weight-body issues is a process that I do not recommend to do alone. Depending on your history of dieting and your relationship to food and your body, there might be a lot of healing work to be done. I have wonderful consultation programs that are especially designed to support you on every step of your health journey. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to chat and see how I can help.
Not all the recommendations of weight loss programs are bad, some of them are really good guidelines to a healthy life, like eating plenty of vegetables, drinking enough water and being physically active. But the intention makes all the difference. When you choose to eat vegetables because they are full of good for you nutrients, give you wonderful energy and make your cells hum with vibrant health it is very different than resigning to eat vegetables because they are lower in calories. The first choice is empowering and life affirming while the other will foster feelings of deprivation and self-punishment.
What will you choose?
Please leave your feedback and thoughts in the comments below, I would love to hear from you.
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