Our biggest desire is to have the perfect life where we eat just right, never binge and stay at a happy comfortable weight.
Paradoxically, the more we try to control our weight, the harder it gets to feel relaxed around food. We keep thinking about food all the time until we get so obsessed that having mental peace from food thoughts becomes as important as losing weight.
This is what being stuck between a rock and a hard place feels like.
The harder we try, the diet-binge-diet cycles get worse.
As much as I’d like to tell you that you can lose weight and make your peace with food at the same time, it’s not possible.
You see – these are two opposite goals that you’re shooting for at the same time. It’s like trying to run with both feet in the air – you’ll only end up hurting yourself even more.
Losing weight at its core requires you to burn more calories than you eat. When you do this, you restrict yourself from the types of food that are available to you. Human tendency is to want something we can’t have. Forbidden fruit only sharpens desire. As Mark Twain said about Adam and Eve, “He did not want the apple for apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden”.
The more we try to avoid food to lose weight, the stronger the food thoughts get in our brain. And we move farther away from being able to enjoy food without obsessing over it.
So, if you can’t have both together, can you ever be in a place where you’re comfortable with your weight AND are not stressed about food?
The key is to proceed in stages.
Step 1 is to stop dieting.
The moment we make all foods available to ourselves, we slowly stop craving and thinking about food all the time. To do this, try to slowly move away the diet mindset and into the health mindset.
The differences between a health-first mindset and diet mindset are:
|1||There are no good or bad foods. Food is food – it’s how we eat them that can make them good or bad for us.||Have a list of forbidden foods that are bad (like fast food, chips, cookies, chocolate, etc.)|
|2||Love food and respect it. Think of food as something that can nurture and nourish them||Think of food as something to be controlled, something that is bad for them|
|3||Understand that as long as they eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full, there is no need to diet. Especially when they are eating whole foods to start with||More likely to diet – commonly a yo-yo dieter, engage in calorie counting, trying different types of diets to find the best fit|
|4||Enjoy what they eat all the time – what’s the need for cheat days when every meal is awesome?||Have cheat meals or days where they can pig out without guilt|
|5||Less likely to have cravings||More likely to have cravings because of caloric restriction, and likely to crave forbidden foods|
|6||Eating is a pleasure, very pro- foodie-philosophy||Eating becomes a chore – there is no more pleasure in what they eat|
|7||Open to eating anything anytime.||Can indulge in desserts only at fixed times or fixed durations during the week, for example, once a week on date night|
|8||Don’t have to use any self-control around food. And don’t feel out of control when they indulge their little cravings||Want to control food because it’s the only way they can control what they are eating|
|9||Think about in as much as it gives them pleasure and sustenance. They are busy chasing other goals in life the rest of the time, they don’t have the mind space to keep thinking about food.||Keep thinking about food all day – what to eat, what not to eat, wishing to eat, thinking or forbidden foods and glancing into every café on the road / browsing Instagram food porn|
|10||Acknowledges that health is a journey and each day is a chance to get better at it.||Diet is a destination – will do anything to reach the desired weight, body size. No long-term view of health and want to reach their desired weight yesterday.|
Even if you are very much in a diet mindset right now, you can move to a health-first mindset by re-framing negative thoughts into positive ones.
- Instead of focusing on thinking about how food is making you fat, think about how food is nourishing your body and mind.
- Instead of thinking about what outfits you can’t wear, think about what cool interesting mash-ups you could produce or go shopping to buy something you love.
- Instead of staying home and feeling depressed about your weight on Saturday night, go out for a spa evening and get pampered.
Step 2 is to learn the right way to eat
The right way to eat is to be mindful and intuitive – eating when we are hungry and stopping when we are satisfied, enjoying food and feel it warming our bodies and souls.
The best way to eat is to watch how kids eat – they run up and ask for food when they feel physically tired or their stomach is growling, they love their desserts and lick every bit of ice cream off the cone, and then they go back to playing without ever thinking about food until the next time they are hungry.
This is how we were all born to be, but growing up has taught us more “rules” around eating, which only disrupts our natural body rhythms and makes us forget what eating and natural hunger feel like.
Eating in an intuitive way helps us the body self-regulate the amount of food it needs and it slowly finds its own happy weight.
Switching from dieting to eating intuitively is a complex process especially for overeaters like us who eat emotionally, stress eat or binge eat.
Trying to switch from overeating to intuitive eating is a multi-stage process, and I recommend that you download my free guide to learn the step-by-step to stop overeating first.
Step 3 is to stop measuring your happiness or quality of life based on your weight or body size.
You are so much more than the number on the scale!
Recognise that weight and body as a measure of success is a societal construct that has nothing to do with you as a person. Your happiness should be internally derived from your achievements, skills, choices and efforts.
When you can separate your weight from your sense of self, you automatically feel more empowered and free.
- Then you exercise not to lose weight or stop hating your body but to feel strong and healthy.
- Then you don’t stop yourself from eating cake or cookies but look forward to a decadent dessert than you can enjoy every bite of.
- Then you stop being afraid of food and embrace it as a part of your truly fulfilled and rich life.
Where do you begin?
This entire journey of finally feeling relaxed around food and being happy with your weight starts with deciding not to diet.
You know from your personal experience that diets don’t work and that you end up regaining the weight lost if not some extra. Multiple studies have shown this to be true.
- In comparing the effects of dieting in twins where one was on a diet and the other wasn’t, the twin on the diet was 2-3 times ore likely to become overweight. Note that this is in people with exactly the same genetics.
- 31 long-term studies researched at UCLA found that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain where upto 2/3rd of people regained more weight than they lost.
- Dieting has been causally linked to both obesity and eating disorders.
(data from http://www.intuitiveeating.org/category/studies/)
But there is always something, one last hope holding you back from quitting diets.
You remember maybe the first time you ever dieted and the pounds just dropped off? Unfortunately, that experience has only taught our bodies that it can go into starvation mode and needs more food to survive, i.e., obsessive thoughts to eat more food appear in our minds.
Instead of mindlessly running around in circles on the dieting hamster wheel, we need to step off it to find a different solution especially since we want different results.
Think about it – would you rather give yourself a shot at both mental happiness and physical well-being forever after or would you rather just stick to dieting in the hopes that it’ll MAYBE work this time?