It’s decided; you’re starting a new diet. You’ve seen it in magazines and your friend Sarah lost 10 kg on it. This one will work and your life will be amazing when you finally get down to your goal weight. You start off feeling indestructible – no cake’s getting past the lips of this diet master!
You stick to the plan for a couple of weeks and start to see some results (woohoo!) but alas, you’re feeling hungry and deprived and you’re starting to think about food A LOT. Those Tim Tams are looking awfully tempting… maybe I’ll just have one. Yum -- so good, two won’t hurt! I’ll go for an extra walk tomorrow and have salad for lunch to make up for it. Ahh maybe just one more… I shouldn’t be doing this. Eugh I’ve blown it now, I may as well have the rest to get them out of the house and just start again tomorrow.
Sound familiar? It’s called The Dieting Cycle.
Dieting/restriction --> Feelings of deprivation --> Wanting a food that you label as ‘bad’ or ‘off limits’ --> Eating the ‘bad’ food (often in excess) --> Temporarily feeling better --> Feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, low self-esteem and/or depression --> More deprivation or eating to feel better
Why most diets don’t work in the long run:
1. Labelling a food as ‘bad’ or ‘off limits’ only makes you want it more (you’re only human!).
2. When you don’t know the next time that you’ll let yourself have a specific food it’s likely that you’ll eat more and override your natural fullness/satisfaction cues. Remember: the first couple of biscuits were unlikely to impact on your weight; it was the rest of the packet and the takeaway you had that evening after you decided to ‘start again the next day’.
3. Most diets are inflexible and don’t adapt to your ever-changing environment. Any time you can’t stick to the plan 100% you’re ‘breaking’ your diet. Social occasions often revolve around food – this usually doesn’t accommodate your diet plan.
4. Your body doesn’t like deprivation and it fights against weight loss by increasing hunger hormones and slowing down your metabolism.Traditionally, dieting involves working against your mind and body by trying to exercise ongoing discipline and self-control. Perhaps it’s time for a new approach that involves working WITH yourself?
The Non-Diet Approach
1. Revolves around mindful/intuitive eating: being in the moment, awareness of cues to eat (internal and external), understanding what you truly feel like eating
2. Eating is guided by your natural hunger and satiety cues
3. No food rules: nothing is off limits and food labels (good vs. bad) are banished. No more guilt around eating!
4. Eating to nourish your body AND satisfy likes and preferences
5. Food should be enjoyed and weight loss is no longer the objective
It’s important to remember that your weight is not entirely responsible for your health. It’s possible to be ‘overweight’ and healthy.
Many factors other than diet and exercise contribute to health – don’t let other components (such as mental and social factors) suffer as a result of The Dieting Cycle.
Emma Smyth, Dietitian