If you’ve tried again and again to lose the weight you kept regaining and don’t seem to succeed permanently, this week’s article may be for you.
Over time I’ve noticed a collection of behaviours, beliefs and patterns with women who have yo-yo dieted for a significant period of time and I believe this dieter’s mindset keep us stuck in this cycle.
Read on to hear more about my take on diet mentality and the longevity based mindset that can be the remedy for it.
The dieter’s brain
For many women that have been trying to lose weight for a long time I’ve noticed, there are very similar belief systems that have set in over time. I sometimes refer to it as ‘diet brain’ or ‘diet mentality’.
Diet mentality is often described as the belief that losing weight and being a certain body size will leave you feeling happy, successful, and more confident in life. It is a belief system that often fuels women starting diets – sometimes extreme in nature – to get to this magical place as soon as possible. And when we start a plan that’s out of alignment with how we actually want to live our life for good, it is often short-lived – even if our intentions at the beginning were different.
Diet mentality steals our joy in the moment. It robs us of the opportunity to love ourselves just as we are, to enjoy the journey and every moment along the way. It delays that joy until we reach that number. It also puts our success in the hands of something external: the diet, the book, the supplement or the personal trainer. It can steal our happiness and worthiness and has us buying into a reality where you can only achieve this bliss state at a certain body size via this method.
Why do we think like this?
Who can blame us for thinking like this? After all, we have had decades of the diet industry and media telling us what shape women should be, and providing all sorts of solutions to get there. The cabbage diet, Atkins, detoxes or the latest cleanse.
When we consider all of the information that not only we’ve been fed in our lifetime, but also our mothers and grandmothers, it makes sense that many of us feel dissatisfied with our body and believe that the only tools to change this are less food and more exercise.
Dieter’s brain keeps us dieting
When we believe that we have a weight problem, and the solution to this problem is a diet, of course, that’s the method we try. Many of us have also adopted beliefs around what do to on a diet and what results to expect:
- “Have more protein and less carbs”
- “Quit sugar for good”
- “Exercise more and eat less”
- “Lose 0.5 – 1kg per week consistently”
These beliefs about what to expect on a diet or weight loss journey may creep in and sabotage our success. If we don’t see consistent weight loss, we can feel discouraged and then risk restricting food further OR eating more to feel better. When we eat in a certain way and don’t see the expected results of the diet, we often sabotage our long-term success by quitting on ourselves for a couple of days and checking out.
The other problem with this approach is the temporary nature. If the definition of diet in the context of weight loss is to restrict food intake to lose weight, then this suggests we only need to do this until you lose weight. So if you are successful, you get there and many of us go back to eating the way we did before.
How to spot diet mentality
Diet mentality can show up in some sneaky ways. Can you relate to any of these thought processes?
- Some foods are good, other foods are bad
- This body shape is right, this one is wrong
- I’ll do this diet for X time, then I’ll stop
- I can’t wait to finish this diet and eat chocolate again
When diet mentality is running the show the scales will often dictate whether today is going to be a good or a bad day. If the number is going in the ‘right direction’ we can feel elated and excited (and ironically may even eat more because our brain tells us “you can get away with it, you’ve been good!”). If it’s going in the wrong direction, we can feel disappointed, frustrated, and hopeless.
When our focus is solely on the number on the scale, we may use food and exercise as the only remedy to ‘fix the problem’. One approach may be to restrict food further and over exercise to correct, and the other may be the opposite extreme where we binge or overeat to escape the frustration and hopeless feelings.
A dieter’s mentality will also tend to label some foods as good, some foods as bad. Some foods as right, and others wrong. Carbs and sugar as evil and veggies as good. Attributing these descriptions to food can have us avoiding all the so-called bad foods (restricting and depriving) without addressing the reason why we overeat these foods in the first place. If we never address this reason and heal our relationship with these foods, we’re likely to binge on them again in the future at some point.
The remedy: cultivate a longevity mindset
Imagine thinking about it from a different perspective. Imagine…
- Feeling content and confident in yourself and your ability to navigate your way to a state of balance with food
- Loving yourself just as you are AND choosing from there to slim to your natural body shape and size
- Feeling peace and contentment around all food – that there is no good or evil food
- Trusting that you can be around foods you used to lose control over and feel self-possessed around them
- Trusting in yourself that you will find the way come back to a natural body size for you and stay there
These are the qualities of the health and longevity mindset.
No food is good or bad, it is just food.
You’re committed to your goal and you’re in it for the long run, not just to get to the next dress size down.
You see food as fuel and pleasure that can be eaten without losing control.
You eat when you’re physically hungry and practice stopping when you’re satisfied.
You’re in touch with your natural hunger signals again and can respond to your body’s real needs.
You feel and process your emotions instead of escaping them temporarily with food.
You practice being aware of the dieter’s mindset and learning how to never diet again.
How does that sound?
Create a health and longevity mindset
One of the key questions I love to ask myself along the way is: “would I be happy to do this for the rest of my life?”. This helps me to distinguish from ‘quick fixes’ that aren’t in alignment with my long term goals.
For example, if I consider never eating sugar again I ask myself: do I want to live like that forever?
If I consider doing a fast for a couple of days because the scales fluctuate up I ask: do I want to continue doing this for good?
Personally, my answer is no. Which is why I practice all of the methods I share on this podcast, and I hire coaches to help me get out of my own way and actually apply these methods.
What’s next for you?
If any of this resonates I invite you to dig into the archives of this podcast and implement the tools I share here. They are exactly what I share with clients and for some women, that’s all the help need.
If you’re the kind of person, like me, that needs support and accountability with this then get in touch. I’d love to chat to you about whether my coaching programme is the right fit to help you end yo yo dieting for good.
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