The Real Reason It’s So Hard to Break Up with Dieting
So many women KNOW they are done with dieting.
If diets have wreaked so much havoc in your life, why do you continue to feel pulled back to them?
Let’s face it: Diets are like an awful boyfriend you just can’t get rid of.
It’s something that comes up A LOT in my work:
Why are women done with dieting?
- They’ve seen first-hand how the yo-yo dieting has caused them physical and mental harm.
- They’re sick and tired of paying companies who continue to exploit their insecurities, all while blaming them at the same time.
- They know that the next diet won’t be a magical solution.
But they just find it so hard to kick dieting to the curb once and for all!
I’ve been there.
I get it.
- The ads and spokespeople are so convincing.
- The medical ‘risks’ of ‘the Obesity crisis’ bombard us everywhere.
- We are convinced that the perfect diet is out there and that will be the answer to our problems once and for all.
Stop blaming yourself! It’s not your fault!
The diet industry has marketing and advertising teams and has created a highly profitable industry that profits despite the fact that their product is so unsuccessful.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
From my work with brave women who are looking for another way that actually helps them live their best life, I’ve collected the most common things that keep them leaning back towards their diet:
1. A Sense of Structure and Control.
The Promise: After years of dieting, with its rules around what, when and how much we can eat, quitting dieting feels scary. Plus, the world around us is nuts! The news, our jobs and our kids can make us feel like there is nothing in our lives that can be predictable. We yearn for control and dieting gives us one part of our life that is controllable. We are told what to eat and when to eat it. There are no more decisions.
The Reality: Weight is less easily controlled than the diet industry would like us to believe. In fact, the calories in/calories out model has largely been debunked; and weight loss studies conveniently set their durations for a shorter period that people typically regain. The level of control around our food might feel exciting and comforting to begin, but when we tire of avoiding our favorite foods or the isolation that comes with turning down social events, the controlling nature of dieting causes us to rebel.
The Solution: Is there any way to have some control? Yes! While I encourage increased flexibility in my clients’ eating, I also recognize that some element of control is something people crave. So, what CAN we control? Behaviors! I work with my clients to find healthy behaviors that they would like to incorporate as a way to reach their longer term vision. Some examples of behaviors we might work on are: eating more fruits and vegetables; sitting down to eat; eating without distraction (phones, TV, etc.). You see, we all KNOW that these behaviors can lead to better health, regardless of weight.
2. A New, Better Life.
The Promise: Diet ads feature men and women who appear happy and thriving. The thrill of the diet makes us immediately focus on how wonderful our lives will be when we FINALLY achieve that goal weight. This is all in stark contrast to our day to day lives, with the reality of laundry, cooking and paying bills.
The Reality: As anyone who has lost weight on a diet will tell you, losing weight doesn’t magically fix all of the things that were wrong before you went on the diet.
The Solution: Have you stopped to think what it might be like to start living our lives to their fullest, regardless of weight? What things or activities do you avoid because you’re not in the right body? The answer is to start taking baby steps towards doing these things now! Another thing to work on is self compassion: How do you talk to yourself? Do you feel like beating yourself up with force you to be a better person? (You know it won’t, right???)
It’s common for women to be ‘done with dieting’ but still be concerned about their health. When we enter middle age, we are faced with a sense of mortality. We might be willing to buy into the research against dieting, BUT we still want to have lives free from disease as much as possible. The current language when it comes to health is that ‘food is medicine’ and our next meal could kill us or cure us.
- The Promise: Dieting→Weight Loss→Health and Thin=Healthy.
- The Reality: You cannot judge someone’s level of health by their body size. There are healthy thin and fat people; just as there are unhealthy thin and fat people. What does research show us: health behaviors like eating fruits and vegetables, not smoking, and exercise increase the likelihood of health in ALL BODIES! When doctors and other health professionals promote behaviors to people in a larger bodies that they would not promote to their smaller-bodied patients, they are promoting dangerous stereotypes. Health is not clearly correlated to weight, and the studies that promote this myth often fail to take into account the negative health consequences of having fatphobic practitioners.
- The Solution: If you want to focus on health, then focus on health! Do not focus on weight loss or dieting. Find a professional who knows the real research, and work with them to design a plan that works for your individual body.
But perhaps you’re still on the fence…..
There’s a lot to consider here and after a lifetime of dieting and living in a culture that praises thinness, and you don’t feel like you’re 100% there.
If you’re still in this group,
I’ve been there.
I hear you and I respect you.
Only you can decide if and when you’re ready to make the leap. Making a change for a parent, spouse of friend is not an empowered choice and it ends up backfiring, often in a big way.
If you find yourself wavering back and forth, I want to give you the permission to put this decision on the back burner for now.
What Does That Mean?
Just because you’re not ready to jump in doesn’t mean you need to put any questioning or learning behind. In my work, I often use a tool rooted in behavioral change theory, called “The Stages of Change.” All of us are in different stages of readiness from a host of behaviors like getting more sleep, exercising regularly, and time management, to name a few.
Curious to explore what Stage of Change you’re at when it comes to ditching diets?
Click here to download my “Stages of Change” worksheet to help you assess your current mindset. Just remember, you can be in one stage of change for every behavior in your life.
Want to Learn More?
You can learn more about diets as compared to the non-diet/Intuitive Eating model on my blog.
Some of my favorite posts are here, but feel free to branch out and read some more.
Kelly Abramson MS, RD is a dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who works with clients in Alexandria, VA and virtually via telehealth. She guides women as they break free from dieting to find joy in food and their bodies. Kelly blogs regularly at NpowerYou.com and has created a free e-book for download, “7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating.”