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Getting Off The Diet Roller Coaster

In my work as a woman-centred psychotherapist, I have found that the habit of dieting is at the root of all women’s dysfunctional relationships with eating.  The fact is that we live in a society that is obsessed with thinness and surveys have found that one out of every two women are on a diet and that the majority of women fear becoming fat more than they fear dying.

 Also, diets simply don’t work.  Countless research studies over the years have shown that over the long run, 95% of dieters regain the weight they lost PLUS MORE. Many women get fatter, so they diet again, with similar poor results. This is called diet cycling and can lead to obesity.  Dieting usually starts out harmlessly, but often turns into a full-blown eating disorder.  One of my life’s goals is to put the diet industry out of business.  But one must start with humble beginnings…

I’d like to leave you with some helpful information about what “Normal Eating” looks and feels like.  I have found that so many of us have dieted for so long, that we often lose touch with how to eat like a normal, sane person.

So here are…

Ten Tips To Eating Normally:

  1. Eating something at least 3 times a day

This is the proverbial breakfast, lunch, and dinner routine.  Guess what? It works!  Most women trying to lose weight skip a meal or two a day and this ends up biting them in the butt (or wherever else you gain weight!).  Eating regular meals keeps your blood sugar stable, which means your moods will be even, and also stops you from storing fat (which happens when you skip meals and put your body on “starvation” mode).

  1. Eating more than you feel you need to eat on some occasions (overeating)

Yes, I’m actually saying it’s okay to pig out on Thanksgiving once a year!  Here’s some news- normal eaters occasionally overindulge with no serious aftereffects (minus some abdominal discomfort perhaps).

  1. Eating less than you need on other occasions (undereating)

Normal eaters also sometimes undereat.  This is common when you’re served a meal of your not-so-favourite foods or if you’re a vegetarian like me and someone serves you a plate of JUST VEGETABLES (I’m not making this up!).  It’s okay- you won’t starve to death.  There’s always another meal ahead…

  1. Eating more of the foods that you enjoy the taste of, when you choose to

“What?!” you scream…you got it- you don’t have to choke down wheatgrass (just the thought of that dark green smelly liquid makes my stomach do flips) or turnips just because they’re “good for you”.  You’ll feel more satisfied if you eat more of what you enjoy and less of what you don’t.  And those foods don’t always have to be unhealthy.  I mean, who doesn’t love a good mango?

  1. Eating less of the foods you like, as you know you can eat them in the future

This one indicates that yes, chocolate can be one of your “food groups”, only in moderation.  It’s an amazing thing how when we stop forbidding ourselves something, the less sexy and enticing it becomes.  Here’s something to try: Buy a stack of one of the foods you like but forbid yourself to eat, and keep it around the house and allow yourself a little bit each day.  See what happens…

  1. Eating or not eating on occasion because you feel unhappy, “bad” or tense

One thing I’ve learned is to not eat when I’m really upset about something and feeling overly emotional.  Research shows that we literally don’t digest food when we eat it in such a state.  Wait for the emotion to pass and then dig in.  You’ll feel a whole lot better.

Equally, allow yourself to splurge on occasion on something decadent or comforting because you’re in the “dumps”.  I say if it’s good enough for the folks on Friends, it’s good enough for the rest of us!

  1. Eating both “good” and “bad” foods; i.e., a variety of foods, without feeling guilty

Food is neither “good” nor “bad”- its just “food”.  Unfortunately, we humans go around judging everything and giving things labels that often interfere with finding peace in life.  Try not to label foods this way and see what happens.  I promise the sky won’t fall on your head.

  1. Eating in a flexible way so that it doesn’t interfere with your work, study, or social life

If you find yourself declining an invitation to go and see a movie you really want to see with a friend because it’s “dinner time”, you may need to loosen up a bit.  Eating and nutrition are important, but so is living a full, exciting, and peaceful life.  One of the major features of an eating disorder is isolation from friends, family and community.  Make sure that being connected to others comes before your eating plan.

  1. Eating sufficient food and a variety of foods, often enough to prevent a desire to binge-eat

This means no skipping meals or snacks!  Also, it helps to let go of “forbidden” and “acceptable” food categories in your mind.  When you allow yourself to eat a decent amount at each meal, and choose from a wide variety of foods to nourish yourself, you’ll decrease the habit of overeating or “binge eating”.

  1. Eating, when out socially, in a similar manner to the other people in the group

I always say to my clients who want to learn to eat normally, “Study people who don’t have serious food issues and do what they do”.  I, myself, am always full of wonder and amazement when I watch people in this category feed their bodies.  They tend to eat regular meals and a wide variety of foods and also don’t prevent themselves from eating certain foods.  They tend to see food as one of life’s many pleasures and as “fuel” to keep their bodies going.  We can learn a lot from these mysterious beings!

I hope these tips help you in your quest to getting off the dreaded Diet Roller Coaster and help you begin to adopt a sane and balanced approach to eating.  Best of luck!