Wander around the weight loss section of your local bookstore. Here are some samples from a recent visit:
- Eat lots of carbohydrates, but no fat.
- Sugar is the problem.
- Eat low carbohydrates, but lots of protein and fat.
- Coconut oil is the secret.
- Dairy is the problem.
- And several espouse some form of military discipline, or “tough love.”
Did you notice that #1 and #3 directly contradict each other?
No wonder you might be feeling confused, and ready to try the next weight loss program that promises you can lose 10 pounds this week by eating only pineapple. (I don’t know that there is a diet that says that… But there probably is.)
So how many diets have you been on in your life?
Some people will answer, “too many to count.”
Others will swear that they never diet. They just “eat clean,” or “watch” what they eat.
But in truth, it doesn’t have to be an ornate plan to be a diet.
It doesn’t have to be only grapefruit, or no grains.
Here’s a better definition of diet: Any rules that tell you what to eat, when to eat, or how much to eat.
Say whaaat?! That covers a lot of ground, I know.
So it could be the grapefruit diet, yes. But it could also be rules like, “eat every two hours” or “never eat after 6:00.”
Both of those rules sound reasonable. Both have the positive intention of helping you to lose weight. But in reality, they are orders about when you are allowed to eat, regardless of what your body is trying to tell you.
Often, there are unintended consequences.
Like my client, Lisa*, who read that you should never eat after 6:00 pm. She would eat a large meal (even a whole pizza!) before 6:00 even if she wasn’t hungry. She was so worried about getting hungry later and not being able to eat that she actually consumed a lot more than if she had just waited until she felt hungry.
Another client, Miranda*, had been advised by a nutritionist to eat every two hours. While eating every two hours sounds generous, it is still a rule that keeps your focus outside of yourself. What if you are not hungry at the two-hour point? What if you are hungry before then? Like any other rule about eating, this keeps you in a diet mindset.
A diet mindset is an unhelpful thing:
- It teaches you to not trust your body.
- It keeps you in an all-or-nothing frame (“I blew it, so I might as well eat the whole bag of chips and start fresh Monday.”)
- It tells you that your self-worth depends on your weight.
I hope you know that your weight and your self-worth are two entirely different things. Right?
But if you have gone on and off weight loss plans for years, it is unsettling to let that mindset go. Allowing your body to guide you about what, when, and how much to eat can be unnerving.
How has a “diet in disguise” affected you?
* Client names and identifying details have been changed for privacy.