How to Ditch Diets for Good
We talk a lot here about how diets don't work. But how do you get away from them and learn a healthier, more sustainable way to live when you're constantly bombarded with information about the latest "miracle" diet?
First, it can be helpful to get in the habit of reminding yourself why diets don't work and why you're ready for something else. Research consistently shows us that diets cause a decrease in metabolism, increase in binges and cravings, decreased rate of weight loss with each successive diet attempt, decreased ability to sense hunger/fullness cues, and increased stress, just to name a few. Beyond research, ask yourself where diets and restriction have gotten you in the past? Probably right back where you started, with not much fun in the process.
"Beyond research, ask yourself where diets and restriction have gotten you in the past"
Along the same lines, noticing signs of the diet mentality can help you refocus on more helpful thoughts and behaviors. For example, diet mentality might have you focusing on calories eaten or "burned" during exercise, judging yourself as good or bad based on how you ate, feeling guilty around certain foods or for missing exercise, or focusing on the number on the scale. When you recognize these thoughts and behaviors, you can shift your focus to more helpful things, such as whether or not you're actually hungry, what foods sound satisfying and taste good, how exercise makes you feel, your ability to notice what your body is telling you, and the fact that your weight will normalize at the healthiest place for you when you pay attention to your internal cues and focus on taking care of yourself.
Next, ditch the scale. I know, this is hard! But if you can't escape diet culture and the pressure to look a certain way in your own home, where can you go?? The scale can devalue days, weeks, and even months of progress in one single moment. Weighing in only keeps you focused on weight rather than health and doesn't help you get back in touch with your body. Plus, do you love your friends and family less if they gain a few pounds? Do you even notice? Don't reduce yourself to a number - you're worth so much more than that!
Showing some compassion toward yourself is another important part of the process. Diets tend to be very "black and white". There are rules dictating what you can and can't eat and you're made to feel good or bad based on the number on the scale, the food you chose, and your level of exercise. This doesn't leave much room for being human! No one is perfect, so don't believe the lie that you have to be. Also know that, when everyone around you seems to be dieting or talking about dieting, it's easy to feel like you're being pulled in. It can take awhile to let go of the desire to give into the tempting promises of dieting, even when you know it doesn't work. Show yourself compassion during this process.