How’s your diet going? If you’re killing it, keep on going and ignore the below. But if you’re starting to feel cracks in your “willpower” read on:
Diet season is upon us. This is the time of year many people vow to make a change to finally lose the weight, if not just the extra pounds gained over the holidays. Losing weight is the quintessential fantasy. It’s all too easy to get lost in the “If I only had this kind of body... then I would...” mentality. Fill in the blank with: feel desirable, put myself out there, have confidence, etc.
The billion dollar industry that thrives on you having this fantasy will never stop attempts at convincing you that your ideal body, your ideal self, your ideal life, is just a purchase away. Whether it’s the latest fitness device that “melts the fat away” or a diet program that guarantees your “first 10lbs is on them,” the results are always the same. You give it your best effort for maybe two three months before you inevitably return to your old routine and favorite foods.
The program, the fitness instrument, the app, they will claim you failed the program. But what if the program failed you? If you’re reading this you already know weight loss is hard, and it’s extremely difficult to change the shape of your body. Even more challenging, is the ability to sustain weight loss. Most people can succeed at a diet plan for a few months, but sustainability seems nearly impossible.
Dr. Linda Bacon explains in her book, “Health at Every Size,” how our bodies are biologically wired to easily gain weight, but not let go of it. While our food options and lifestyle choices have evolved, our bodies haven’t quite caught up. Attempts to restrict food intake register in the body that there is a need to hold onto the weight due to famine.
So what can individuals who want to lose weight and/or develop a healthier relationship with their bodies and food do? First ask yourself why you want to lose weight. This may seem extremely obvious, and yet I challenge you to dig a little deeper. Most will say, “I want to feel confident in my own skin!” I hear you! But my concern is that if we allow our self-worth to be dependent on how we look, we will never truly be at peace. The billion-dollar beauty industry thrives on this battle you have with yourself.
The paradoxical theory of change suggests that the more we force ourselves to be something other than what we are, the more we will stay exactly the same. In so, we must first accept exactly where we are. In terms of weight loss, this means accepting your own body exactly as it is. This is one of the trickiest things to do. Clients will tell me, “But I can’t give up on losing weight! I have to lose weight!” At that point, the work becomes exploring what is so awful in the here and now that the client is so desperate to escape to the “thin fantasy.”
If you have begun to accept your body exactly as it is, it may be time to try the revolutionary and empirically supported practice of intuitive eating. We know diets only work in the short-term, and you’ve had your fair share of short-term success, but are ready for lasting change. Intuitive eating moves you away from external cues toward internal ones. Amidst the diet culture that provides an infinite amount of resources to tell you when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat, what to avoid, and so on and so forth, intuitive eating asks you to cue into your own instrument: your body.
Imagine that before the diet culture emerged, humans intrinsically knew how to satisfy their own hunger, when to stop eating, and what foods they craved based on their bodies’ needs. Trusting your own body’s mechanisms to manage its weight sounds both rudimentary and revolutionary.
Intuitive eating is about developing a healthier relationship with food, one without manipulation, deprivation, shame, and guilt. If you have ever felt hopeless in your attempts to control your weight, perhaps its time to try something drastically different than the ever so common, “restrict your food intake approach.” Through gentle kindness, patience, and exploration, it is possible to achieve one’s ideal body through intuitive eating.
If you feel curious about this approach and seek a healthy relationship with your body and food, I encourage you to read more about how intuitive eating is becoming the answer to an oversaturated diet culture. If you have ever dieted, only to surrender to your favorite food, experienced a wave of shame and said to yourself, “There has got to be another way,” you may be ready to try intuitive eating. The journey in giving up the diet mentality and embracing an accepting, intuitive stance may be incredibly daunting. In therapy, I provide the knowledge and support individuals need while making this change.
Diets are hard. They consist of external sources telling you when to be hungry, when to be full, what to be craving, and how to consume it. Isn’t it time you give up the fight?