Ditching the Diet Mentality

By Amanda Benson, RDN
Muslim women having lunch to ditch the diet mentality - Vitality

All diets – sensible or not, well-intended or not – ultimately create an unhealthy mindset and an unhealthy relationship with food.

Eating right shouldn’t mean getting bogged down with calories, macronutrients, portion control, numbers on the scale or feeling guilty when you indulge. In fact, is there such thing as “eating right”? I’d argue that eating right looks different for everyone.

Even as a registered dietitian and nutrition professional, I’ve been there. I’ve counted every calorie and kept them within strict limits. I’ve had intense binges. I’ve had 40+ pound weight swings, not due to pregnancy. Being on the other side of that and having done the work to break myself of that unhealthy mindset, I can genuinely tell you that it’s so freeing to not stress about every bite you eat. To not eat perfectly. To indulge without guilt yet still put my health first.

This is what I want you to know:  It is possible to eat in a way that provides the nourishment your body needs AND the satisfaction it deserves to support overall health and happiness.

Why diets don’t work (and by diet, I mean anything that puts food rules on something).

The U.S. weight loss and diet industry is worth a record $72 billion. We’re bombarded daily with the latest trends in how to eat healthy and lose weight, yet are we any healthier for it? Here’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why diets don’t work in the long run:

  1. They make you preoccupied with food and can lead to intense cravings or binges.
  2. You feel guilty when you eat too much or consume something that’s “not allowed.”
  3. Food becomes the enemy, and you may define foods as “good” or “bad.”
  4. You’re told to ignore your body and physiological hunger cues.
  5. You slow your metabolism when you’re regularly going on and off diets.
  6. Social settings become intimidating and stressful.
  7. You retain food rules from each diet you’re on that can become overwhelming, conflicting and often paralyzing in terms of knowing what to eat.
  8. You tend to over exercise or over restrict foods any time you “cheat” on your diet.
  9. You are driven solely by the number on the scale or size of your clothes, which doesn’t always equate to better health.
  10. You make drastic changes that aren’t sustainable when you’re “off” the diet.

A Better Way

It can be a long journey to truly ditch the diet mentality and begin to embrace a more intuitive form of eating that still nourishes your body and supports your health, but here are a few tips for getting started:

  1. Be aware of your own dieting habits and food rules, and how they have served you (or not) in the past.
  2. Take a timeout before and after eating to identify your level of hunger and fullness.
  3. Think about how certain foods make you FEEL. Are they sustaining? Did they give you energy or make you feel sluggish? Did you have any discomfort?
  4. Tell yourself (and truly start to believe) that there are no forbidden foods. By doing so, you take away their power and in turn it can decrease your cravings, so you’ll be less likely to binge.

For more information on how to ditch the diet mentality and learn to trust yourself again when it comes to food, check out one of my favorite resources:

Amanda Benson is a Registered Dietitian and Wellness Strategy Manager with Vitality. She received her BS in nutrition at Michigan State University and completed her dietetic internship at the Medical University of South Carolina. When she’s not chasing around her two young children, she enjoys relaxing with a hot cup of coffee, running, attending concerts with her husband and wine nights with girlfriends.

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