Diets are designed to fail—here's how to lose the dieting mentality and finally get healthy.
BY TORI RODRIGUEZ
If you have often vowed to "be good" with food starting in the new year–or every Monday–then you won't be surprised by the cold, hard truth: Dieting doesn't work, and mounting research suggests it could even backfire and lead to weight gain over time. "In other words, diets are designed to fail," says Linda Bacon, PhD, associate nutritionist at the University of California, Davis, professor at the City College of San Francisco, and author of the books Body Respect and Health at Every Size. "The understanding that diets don't work is actually very good news for those who struggle with weight concerns–who wants to fight their desires and deprive themselves?" Of course, improving one's health, eating habits and body image are worthy goals–and they can be attained no matter what you weigh. Here's how to lose the dieting mentality and boost your health.
1. NAME THE REAL CULPRIT.
The problem is not your lack of willpower; it's the unsustainable nature of diets. "Recognize that dieting is the problem, not the solution," says Dina Zeckhausen, PhD, an Atlanta-based psychologist and founder of the Eating Disorders Information Network. It sets you up for a cycle of deprivation followed by inevitable–and understandable–bingeing. Aim to eat according to your body's cues of hunger and fullness, and "start examining triggers to overeat–the daily unconscious habits, emotional triggers like stress and anxiety, and physiological triggers like being overly hungry or full," says Zeckhausen. If you need additional guidance, reach out to a mental health therapist specializing in eating disorders.
2. GET WHAT YOU REALLY NEED.
It may be best to abandon the goal of weight loss until overeating is well-managed. "Once the binge eating has subsided, the next step is to learn healthy ways to get psychological needs met, whether through moderate exercise or reaching out to others for support," says Zeckhausen. Then you can begin paying attention to how certain foods or eating habits actually make you feel, and you can adjust accordingly. "When you are coming from a place of self-love instead of self-loathing you will make choices that support this value system–when you love something you want to take care of it!"
3. TRUST YOUR BODY.
Dieting is not only "ineffective in bringing about sustained weight loss, but it also teaches you to distrust your body and deny its needs," says Bacon. It's your body's job to keep your blood sugar and fat stores within a healthy range, and restricting calories prompts an increased appetite to restore balance. "The body is very effective at managing your weight, if you let it do its job," by heeding its cues and not overfeeding or underfeeding it. "'Health at Every Size' starts from a place of respect for our bodies, which is very different from a diet-based approach which is focused on your body being wrong."
4. TAKE THE DIRECT ROUTE.
"There is no reason anyone needs to lose weight to get what they're really looking for," says Bacon. Though it makes sense that you might feel that way in our fat-phobic, fitspo-obsessed culture, a fixation on weight just reinforces a negative self-image. Instead, think about what else is behind your drive to be thin–is it a desire for happiness, better health or to feel more attractive? Rather than focusing on how to get thin, ask yourself what you can do feel happier or healthier or more attractive now. "Go after those directly, instead of believing you need to first lose weight," says Bacon.
5. SHIFT YOUR FOCUS.
It's tempting to believe life will be perfect once thinness is achieved, but of course that's not so. "Moving toward increased self-acceptance and taking power away from your weight will do much more to improve your life," says Bacon, who acknowledges that body-acceptance can be challenging because many people "believe that hating their body is an essential motivation for change, so they resist letting go" of that disdain. Not only is this belief unfounded, but it hampers your ability to change, which comes from valuing yourself enough to want to make your life better. "By first learning to have a positive relationship with your body, even if that body is not 'perfect,' you strengthen your ability to make change."
~This article by Tori Rodriguez originally appeared on WomansDay.com~