Do you want to stop dieting for good? You’re not alone. Looking back, my clients find a harsh truth: they’ve been dieting more than half their lives.
you can let go of diet mindset, even after a lifetime of dieting
Sometimes diets make you feel in control, but it never lasts long, does it? Mostly dieting leaves you feeling guilty and saddened by the question “why can’t I just lose weight?” If you feel tired of wasting time, energy, and money on diets that leave you worse off than when you started, you can choose a different path: a better relationship with food. You can stop living through the exhausting on-again, off-again cycle you’ve been going through for years. This post will show you how to get started working toward the intuitive eating mindset you’ll need to find food freedom.
where does diet mindset come from?
In addition to giving you individual steps you can take to stop dieting using intuitive eating mindset, this post also hopes to inspire you to dismantle why diet mindset exists in the first place: weight stigma.
Diet mindset emerged in our culture as way to control our body size. If we can control our size, we protect our self from weight discrimination – just like what my mother faced all her life.
Through my mother’s story, I saw how others both praised and supported her in engaging in harmful dieting behaviors from a very young age. Being in a bigger body, she only received compliments during times of weight loss. When weight came back, the praise would disappear. Then she would plan her next diet. This treatment extended in her adulthood – by health professionals and family alike. My mother’s experiences with weight stigma left her relationship to her body completely broken.
Food guilt and body shame made it hard for her to be fully present for me and my sisters growing up. My No Guilt Framework is inspired by her story and is intended to help individuals with a similar story. If we want to combat diet mindset, we have to start by challenging the reason it exists – weight stigma – alongside our work on individual thinking patterns so we don’t cause food guilt and body shame in the first place.
Diet mindset is any way of thinking that organizes eating, movement, and social behaviors entirely around the outcome of losing weight
Diet mindset often includes feelings of chronic guilt, fear, and anxiety. Harmful behaviors that are the result of diet mindset include:
- avoiding social gatherings that are important to you to avoid “bad foods”
- skipping meals or under-eating so you can “save up calories” for dinner
- making up for “bad eating” with restriction or excessive exercising
- binge eating, or, loss of control eating – especially at the end of the day
- holding back on things you want to do in life because you feel you are not worthy at your current weight
- restarting diets every Monday, promising yourself you’ll never “eat bad foods again”
- what other behaviors can you think of? what do you do ONLY because you hope it will make you lose weight?
The good news is that if theses behaviors cause you significant guilt and anxiety – they can be unlearned using the steps I’ve outlined for you in this post
step one: understand your values (beyond dieting)
As we explored earlier in this post, the origin of diet mindset, at its heart, comes from wanting to avoid discrimination from weight stigma. Though it is understandable, if body size is the only value guiding your food, movement, and social choices – you will stay stuck in the diet mindset and feel guilt.
Rather than try to “stop caring about your weight” overnight, I instead encourage you to get clear on the non-appearance based values that guide you in life. Doing this will make it so that weight is no longer the sole focus for their choices.
In addition to this, my clients complete a specific exercise (you can access a version of it here) where they imagine the life they want to experience when food guilt is gone. They inspire themselves with visions of connecting with friends, respecting their bodies, and, enjoying the taste of new food – all without guilt. With a positive, value-driven focus on life, they are better able to choose food in ways that meet their needs beyond how it impacts their weight and size. I recommend everyone begin their food freedom journey with this important step so they can effectively stop dieting.
step two: give yourself unconditional permission to eat
Realizing that you do, in fact, care about more things than your weight will help you to adopt and intuitive eating mindset around food that feels more peaceful. Offer yourself unconditional permission to eat so that you stop defaulting to “eat less, move more” every time:
- you have a bad body image day
- you haven’t lost weight
- you’re not hungry, but want to experience the taste of something
- you’re not hungry, but you want to choose food to feel better
- it’s after 7 PM, but past diets said “it’s too late”
Dieting is not the answer to these normal life experiences. When you give yourself unconditional permission to eat what you want, when you want you are free to eat as an act of self-care. You learn, through experience, what works for your body in a way that feels sustainable long-term.
The problem many clients have with this step is that fear of weight gain and lack of body trust make it hard for them to listen to their bodies to tell them when, what, and how much to eat! This is why coaching is a powerful tool to help you break through and effectively learn intuitive eating mindset.
step three: get comfortable with talking back to yourself
If you’ve made it this far in this post you now have:
- intention to change diet mindset based on your life values, and
- permission to ignore old dieting rules that block your ability to trust yourself
Though these are powerful steps, they will not help you stop dieting on their own. Especially if dieting is really all you know, you’ll need to practice re-training your mind to think in new ways about food. The best way to do this is by “talking back” to that inner critical voice that says things like:
- “I have to make up for how I ate today”
- “that pizza was so bad”, and
- “I already blew it, might as well binge and start again Monday”
At first, it will feel like you are “talking-back” to the critical voice all the time. Eventually, you will notice new thoughts appear on their own, with much effort on your part. Thoughts like this will neutralize food guilt in your life:
- “I ate until satisfied, and now I feel my best”
- “pizza is delicious and satisfies me”, and
- “It’s okay to feel full sometimes, I can let it pass“
Some strategies my clients use to effectively “talk-back” to diet mindset are:
- recognizing the difference between helpful and harmful inner voices
- affirmation statements rooted in values, like “I want to respect my body”
- redirecting focus from critical inner-talk toward body awareness cues, like hunger and fullness
It might feel weird at first, but talking back to yourself helps you to retrain your brain so you can stop dieting for good. Take these three steps seriously and you too can experience food freedom without diets, just like my clients do!
This post includes a few of the many skills I offer through my No Guilt Framework. Each individual will find different skills helpful at different times, and this post is by no means an exhaustive list of how to stop dieting.
I offer group and private coaching programs that help you create a plan and practice these skills with the focus and consistency you need to FINALLY be okay with your body. Apply for coaching and I’ll meet with you to describe how you can go from feeling completely stuck in negative body image to feeling free and peaceful around food, just like my clients do.