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{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my good friend, Lauren, author of Lauren Fowler. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and yoga teacher who promotes a non-diet approach to nutrition and health. She wants everyone to connect to their bodies intuitive wisdom rather than following diets. She encourages the tools of intuitive eating and health at every size. Stop by to read more about nutrition, intuitive eating, heart-based health, and yoga.}

The Crazy Diet Cycle

Have you ever gone on a diet? Likely many of you. Even if you haven't gone on a fad diet from one of those silly diet books, you may have tried the whole “eat less, move more.”

At first, I'm sure you feel pretty good. Your willpower is great, and you're sticking to your diet. You may even lose some weight in the first few weeks or months, and hey, that's pretty exciting. Great motivation to continue the diet, right?

Then, all of the sudden, that dark chocolate bar or bag of chips that you love seems to be calling your name as you work through the grocery store. At first, it's pretty easy to ignore it, but after a while, you decide that you'll enjoy a square of dark chocolate. After one piece of eating your forbidden food, it tastes so good, and you've been so good on your diet, that you decide to have another piece…until the whole bar is gone.

Yikes. Now, the diet is ruined, so you indulge and binge on all your favorite forbidden foods. You eat without even tasting the foods, and then, the food guilt. Oh, the food guilt. “I shouldn't have eaten that…I feel so fat…I can't believe I blew it.” The food guilt convinces you to start your diet again on Monday, but the diet cycle continues over and over again, getting worse every single time.

Not very fun, right?

Diets Don't Work

Did you know that it's not your fault that you don't have willpower? It's not your fault that you gave in and “blew” your diet with a binge? That's your body speaking to you. It's letting you know that it needs nourishment. It needs energy, vitamins, minerals, and real nourishing food.

It's the diet that fails, not you. You are not bad or worth all that negative self-talk because you couldn't stick with a diet. Over 1-5+ years, 95% of diets fail. Diets are associated with weight GAIN, not loss. Diets are also associated with an increased risk for eating disorders. Keep in mind that the diet industry is a $60+ billion industry – they want you to fail to sell you more products.

Those diet foods found in pretty packages and 100-calorie labels are not real, whole foods that nourish your body. When you eat less than your body needs, your body goes into a state of deficiency. Lack of energy to keep your brain and body running. Lack of nutrients to keep your body vibrant and healthy.

Starvation Study

Feeling crazy around food is just the body's normal response to starvation. The Minnesota Starvation Experiment shows this pretty clearly. Ancel Keys – the man many of us are upset with for demonizing fat – actually did this great study showing the negative effects of dieting. During World War II, they took conscientious objectors to war where were normal, healthy adults prior to the study and put them on a ~1560 calorie diet, much lower than their body's energy needs (but about the same as magazine meal plans these days). After 6 months of this semi-starvation period, the men:

  • Experienced severe depression and emotional distress
  • Become preoccupied with food
  • Decrease in concentration and comprehension
  • Decrease in metabolism – decrease in heart rate, body temperature, respiration rate
  • Signs of isolation and social withdrawal
  • Decrease in libido
  • Overeating and binging after the semi-starvation period for months

Sound familiar? I have many clients who tell me they can't think straight and think about food all the time while dieting and then go into full-on binge state after they give in to their diet.

That's a normal physiological response. Your body is craving and asking for energy and nutrients! You know when you get hangry? You also probably get grumpy, cranky, can't focus, and need food NOW. Same idea.

So, what should you do instead of dieting?

Eat Real Food

I'm sure you know all about real food if you're reading this blog. If not, read away – plenty of great posts here! Real, whole foods are truly nourishing to the body and mind because they are nutrient-dense. Your brain and body needs nutrient-dense food every single day to replace the vitamins and minerals and restore your nutrient stores, especially if you have a history of dieting. It's also easier to overeat and not feel satisfied on processed foods compared to real food.

Eat Mindfully

Sit down to eat your meals, and slow way down. When you're on a diet, most people eat super fast because they're starving at mealtimes, then they feel stuffed afterwards. You can't enjoy your food if you're speed eating. Instead, put your meal or snack on a plate, and sit at a table. Focus on chewing your food really really well. This automatically slows your eating down, so you can pay attention to when your body is full. This helps regulate your appetite, and you'll be able to naturally regulate your weight without counting calories. It also helps you truly enjoy your meal and taste how good food is.

Add Pleasure to your Day

Dieting takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. It distracts us from living our lives. We spend hours entering food into calorie counting apps, and skip social gatherings for fear of overeating on the forbidden foods there. Instead, nourish yourself in other ways. Maybe you need more time for yourself to take care of your soul's needs. Maybe you need a night out with friends. Maybe you need to take a break and a vacation. Listen to your body's needs, and you'll be able to nourish yourself without using food to cope with emotions.

Remember: Diets fail, not you.

Are you ready to ditch the diets?

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