So the stocking wasn’t the only thing that got stuffed over the holidays. Besides food, you were bombarded with diet ads, exercise products, and New Year’s resolutions. You felt full and frustrated from eating so many treats and it seemed as though everywhere you turned, someone was trying to provide you with a solution to your discomfort. In reality, they were all selling you a “happier life and a happier you” tailored in its own unique brand. Even though you probably know better by now, you broke down and succumbed to the diet temptation.
It is very likely, with a “happier life and a happier you” just around the corner, that you had one last “hurrah” and ate all of the foods that you wouldn’t be able to eat on your new diet. Whichever diet you chose, it is possible that you stayed faithful for several days, or even several months. You may have felt fabulous, with a new vigor for life. Then the fateful day came when you ate more than you had planned, you chastised yourself and promised to get back on track tomorrow. You got back on track, for a while.
Even though you had noble intentions, your diet never had a chance for success.
Ninety-five to ninety-eight percent of people who lose weight gain it all back; oftentimes they end up heavier afterwards. Contrary to popular belief, there is no magical way to eat and no diet that will actually work. A diet is just calorie restriction wrapped up in a pretty package labeled “special” and “new.”
Take a moment to experience the “air diet.” The look that you want to achieve is paler than your natural self. To enhance this experience, breathe through a drinking straw and plug your nose. Do this for as long as you can. Notice what you think about. Notice how you breathe. It is likely that you thought about air the entire time you were on the “air diet” and when you stopped the diet, you took a deep breath.
Similarly, when a person is on a food diet, they tend to think about the type of food that they are avoiding. When they stop dieting, they usually eat a lot of the foods that they restricted- just like the big inhale that you probably just took.
If dieting does not work, what do you do when you are full and frustrated? Luckily, there are ways of helping your body get back to a natural, healthy place. First, you have to recognize what behaviors helped increase your body weight in the first place; then work on modifying those behaviors. Once you start changing the way you relate to food, your body will change as well.
You may be at an unnatural weight if…
1. You finish all of the food on your plate, no matter how much is there.
2. You eat large meals, or a lot of food, because you think you are going to eat less the next day or “make up” for it.
3. You drink a lot of alcohol or highly caloric beverages.
4. You skip meals. You get too hungry and then when you do eat, you get too full.
5. You restrict types of food and then you eat a lot of those foods on occasion.
6. You are unsure of what the sensations of hunger and fullness feel like.
7. You are sedentary.
8. You don’t like to drink water and you think that you are hungry when you are thirsty.
9. You order large portions of food because it is a “good deal” and you eat it because you bought it.
10. You are used to getting over-full.
11. You eat because it is time to eat, no matter how hungry, or full, you are.
12. You eat quickly. Work time is valued more than eating or relaxing. You gulp and go.
13. You eat when you are stressed, emotional, lonely, bored, or to procrastinate.
14. You eat and work on your computer or watch television while eating.
If you do any of the behaviors above then your body is probably at an unnatural weight. Pay attention to yourself; evaluate your food habits. Notice how, and why, you eat. Choose one behavior to work on. Talk to yourself kindly and coach yourself along. A little change in behavior makes big changes in weight, and in your relationship with food and your body over time. For example, the few bites that you finish at your dinners just “because they are there” could be fifty extra pounds in ten years. Be patient, focus on one behavior at a time, and you will get there without the roller coaster ride of dieting.
Rebekah Hennes is a dietitian who has taught intuitive eating to people with unnatural eating habits since 1998. She is in private practice in Culver City. Rebekah is the author of several books on eating disorders and intuitive eating. She was a contributor to the “Eating Disorder Sourcebook”, 3rd Edition, and a reviewer of the American Dietetic Association position paper on Eating Disorders. Rebekah pioneered the Intuitive Food Program at the Center for Change in 1999.
Got a question about food and health? Send it to Crossroads, and we will be happy to help. You can reach Rebekah at firstname.lastname@example.org.