I think we have all heard the saying, “What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”
That was my relationship with dieting. I would go on a diet, lose some weight, and then start gaining it back before I even got to my goal, plus a little extra. Freaked out because I had gained weight, I would go on a diet, lose some weight, and start gaining it back … you see where this is going.
And it wasn’t just dieting in general. I would cycle through specific diets I had already tried if there was nothing new at the bookstore, or in the tabloids at the grocery checkout. The same diets that ultimately caused me to gain more weight—think I’ll give that a try again!
Insanity? Yes. But was I alone in doing this? I don’t think so.
If we see repeatedly that dieting doesn’t work, why, oh why, do we keep trying it? Because we have been deeply conditioned by the diet industry, and perhaps by doctors, parents, or friends to believe that it’s what we should do, and that it is our own fault because we can’t make it work.
Because of this belief, diets have an addictive quality to them. There is the initial rush of adrenaline as you start anew on a diet—the excitement about the possibility of a thin life where all is well. It’s going to be different this time—I’m going to stick to this no matter what and get to my goal weight.
After a week or two … or a day or two … the rush wears off and the restrictive diet starts to wear you down. But you continue to push through because you’re seeing the scale start to tick down.
At some point, you snap. Maybe you start eating tons of junk just to spite the diet, or spite yourself. I don’t care anymore; I hate this diet. And after eating a lot of stuff you believe you shouldn’t be eating, you start to hate yourself.
This goes on for a while until you snap again. I have to get back on a diet—I am out of control! It’s going to work this time.
For me, the pain of being in this addictive cycle, with all the anxiety and self-loathing that came with it, became greater than the pain of being overweight. The solution? Along the lines of the revelation of Seinfeld’s George Costanza, “Every instinct I’ve ever had in my life has been wrong. From now on I’m going to do the opposite!”—I did the opposite.
I quit dieting and began exploring how I wanted to eat. What felt good to me, instead of looking to the next fad diet for the answer. I started thinking new positive thoughts about food and my body, which eventually solidified into new affirming beliefs. I ended the cycle of chronic dieting, and after some time landed on a healthy eating style that works for me.
Do old diet mentality thoughts still pop into my head? Yes. Those very limiting thoughts and beliefs began when I was a child, throwing me into thirty plus years of this dieting cycle, so they were quite ingrained. The difference now is that I am aware of the thoughts when they come up and I can shift them, rather than be taken away into fear by them.
Shifting away from deeply conditioned beliefs can be tricky. A part of us wants to keep acting from those beliefs because that’s what we know; it’s familiar even in its misery. Releasing the cycle of chronic dieting can feel frightening—for many of us being on a diet is the only relationship with food that we remember. But please hear me when I say, it is so amazingly worth it.
Just imagine your life without all the stress, anxiety, and bad feelings dieting evokes. Imagine eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. Imagine eating whole foods that you enjoy. Imagine being happy with yourself just where you are, rather than waiting until the scale flashes the magic number. Imagine being able to enjoy eating again.
It’s worth it. It’s worth the initial discomfort you may experience to end the cycle of chronic dieting. The freedom and joy you can experience far surpasses that initial rush a new diet brings. It’s time to stop the insanity, and do the opposite. Welcome to the Anti-Diet.
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