When reading the “Reject the Diet Mentality” chapter, the following TRUTHS were the hardest for me to accept:
1. One time of overeating does not need to result in bingeing for the rest of the day. Whenever I made eating “mistakes” or flouted the dieting rules or my own rigorous eating rules or overate, I would always throw-in-the-towel for the rest of the day and eat as much and whatever I wanted. I usually always end up feeling sick and uncomfortable physically followed by extreme feelings of shame ad disgust. However, I still did it because I felt like if I had already eaten too many desserts that day, then there was no harm in stuffing myself further for one last time because tomorrow I will be “good” and not eat those fattening desserts again. I have thought and felt this way for so long that the idea that the opposite was true—that overeating at one meal or snack did not have to cause you to overeat the rest of the day—was really quite difficult for me to accept. I knew that what I was doing made me unhappy and feel further disgusted with myself, but I just couldn’t let it go very easily.
2. Dieting will not work in the long run. This one was really hard because even though I have plenty of evidence (research, people, etc.) that dieting does backfire more often than not, I kept thinking of that one case where I knew a friend of a friend who had lost weight and was seemingly keeping it off. However, the biggest determinant for this idea and me was the fact that I was unhappy and my relationship with food was one of constant strife and anxiety. So even though I kept getting snagged on this one premise, I decided that there had to be a better way than what I was doing and I was willing to try it even if I couldn’t quite accept its premise yet.
3. Weight loss must be put on the back burner in order to reject the diet mentality. This one was particularly difficult because I was reading this when I had recently given birth to my second child and was anxious for my body to return to its pre-pregnancy size and shape, and the only way I knew how to accomplish that was to diet. It took extreme courage (and many nights spent weeping in prayer) for me to truly set that goal aside. My new goal was to create a positive relationship with food and when I was tempted to focus on weight loss (and believe me, that happened at least once a day) I stopped and refocused my thoughts.
The following were huge FEARS I had about rejecting the diet mentality:
1. I do not know how to eat when I am not dieting, with all its rules, measurements, etc. I have always relied on someone else’s knowledge (my mother’s, a new diet, nutrition information, etc.) to tell me when, how much, and what to eat that I have completely ignored and buried any signals my body has given me. So, it makes absolute sense that I would not know what else to do. Blessedly, that is what Intuitive Eating is supposed to teach me.
2. I cannot trust my body to tell me when I am full/hungry. This is principle #2 of Intuitive Eating and it is not taking me as long as I expected to listen to my body and reteach myself its hunger cues (more of this on a later post).
3. All I will do is binge/overeat. I will be out of control around food. This one is self-explanatory because all I have ever done when I have given up dieting and allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted (like during pregnancy) I constantly overate. However, I am beginning to understand that the reason this happened is because I had not learned to honor my hunger first (Intuitive Eating at a Glance, principle #2). So, I was essentially giving my body permission to eat all the sweets and fried foods that I wanted without first re-teaching my body what it felt like to be hungry and full.
4. I do not know how to act and what to think about when food is not the center of my world and thoughts. This one was huge because I spent so much of my time thinking, planning, and preparing food that I wasn’t sure how to fill those hours. I began filling them with daydreams (it might seem silly, but I created whole worlds inside my head that I could retreat to), literature, and constant thoughts about planning my next blog post. Not only did these things seem way more fulfilling than constant food thoughts, but I also felt so much less anxiety about food on a day-to-day or minute-to-minutes basis.
5. I have to let go of nutrition, a lifeline over which I have readily obsessed. Like a focus on weight loss, I had to put all of my nutrition knowledge (and I keep a lot of that stuff tucked away in my brain) on the back burner. It was hard. Every time I was tempted to look at a nutrition label to see how many calories I was eating, I took a black sharpie and scribbled all over it so that it wouldn’t seem so inviting. Every time I was tempted to calculate how many calories I was consuming at a meal, I would start focusing intensely on each bite I was taking, savoring its flavor, texture, and the way it rolled around in my mouth. I left no room for other thoughts; at least, I tried.
What about for you? Do any of these fears ring true for you? Are any of the above premises difficult for you to accept intellectually or in practice, or both?