By Christa Brown, MS, RDN
In this article you’re going to learn about the following topics:
How Can I Stop Dieting?
Are you someone who feels guilty when hungry? You override your hunger and stop eating because it makes you feel empowered. It makes you feel...skinny. Yet, you know this is not the “right” way to fuel yourself. But yet, you don’t want to feed into your hunger cues because what if they really aren’t right? It’s your mind playing tricks on you and that if you give in, you’re not adhering to the diet?
Many times my clients come to me with this daily struggle that they follow the do’s and don’ts of a particular diet whether Intermittent Fasting, Keto Whole 30, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem...and clearly the list goes on. All of them promise you results so that you can look and feel your best.
Something happens during the diet. though. The first few weeks go well but cravings start lurking and when presented with that one food item that checks off all of your happy boxes you start thinking about “caving in.” The intensity grows, grows, and GROWS. Until you cave in and rather than eat one, you ate several. Which totally does not fall into any acceptable category with the diet as a “good” food.
When this begins to happen repeatedly, I always hear, “Christa, I always fall off the diet and I just don’t understand why nothing will ever work for me.” Think about how emotionally tolling that is for you? And how those emotions start tying into how you view yourself, and that you question your ability to ever do anything right?
Being a woman, I can personally speak to the fact that this emotion trickles into every part of our life and it hurts.
However let me tell you this, it is NOT you and you’re not a failure! When you are placed on a restricted meal plan you develop a greater need to satisfy that craving. Research shows that when you deprive yourself of food by limiting your intake it causes overeating and intense cravings.
These diets do provide immediate results for weight loss but it's in fact muscle loss instead of fat loss. And that muscle is your active metabolism burning off the unwanted mass (fat).
So, are you interested in learning how you can start having more control around food so that you can lose weight forever and not be on a diet? That’s right, I just said food and weight loss in one sentence.
What is a Diet?
A diet by definition is literally, “what one eats and consumes.” I’m sure you’re really questioning that definition because a diet is what we all commonly know [rather assume] is to be a restrictive diet used to achieve weight loss. More or less.
It also promises results in a short period of time as a result of severe discipline, restricting all foods, and adding awkward food items [often really off-tasting and makes you poop green] that promise to zap the fat off faster.
Who here likes to completely obliterate a food group and NEVER eat your favorite food item, ever again?
I know you want to say, “not me!” And I can truthfully say you can enjoy food and still lose weight and if interested in learning more about how I can help you with that let’s chat by clicking here and telling me a little more about who you are.
But honestly, a diet is literally what you eat. Meaning, we need food to nourish our body and mind and that’s OK!
What a Diet is NOT
It is NOT restrictive. Therefore I like to use the term “Flexible Dieting.” It's making food choices that don't cause punishment, restriction or feeling bad. Your diet should be as flexible as you want it to be.
It is also not something that goes “on and off.” Unless it is medically necessary. For example, the Keto Diet is medically used in the clinical setting to help treat those with seizure disorders, not for those looking to lose weight.
Of course weight loss happens as a result of going Keto because you restrict foods that you so often eat. Plus, you’re removing a food group that appears to make you “gain” weight simply because of the molecular composition to absorb water.
Tired of Dieting and Not Losing Weight?
First of all, I know we already talked about how restriction for long periods of time becomes so hard to maintain which causes the “caving in” sensation. Secondly, we briefly discussed how going into severe calorie restriction can lead to a slow metabolism since it can cause muscle loss. Especially if you’re losing greater than 2 pounds per week.
Now, have you gone on a brand new diet, and it gave you excellent results? Then, you decide you can be a little more liberal with what you’re enjoying a few months go by and your weight creeped up at an alarming rate!
This conditions you and your mind to say, the diet you went on worked, it got you your results fast! You go back on that same diet and it gives you results but not as good as the first time around but you’ll take it!
Then. It stops working! The same cycle goes on and on. And NOTHING works anymore. Not even that diet that helped you lose all that weight. So you starve yourself but then binge.
What is happening is that the yo-yoing is causing slow and steady weight gain over time. It also trained your body to operate on a very low calorie intake so ANY calories you take in, is indeed going to be saved and stored. As a matter of fact, several studies show that low-calorie diets can decrease the number of calories the body burns by as much as 23%.
“Diets” taught us that after we fail and yet repeatedly fail, is that we have no “willpower” to lose weight ever again. And this is why I don't believe [and research shows] diets and the diet mentality does not work.
My Top 5 Tips to Lose Weight and NOT be on a Diet
No. 1 Get Rid of the Bad and Good Food Mentality
When you accept that all food has a place on the plate and you start giving permission to the bad AND good foods, you’ll have less of an affinity towards. When you actually say to yourself that you CAN have that chocolate cake, you’re less likely to eat everything in sight.
To practice this, visualize the idea of sitting down at a meal eating all foods that you want to enjoy and rather than say, "I can’t have that pasta, I can't have that slice of garlic bread," say I can enjoy that pasta and I can enjoy that garlic bread." This step will take time and practice but the more you do so, you'll stop overeating as if it were the last feast.
I know you're a little worried at this step, but that's why I have 4 more strategies for you! Continue reading on.
No. 2 Challenge Your Emotions
When we really sit and think about it our emotions are heavily tied to what we eat and why.
For example I had a client, let's say, Lucy. She would go out to eat with her friends and she mentioned she always would order two or three rounds of food while out. She would get nachos, pasta entree and cakes.” She was so frustrated and could never pinpoint why she would do that.
I remember asking her, “When you go out with your friends, what are you talking about?” She responded, “Well, I try not to talk.” The more we looked at it, MANY of her meals stemmed from feeling lonely because everyone was in a relationship and she was intimidated by her friends who were not lonely. We had to challenge our emotions around eating to help us from overeating. Fast forward a few weeks later, Lucy was able to find contentment in herself which lead her to get into a relationship.
Once Lucy was able to identify exactly WHY she was eating and give it words, she was able to face the real reason why she wasn't able to lose the weight.
No. 3 Eat Consistently Throughout the Day
We want to avoid skipping meals consistently throughout the day. When I observe nearly dozens of food journals, I see breakfast is missing. And when I ask what made my client decide to not enjoy breakfast. I usually always get one of two responses, “I’m not hungry for breakfast because it’s too early” or “Truthfully, Christa. It’s because I’m trying to eat less calories during the day.”
Skipping breakfast and/or not eating every 3-4 hours, is linked to overeating. If you’re one of those who are not hungry in the morning, you don’t have to start off with eating a pancake breakfast feast; it could be as simple as starting with a granola bar. After two weeks or so, you’ll begin finding that you are hungry in the morning and can start enjoying a little more food! Just grab for some protein too.
No. 4 Listen to Your Hunger Cues
For so long when my clients are on a diet, they don’t really know when they are hungry and they often stop eating when they are so stuffed and feel sick. This is why there is such a useful tool that I use with my clients and you can download that here.
When hunger strikes, ride the wave for a minute to see if it’s physical or emotional hunger by waiting 5-minutes. And assess if it’s physical hunger or emotional hunger. Physical hunger cues include: Stomach growling, headache, feeling light headed and irritable. Emotional hunger can come across as you want to enjoy something because you want to reward yourself. Or it’s sounds good to eat and calm
Then, using my hunger scale to gauge where your hunger levels are before and after a meal is incredibly important. The more that I find my clients tracking this the more they begin questioning why they are grabbing the snack when they are really a 5 or 6 on the hunger scale (this means they are satisfied and really aren’t hungry).
Ideally, I always encourage my clients to be about 3-4 (slightly hungry) going into a meal and a solid 5 (satisfied) after the meal. This helps to prevent the binging and helps to stop the cravings.
No. 5 Journaling
This has been by far the best strategy to give yourself time to log and assess where you are. Journaling has helped my clients identify not just what they are eating but why, how, and where they are eating on a deeper level. Journaling has also been shown to help keep people accountable and double weight loss efforts.
It's a great communication tool to both me and the individual. Jane at first was skeptical of trying to journal thinking it wouldn't really help her.
Alas, about 2 weeks in she loved it so much she was writing paragraphs and discovered that the protein powder shakes she was having in the morning was too many calories AND it was causing her bloating for her workouts during the day. Jane is down 3 pounds within the last 6-weeks and is feeling energized throughout the day.
What’s the Final Say to Stop Dieting?
My number one answer is to stop dieting! You want to take all 5 of my strategies to get started and never go on a diet again. Slow weight loss and great weight loss. And if you think you're eating is heavily tied into emotional eating, it's time to get to the root cause.
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