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3 Steps for Breaking Out of Diet Prison
How many more times can you start your diet Monday? Chances are that this attempt will be another one of the almost 95% of diets that fail. This isn’t your fault, you are just stuck in a diet prison from which it seems impossible to escape.
The good news is you can escape from the endless cycle of dieting, deprivation, guilt, shame, overeating, and ultimately gaining more weight. Here are three steps you can take to stop being a dieting statistic and free yourself from food obsession, body hatred, and get on with living.
Step 1: Get educated on the truth about diets
One way to get out of diet prison is to understand the damage diets really do. Here are a few examples that may be enough for you to break your shackles and run as far away from diets as you can.
• For every diet there will be a “diet deprivation backlash”. The more you deprive yourself, the more powerful the binge, ensuring more weight gain.
• Dieting teaches your body how to become more efficient at storing fat – when you diet, the enzymes that stimulate fat storage increase and the enzymes that stimulate fat release decrease.
• Chronic dieters find fat starting to store more in the abdominal area, regardless of where they may have stored fat before.
• This increase in abdominal fat increases your risk for heart disease.
• With every diet, metabolism slows and the rate of weight loss slows down.
• Dieting also increases binging and cravings, increasing fat storage.
Step 2: Undo the diet mentality
If you are a chronic dieter, you probably are a victim of the diet mentality. So it can be hard, even scary to consider giving up dieting.
The longer you hold on to the diet mentality, the longer your term in diet prison. The diet mentality is the way a chronic dieter deals with eating, exercising, and handling emotions. Behaviors include counting calories, exercising as punishment for cheating on your diet, and seeing food in terms of “good” and “bad”. Holding on to the diet mentality leads to more deprivation, which leads to overeating, which then leads to more guilt, shame and anger, keeping the vicious cycle going.
To undo the diet mentality, you first must end the labeling of “good” and “bad” foods. Next, realize that failing at a diet is not about lacking willpower, diets are set up that they fail people. Feeling like a failure will produce feelings of guilt and shame and the deprivation backlash that follows continues the cycle of dieting, bingeing, gaining weight and lengthens your term in diet prison.
Here is the easiest way to eat that will promote weight loss. Eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are full. It really is as simple as that. If you do this consistently, you will return to what your natural body weight is supposed to be. But we have been so busy following diet plans that we no longer feel our hunger and fullness cues. Relearning and responding to these cues is a process that takes time and is an important part of ending the destructive dieting cycle. However, once you learn it you can return to normal eating and lose and keep off the weight you have been struggling with for so long.
Step 3: Learn to eat intuitively
The final step in breaking free from diet prison is to learn to eat intuitively. The ironic thing is all of us knew how to do this from birth.
What infants know instinctively how to do and what we used to know was how to listen to our bodies’ natural hunger and fullness cues. Typically around age 3 our parents start to influence when we eat and we learn to no longer trust our own hunger signals. We hear messages like, “You can’t be hungry, it’s not dinner time”, or, “Eat everything on your plate and you can have dessert”.
You may know people who are at their natural body weight and have been all their life. Instead of being envious of these people, you can take some time to learn from them just by observation. These people eat whatever they want, guilt free. They also eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full, often leaving food on their plate or saving it for later. What is their secret? They have maintained those instinctive behaviors they had as infants, despite outside influences.
Intuitive eating not only addresses the physical disconnection with the body, it also helps overcome emotional overeating and other disordered eating patterns without dieting, restriction or deprivation.
The process is complex and different for everyone, but here are a few hints to get started:
1. Make the decision to give up dieting, forever
2. Give yourself permission to eat any and all foods that you like, guilt free
3. Tune into your physical hunger and fullness and while eating, check in often to see if you are getting full. When you are satisfied, stop eating.
4. To keep your blood sugar stable, every time you eat, have at least a small amount of protein with carbohydrates.
5. If you find yourself wanting to eat and you are not physically hungry, stop and ask yourself what emotion you are feeling. Determine what you actually need at that moment, instead of food. It could be a nap, a walk, to talk to someone, etc.
I can tell you from personal experience, and that of my clients, that the journey back to intuitive eating can be challenging at times, but it is well worth it to leave behind the diets, guilt, frustration and shame – not to mention the weight!
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