How To Ditch The Diet Mindset
Updated: Mar 1
What is a diet mindset ?
When you are in a diet mindset, you are focused on rules around food and exercise. These rules are often arbitrary, contradictory and overide your body's cues and signals and dictate when, and what to eat. As your decisions about food are essentially taken away from you and are made via external cues, it's the opposite of intuitive eating. It's as if you can't be trusted to make your own choices.
This might look like:
Banning or restricting certain foods or even entire food groups (hello carbs !)
Labelling foods as 'good' or 'bad'
Labelling days as 'cheat' days
Cutting out foods that you enjoy because of a perception they're bad for you
Counting calories, macros or points
Feeling guilty if you eat a so called banned food
Having an all or nothing approach to diet
Focus on the scales and achieving a particular weight or body measurement. This is often at the expense of your overall health
Using exercise as a punishment to burn off the 'bad' or excess food
Constantly thinking about food
Feeling anxious about socialising if it involves food
Having a poor body image
What can I do ?
Recognise that dieting isn't healthy
You may rationalise these rules as part of a healthy lifestyle but not only can this mindset result in nutrient deficiencies, which may lead to illness or injury. But also feelings of guilt, anxiety, low mood and low self-esteem. I'm sure you'd agree that all of this is nowhere near being healthy. Furthermore, in an earlier blog I explained that generally speaking, diets do not work. How many diets have you been on ? If they worked in the long-term, why would you need to keep starting new ones....? The majority of people who diet end up regaining all the weight they initially lost, and often gain even more.
(You can read the post here: https://www.rachelfletchernutrition.com/post/do-any-diets-actually-work)
The best person to make food choices is YOU
You are the expert of your body. You are the expert of what food you need or don't need.
Now, right now you might be thinking that you haven't got a clue how to go about understanding what your body needs and that's probably true. If you've been following diet plans for years, you'll be so used to effectively being told when and what you should eat, that tuning into internal cues will be difficult. Thats' ok. Don't worry, you can learn what to do.
Eating shouldn't come with rules
In order to ditch the diet mindset, you need to accept that no diet is perfect - there's no such thing. And when I say diet, I don't mean in the weight-loss sense, I simply use this as a term to describe what you eat. You can be healthy and thrive (in both body and mind) by eating a variety of foods and not having to constantly question whether or not you're following 'the rules'. Success isn't measured by how well you've adhered to a plan. It's measured by how good you feel. What's right for for you will likely be different to what's right for others. We are all unique.
Ditch the diet plans and tools
In order to truly start learning how to listen to your body, you will need to stop relying on external cues. This means ditching the My Fitness Pal, the calorie counters, the WW, Slimming World or Noom apps and the activity tracking tech. This is likely to be a toughie, so be kind to yourself and start slowly. Maybe try it for a coupe of days a week to start off with and see how you get on. Do you feel differently ? Learning to listen to your body will take time (and effort) but it's worth it in the end.
Unfollow diet culture social media accounts
Like the constant reminders you get from diet apps, you also need to ditch any social media accounts that perpetuate your diet mindset. Influencers and 'it worked for me, so follow my rules' PT's and unqualified, self-proclaimed nutrition coaches do more harm than good. It's worth replacing them with a more diverse feed of non-diet and health at every size advocates and seeing people in different bodies, rather than all those unrealistic, airbrushed #fitspo selfies. Recent studies have shown that those who follow fitspo accounts have a much poorer body image and lower self-esteem than those who don't.
Be kind to yourself
I can't reiterate this enough. Ditching the diet mentality is really HARD. You've probably been used to dieting or adhering to food rules for years. Plus, we all have a complex and unique relationship with food. So it makes sense that changing your mindset isn't going to happen overnight. You'll have days and weeks where things are going well and others where you slip back into diet thoughts. This is absolutely normal. Ditching the diet mentality is very much a non-linear journey !
Doing this alone is tough. If you can, see if you can get some friends or family to join you on the journey. Or at least make it clear this is what you're doing and politely ask that they skip the diet chat around you. There are lots of resources out there that can help. For user friendly reading, I recommend the books 'Just Eat It' and 'How to Just Eat It' by Laura Thomas PhD (Available at most book sellers, info below). Getting professional support is even better. A non-diet nutritionist can guide through the processes to ditch the diet mindset and be your cheerleader. This is something I can help with. To learn more about how I can help, and to set you on the way to thinking about why you should ditch the diet mindset, sign up for my emails and receive my free download on the 5 side effects of dieting: https://www.subscribepage.com/s6s3x3
Amazon links - not sponsored !