I have been contemplating writing for a while but seem to always freeze ! But I feel that the stories we share are important especially when it comes to topics around body, weight, dieting, stigma.
So I decided to share my personal story around dieting and how it lead to an eating disorder, followed by some evidence around why dieting does not work.
When I was 18 years old, I decided to go to the gym with my then boyfriend.
We had a plan: he would quit smoking if I lost 5 kg and got “leaner”. Scary thing? I didn’t need to get any leaner AND there was nothing wrong with my body or size. I simply had the belief that it was my duty to try and look like the photo-shopped models I saw on magazines. That, and the societal pressure and high regard of body thinness that surrounds us. This belief is like a virus that has plagued our society, making us all miserable and chasing a dream weight, shape, size, look.
I am not worthy enough in the body that I have.
That belief drove me to sign up in a program with a PT. He gave me exercises and a detailed “nutrition program” to follow. Let’s stop there. There are already a few concerns I should mention: A) The PT was not a dietitian or nutrition expert B) He did not have any of my health history, he simply sold me a program that would “fix” me and make me lean (!)
ANYHOW… The diet was a very low calorie diet for 6 days of the week followed by a “cheat day” on the 7th day. On top of having as little a 1,000 kcal a day, I had to eat at certain times, measure everything I was eating, and ensure I burnt 600 kcal doing cardio as well as resistance training on top *like WTF*??
Initially I went through about 3 days of a “diet honeymoon period”, where I felt great, I told my whole family that they were missing out and that this is so so *FANTABULOUS*!!! Then the reality kicked in…
I started becoming obsessed with weighing: my food, my body, my progress, my worth.
I over-analysed every meal. I thought about food in between meals – actually constantly. I often pondered (compulsively) about when my next meal was coming. The food that wasn’t on the diet became naughty, morally bad food. I felt so powerless and completely hated feeling so out of control. On occasions when I broke the diet I felt ashamed, guilty and disgusted by my lack of willpower. I avoided family meals, became withdrawn, and felt isolated. And the worst of it all? The CHEAT day. Once a week I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and as much of it as I wanted. JUST FOR ONE DAY.
This was supposed to “kick start” my metabolism…and well… it did a lot more than that.
I began to binge eat. My thinking was that I would be back on that disgusting, restrictive, depriving diet come Monday… so I better eat NOW that I am allowed to! This is what is know as “the last supper” mentality. It’s the all or nothing mentality that many of us have over the weekend that often drives our overeating.
In my case, this restrictive/binge eating scenario eventually lead to bulimia nervosa that lasted years.
The more I tried to follow this diet, the more I disregarded my personal body autonomy. This cycle of left me feeling powerless. My body tried to keep me alive by signalling strong urges to eat, while the “food police” voice in my head drove me towards harmful practices to try and avoid eating. It was a battlefield of the mind against my very own needs, against my own body.
I now know that the binge eating response is a normal physiologic response to starvation.
When we go on a diet our body thinks it is surviving a ‘famine’ period. So it begins using our muscle for energy, which causes a lot of water weight to be lost quite rapidly. The body is super smart and begins preserving energy by not building any new muscles (lowering our metabolism) to ensure our survival. It doesn’t know there is McDonald’s on every corner and that we chose to diet. We also get strong urges to eat: especially carbohydrates as they are the preferred source of fuel for our brain, nerves and red blood cells. You see our body is not our enemy, even though we often treat it that way.
It is easy to see then that when we start eating normally again, after being starved for a period of time, we regain the weight (in the form of body fat). Our body is protecting us for future starvation. And weight loss becomes harder and harder with every failed diet attempt.
Diets are literally a war zone.
They are likely to make you fatter, they don’t help you lose weight in the long term, they simply mess with your head and your health! In fact regardless of the type of diet, most people (95% of them) in weight loss research regain the weight within 2 to 5 years. This fact is very well known and backed up by our very own National Health and Medical Research Council:
In my personal experience, the striving for weight loss damaged my self worth, my relationship with food and the people I love and lead me to an eating disorder. We now know that focusing in weight and dieting is one of the leading causes for eating disorders in adolescents.
It’s time that we wake up to the fact that diets are very very hard and they go against our nature. It has nothing to do with our willpower and everything to do with basic biological drivers to keep us alive.
The Mindful Eating Program I run is designed to help you break free from dieting and begin embracing your OWN body wisdom without rules and deprivation.
Join us for the upcoming online program starting end of January 2019
Find out more about the Mindful Eating Program here.
Alternatively if you would like personalized guidance to break free get in touch to book one on one session.Read More
“Mindful Eating replaces self-criticism with self-nurturing
it replaces shame with respect for your own inner wisdom.”
Eating is a pleasurable activity that’s meant to satisfy our hunger and fuel our body. Yet in our food abundant, diet obsessed culture eating has become complex, confusing and guilt-inducing. There is a new fad diet every week and self proclaimed health gurus are preaching advice that is not only based on myths, but also at times downright dangerous.
If weight loss diets worked, everyone would already be “thin”. Instead those of us unfortunate to have gone on one or numerous weight loss diets are more likely to have poorer physical and mental health, experience body dissatisfaction and develop disordered eating such as binge eating, or an eating disorder.
Mindful eating is a mindfulness-based practice with profound implications and applications for resolving problematic eating behaviours and developing self care practices that support optimal health.
Mindful eating is based on the ancient practice of mindfulness which can simply be defined as paying attention to the present moment on purpose and without any judgement. Growing evidence is suggesting that the practice of mindfulness can improve many aspects of physical and psychological well-being, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, chronic pain, immune function, blood pressure, cortisol levels, and cognitive functioning. It has also shown improvements in self-regulation, decision making, emotional resilience and other attributes that support optimal well-being.
So what about mindful eating?
Mindful eating is associated with increased physical activity, increased fruit and vegetable intake, improved nutrient intake, decreased food cravings, less impulsive eating, reduced calorie consumption, healthier snack choices and less emotional eating. Studies on mindfulness training in diabetes treatment show improved dietary intake, and improved glyceamic control. Furthermore mindfulness has been proven to reduce disordered eating, particularly binge eating.
When we use mindfulness around food and eating we become more intuitive in our eating habits and have a more positive relationship with food. We eat with intention and attention. With the intention of caring and supporting ourselves and with the attention necessary for noticing the effect food has on our body and mind.
It’s not simply about slowing down around food, it’s also bout how our thoughts and feelings form our eating habits and behaviours. It encompasses the entire process of eating starting from why am I eating?
Mindful eating aims to:
- Cultivate awareness of physical and emotional cues
- Recognition of non-hunger triggers for eating
- Learn to meet non-hunger needs in more effective ways than eating
- Choosing food for both enjoyment and nourishment
- Eating for both satisfaction and satiety
- Using the energy consumed in enjoyable and healthful ways
We often eat as a reaction to unrecognized triggers, thoughts and feelings. For example, you may go to the movies and smell the popcorn and instantly buy and eat some even if you are not actually hungry – that is simply a habit that we have formed over time. Mindfulness increases awareness of these patterns and creates space between triggers and and actions – we are then able to choose what we feel is the best choice for us.
Mindful eating empowers individuals to break free from old automatic habits and discover options that work better for them. It puts us behind the wheel, helping us feel in charge our choices around food and eating.
Eating intuitively involves trusting your body to let you know when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat, rather than letting external influences dictate these things (which is what happens when you are following any restrictive diet). No more strict diet rules, no deprivations, only awesome tools you can incorporate into your life right now.
If you are ready to dive in and would like to become more intuitive in your eating join us for an upcoming Mindful Eating Program!
This article was adapted from Mindful Eating: A practical Approach to Optimal Eating and Health.Read More