Why Diets Don't Work: How to Shift your Relationship with Food Starting Today

Listen on the Go!

Today we're going to talk about dieting and why so many of us have tried one diet or another over and over again only to be right back where we started or worse. In today's post I'm going to challenge you, no matter how scary it might be, to let go of some beliefs that might not be serving you anymore. I'm going to help you shed some light over some issues that will be very personal for each of you and that have to do with the way you relate to your bodies and your food. Let's face it, dieting, and talking about dieting has become so prevalent in the media, online, when we talk with friends, and if someone told me that weight loss books produce more revenue than any other type of book genre, I would believe them without a second thought. Why? Because I bought SO MANY of them!

That's right, I'm not writing this post from a high and mighty pedestal telling you I've always had it all figured out. If you have a complicated relationship with food, rest assured that I've been there. I tried so many diets in the past I could write a book about each of them. I could also write a book about my diet amnesia. I sometimes joke saying I would become a millionaire if I created a service that had customers press a button when they were in deep need of a diet failure reminder. A.k.a., someone would come to your house, clear up your diet amnesia by reminding you why none of them worked in the past, and then whack you over the head with the new diet book that just arrived via Amazon. 

I can't even tell you how many times I told myself "that's it. This is the last diet I'm trying", only to be right back on that band wagon a few months later with the latest shiny one. If I told you to head on over to a bookstore right now, I bet you could find hundreds of books that recommend exactly the opposite. In one you'll find that protein is king and carbs are the devil. In one book, fruit should be chewed, swallowed, inhaled and given to you through an I.V., in another fruit is only for the birds. Starchy vegetables like potatoes are forbidden, but then there's also the potato cleanse (yes, that's a real thing). There's no wonder our relationship to food is so messed up and so confusing. Everywhere we turn we find the greatest new solution that finally solved the puzzle. I'm going to give you a sneak peek of a video I'm showing you down below, and it's that if diets worked, each and every one of us would be slim and healthy. Think about it, how many diets have you tried? How many diets have your friends or family members tried? It's a multi million dollar industry not because somebody somewhere bought a book, it's because everyone bought books in bulk! One after the other. Again... diet amnesia.

I can also tell you that this did not go away when I went vegan because even within the vegan diet there's so much dogma as to how you should eat. Veganism has given me one of the greatest gifts though, and it has plenty to do with what I'm going to tell you about next. It gave profound meaning to my choices. Food wasn't just about me anymore, it wasn't just about my waistline or my tastebuds, but it was about something greater than myself. It certainly was the first step in changing my relationship with food and it contributes so much to who I am as a person and to my confidence, but it wasn't the only step I needed to take to get there.

The media and society constantly give us impossible standards of beauty and what our bodies should look like and we've got the recipe for success if what we're after is a crazy, confusing and scary relationship with food and our bodies. Here's the thing, we can change that. 

We can create healthy habits that just come naturally to us and allow us to get back in touch with our bodies, understanding what foods are both health giving, satisfy us and make us happy. Diets have trained us for so long that it's all about will power if you want to see results. I'm telling you right now, and you might not be ready to hear it, that if will power is a part of the equation, this means you're fighting against your body with every single meal you eat. What if we worked with it instead?

Please enjoy this TED video of this rockstar of a woman, neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt telling us all about how our brains manage our bodies when it comes to dieting, and why there's another way out. One that might be scary for many of you, especially if rules and controlling your food has been a big part of your life so far, but one that works, for good!  

This mindfulness she talks about, and following your own hunger cues, has changed my life in so many ways, but so many other components go into the issue of weight loss, dieting and our relationship with food. Here are some of the things that will help you let go of the dieting spiral:

- Change the way you talk and feel about your body. It is such a HUGE misconception that body acceptance should come after weight loss, when in fact, loving yourself and respecting your body right now is the key component to treating your body like a temple and giving it beautiful health giving foods, listening to it and being happy and relaxed about your choices.

- Practice mindful eating every single time you sit down to eat. Sit down, focus on the tastes and enjoy the moment, but especially, eat as slowly as you can so that your stomach can catch up with your brain and let you know when it's full.

- Focus on both quality of food and quantity of food. This does not mean counting calories, macros, weighing or measuring your food. This means eating REAL food, the kind that doesn't come with a label and came straight from the Earth and is bursting with nutrition. It also means slowly getting back in touch with your body and stopping when you're full. It also means eating when you're hungry and not fighting your body on this. If you're hungry, eat and do it mindfully and without guilt or shame. Once you're back in touch with your body you will naturally be guided towards making good choices.

- Incorporate relaxation practices to help relieve stress and mindless eating, like daily meditation and yoga.

- Exercise doing something you LOVE! Exercise sets you up for success, especially if it's fun and it makes you smile. It will help you make better choices later in the day and it builds confidence and lots of that body love that will help you in turn.

- Keep a food journal, or even a personal journal where you begin a process of self discovery. You will learn so much about yourself, your automatic habits, and you'll be able to stop with the nasty talk and change it into the most loving and compassionate voice towards your body and yourself.

- Hire my "whack you in the head you've been down this road before" service (just kidding), but seriously, remind yourself that no matter how shiny the new diet book looks, if there's restriction it won't serve you in the long run.

- Stop being afraid of [insert food group here]. Especially if you're doing mindful eating, and basing your diet on REAL whole foods. There's nothing wrong with having a bowl of pasta or some mashed potatoes, a handful of nuts or some guacamole on your taco. We've been brainwashed for so long on what foods are BAD, that we forget to just listen to our bodies, eat what we crave and stop when we're full. 

- Sleep, rest, relax and de-stress. Stress and lack of sleep can really mess with your hormones and prevent you from being able to listen to your body's hunger signals.

- Get professional help if you feel that restriction, deprivation, dieting or over-exercising has taken over your life and it does not allow you to live it fully. 

- LIVE your life, meaning, don't make it all about the food. Don't get me wrong, I love food! Food, eating and cooking are so important to me, but they're not the only things that make up my life. Eat, enjoy it, and then head out and live. When we're stuck in one area of our lives for too long, it's easy to create irrational fears, feel overwhelmed and obsess over something that is as natural as breathing. A.k.a your body knows what to do if you listen.

What has your struggle with dieting been like? Please share it in the comments below. So many others might find support in it, and I would love to hear from you and what you're going through.