Not One More | Reasons Eating Disorder Center
How and why to say ‘Not One More Diet’ and mean it
If you have followed diets all your life, making the decision to ditch diets and start eating intuitively can seem like a monumental challenge. Where do we even start? How do we move away from diets? How do we move toward listening to our bodies and eating what sounds good in the moment when we have spent our whole lives doing the exact opposite?
Babies are said to be perfect eaters, crying when they are hungry, and turning their heads away when they are full. All of us slowly lose touch with that perfect-eater ability early in life. We receive messages about the importance of eating vegetables before dessert, or hear we are “eating too much,” or are requested to stay at the table until we have cleaned our plates.
As early as our adolescence, we are ushered into the $4 billion dollar diet industry, told our bodies are not thin enough, or pretty enough, or good enough, and presented with a bunch of ways to “fix” ourselves. Health and wellness companies target us, starting at a young age. We may feel drawn toward these messages as an antidote to anxiety about fitting in or to avoid being bullied for our body size or shape. Just recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics put out new guidelines that bring more harm, recommending drug treatment or surgery for children falling outside of growth chart curves, setting them up for a lifetime war against their bodies.
Many of our patients come to us after years of being on diets.
To make the decision to stop following diets and start respecting one’s body can feel like pushing off a familiar continent in a small rowboat with only the promise of a better land across the endless sea. In other words, it’s terrifying. What if I eat too much? What if I eat too little? What if I only ever want to eat ice cream? What if my hunger signals are super strong but my fullness signals are broken? Or vice versa? What if, given the opportunity to eat what I want, I never stop eating again? The reality is all these things might happen.
The good news is, it’s totally okay. If you’ve been depriving yourself of ice cream all these years, you’re going to be excited that you can have it, and you might want it all the time, with lunch, after dinner and yeah, maybe at breakfast, too. However, that desire for ice cream (or whatever food you have been deprived of) will fade the more you allow yourself to have it. If you truly believe you can have what you want when you want it, you calm down about it. Your body begins to trust again.
Diets distance us from our bodies, teaching us to follow their script rather than listen to the signals we ebbed and flowed with as babies. Reconnecting to those signals of hunger and fullness and allowing yourself grace and forbearance is the way back to a relationship with food and your body.
Your body’s metabolism is an absolute wonder, but it has been hampered and unable to perform to its full ability in a restrictive dieting phase. In fact, the metabolism fights when it is not getting the nourishment it needs. It fights when it gets too much nourishment, too, always striving to stay the same. That’s why everyone who has ever gone on a diet on this planet has experienced the dreaded “plateau.” Yep, that was your metabolism, just fighting to keep you alive in the face of possible starvation.
Because that is the thing. Your metabolism doesn’t know you have decided not to eat carbs anymore, or that you are sticking to a low-calorie count, it thinks you are not getting enough food because there is not enough food available to you. If these conditions continue, the body takes very impressive action to preserve your tissues, redistribute your nutrients and protect the brain at all costs to keep you alive as long as it thinks this famine might last. Your body also has some fun tricks up its proverbial sleeves, like making you think and dream about food all the time so you never lose sight of how you should be out hunting or gathering. Dieting is a losing game. When one diet fails, as it inevitably will, there is always another one promising “amazing results” for you to try next.
Letting go of dieting is scary, the process of listening to your body is messy and non-linear, and that is okay!
But it is so worth it to eat the foods you want, nourish yourself when you’re hungry, and have energy to do the things you care about in life, to live a life of joy, meaning, and connection with others and yourself.
This is a journey best taken with support and accountability. Reach out to an anti-diet therapist, or dietitian, surround yourself with people who align themselves with these values, and take the leap. Say it every day if you have to, not one more diet.
Claire St John, MPH, RD, CEDS-S brings compassion and understanding to her nutritional counseling practice. Claire has worked with men, women and children suffering from eating disorders at all levels of care, leading guided meals, restaurant and snack outings, nutrition groups and multi-family nutrition groups. With a dynamic understanding of eating disorders and how they impact individuals and families, Claire is passionate about repairing broken relationships with food. For more information about Reasons Eating Disorder Center, please visit: reasonsedc.com.