So if you weren’t trying to lose weight, how would you be eating?
I’ve posed this question to many of my clients. many of whom have been trying to lose weight for their whole lives. Their first diet started before they were fat, because they felt fat. And each decade has been defined by what diet group they were a member of; Atkins, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the cabbage soup diet, the Master Cleanse… The list goes on.
Most come into my office, still hoping to lose weight. Sure that I have the diet to end all diets, that I have a secret meal plan up my sleeve so they can finally leave the dieting merry go round (sadly you just have to get off, before losing those pesky 10lbs).
As they proceed through their diet recall, each morsel of food that enters their mouth is justified by every food rule they have ever heard:
“Eggs for breakfast because they have protein. But only one because two is too many!”
“I can’t eat carbs; they are my downfall. Carbs are evil. I’ve only ever lost weight not eating carbs.”
“I shouldn’t eat after 7pm. I try not to eat after 7.” (and do you eat after 7? Actually I don’t know. But I try not to)
So when I ask them how they would be eating if they weren’t trying to lose weight they are flummoxed. Such a concept has not entered their mind since before their dieting days. Even the ones who are not actively dieting live with the plethora of food rules in their head, constantly circulating and directing their food choices.
Most diets tell you that you are either dieting or falling off the wagon. There is no concept of normal eating; the diets tell you the way you want to eat is to binge on junk food on whatever food is currently forbidden. Chronic dieters have been fighting a battle (against what they believe is falling off the wagon) for so long they can’t even remember what eating before the diet looked like. But they know (have been told) the eating and food enemy is out there, and it is their natural state, which they must fight.
What the diets don’t tell you is the very act of dieting creates the act of falling off the wagon. If you aren’t on the wagon to begin with you can’t fall off. There is nothing inherently wrong with eating foods you enjoy. In fact permission to enjoy those foods makes them more satisfying, and you will be less likely to overeat them.
So ask yourself: “If weight loss weren’t the focus, how would I like to be eating?”
Think about it, the answer might be surprising.