Stop dieting. Easier said than done.
I have been hearing lots of chatter from my clients about dieting, weighing and restriction. This really saddens me as I want to do my best to remove all diets, once and for all, in all my clients. That is my goal.
I spent almost 30 years of my life dieting. Funnily enough my weight still sits about 20 lbs above what would be considered a healthy weight in the diet world, however, it also sits around 20 lbs less than my heaviest weight ever. I am happier today and more comfortable in my own skin than I have been in my entire life. I used to have a clothes crisis almost every day, trying to squeeze into clothes that I loved. When I was getting ready for a night out I would often fall in a heap of tears on top of a heap of clothes that probably looked wonderful on me (well my husband said they did, I had other ideas). In fact this happened even when I was at my ‘skinniest’, but because my confidence was so low I couldn’t see how beautiful I looked, so then I would eat to comfort myself and gain weight and that made me more miserable.
That’s proof that dieting does not make you: a) Skinny or b) Happy. Lets break down those two words.
SKINNY. If you become ‘skinny’ through dieting and restriction a number of things happen that you may be unaware of. Severe restriction leads to the loss of lean muscle. To try and keep it simple we need lean muscle to burn calories, the more lean muscle we have the more effective we are at burning calories. Yes, muscle burns calories. Also, it’s worth knowing that in order to increase muscle we need to take part in strength training at least twice a week, trust me, we need to hold onto it! If you restrict yourself to get skinny there is over a 90% chance you will gain the weight back on and maybe even more. How many years have you been dieting? How long is it taking you to get your ‘goal’ weight? Is it working? Whether you have been there and come back or whether you are still struggling to get to that goal, the end result is most probably the same. I am sure you will agree that dieting for many years without the result of being skinny doesn’t make you happy. Right? Constant dieting without the long term required results can lead us to severe disappointment, unhappiness, self hate, self blame, feelings of failure, depression, anxiety, loss of libido, loss of confidence, relationship problems (with food and loved ones), lack of energy, anger, frustration, misery.
HAPPY. The word speaks for itself. We become so obsessed about being skinny we often actually forget about wonderful aspects of life, the things that actually make us smile, laugh and enjoy…and it’s much more simple than you think. When I stopped the insanity of dieting it changed my life completely. It didn’t happen overnight, it took time but I enjoyed the journey far more than any diet. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just give up on myself, in fact quite the opposite. I found I had so much more time for everything else in my life.
How to find balance.
I always understood that there was a choice of 3 things in life. Dieting to get skinny, not dieting and getting fat and the 3rd was to become one of those kind of ‘paleo’ or super health conscience people who only ever ate organic rabbit food mixed with, um, no milk or dairy (you don’t need to cut anything from your diet unless you have a food intolerance or allergy) It doesn’t have to be this way, in fact, in my opinion life isn’t like this. We must find balance. Balance is the key to life. It is the key to happiness. It is the key to everything.
1. Grab yourself a notebook and journal. It is the most powerful tool to get you happy.
2. Stop dieting, counting and totting up calories.
3. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.
4. Think 80/20.
5. Find enjoyable activities that involve movement (Of course my Body Exchange classes come under this heading! I couldn’t write a blog without a little marketing now, could I?).
If you would like to get happy using the above 5 things as the backbone of your life then congratulations, read on.
You will be happy….and so will I!
When I started to use a journal a number of things happened. I had a much better view of my food intake, I started to see the good things I was eating that gave my body what it needed. I could also see the foods I was eating that weren’t actually doing my body any good and needed to be limited. The other thing I found was that when I started to be honest with myself I gained a lot of self respect and confidence in my food choices. The biggest thing though, was that I really didn’t want to see only bad things on my food list!
All you need to do is simply write down everything you eat, then beside each food (and drink) a ‘Y’ for yes and ‘N’ for no in bold letters (Was this good for me or not?). You will soon get to see how often you are being good to yourself. Don’t try to do it all overnight, as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day! As dieters we tend to use ‘all or nothing thinking’ (ALL the time or not AT ALL!). We need to work on that. Balance is the opposite of all or nothing thinking. Do not ever write calories in your journal. I am not saying we shouldn’t be aware of them (we’ll talk about that later) but forget those little numbers when it comes to journalling. Your journal is your little friend and it doesn’t do counting, that’s what a calculator is for and we don’t need to be a mathematician to find balance in our life. Enjoy your new anti-diet. The freedom you will feel is immense. You may panic at first but soon you’ll get the hang of it and this will lead you to true anti-diet happiness if you follow the other 4 rules of balance too.
I know, sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Here comes the balance word again. Stop dieting does not mean give up on yourself. In fact, quite the opposite. We are now in the anti-diet world of thinking. We need to swap that for ‘be kind to yourself” world of thinking. Many of us dieters are very knowledgeable and know much about what’s healthy and what’s not, we need to put that into practise. If you feel you need more help on this buy yourself some books on healthy eating. Buy regular recipe books instead of diet ones. Find out what foods you love that have some healthy and nutrient rich ingredients. If you have never really enjoyed cooking for yourself and your family it may be worth joining a cooking class. Your family will thank you for it and so will you!
Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full
Learn to understand the signs your body makes. If you have been dieting for some time chances are this basic process has probably lost it’s way. We all have it, we are all capable of understanding our bodies own cues, for some of us it just takes a little practise. I find this really tough! If you have to wonder if you are hungry then you are not! If you ‘can’t tell’ then you are not hungry! Your body will tell you if it has gone too long without food. It’s a feeling in your tummy, not in your mouth. Spend a few seconds getting in tune with how you feel every time you reach for food, you will get to know the difference between eating for hunger and eating for other reasons (we will talk later about those). If this is something you struggle with perhaps try putting it in your journal next to the food you ate on a scale of 1-10. Simply write the number next to your Y or N, 1 being not hungry at all and 10 being extremely hungry. When you start following your body’s own cue’s to hunger, something else happens. We gain a huge level of self respect at having read and followed our body’s own cue’s. It’s a win win. Stopping ourselves from finishing what’s on the plate when we are full is quite a task too. I know! The best way to know when you are full is to ask yourself if you are still hungry as you go. When the answer is no, stop. I find dishing up only half my dinner helps. I can go back for more if I wish (and if I don’t, I have some to save for another meal!). Eat slowly and be in tune with your body. Put a 2nd number in your journal to indicate how satisfied you were at the end if your meal.
Here is a quick journal example:
Ham and cucumber sandwich on whole grain bread Y 7 6. So I considered this a healthy food and was relatively hungry (7). I wasn’t completely stuffed but felt comfortably full afterwards (6).
Balance is the key to happiness. Think healthy 80% of the time and 20% of the time blow caution to the wind and enjoy life. If you can follow this mantra in your head then go ahead, fabulous. If you are still in need of a little control then use your notes in your journal. Simply count up how many ‘Y’ and ‘N’s’ you have written in your journal. You should have roughly 8 Y’s to 2 N’s. If you have too many N’s it means you have been enjoying yourself, give yourself a pat on the back and tell yourself to try and reduce the N’s over the following days. If you have all Y’s then, again, a pat on the back is due, then have yourself an enjoyable day! Note these are rough estimates, following the signs your body makes is far more important than counting ANYTHING.
During my time as a fitness instructor I heard many excuses for not exercising.
Find something you do enjoy and put all that energy you used to use on dieting into moving. Do some research and find out what will benefit you the most for you and your body. (Join my Body Exchange program, we have so much fun. oops, a little advertizing slipped in again) Start slowly. It should be a little challenging 3 or 4 days a week but does not have to be hard.
If you went along to your doctor with a bad back and after examination he gave you a prescription for physiotherapy, would you leave your GP saying I don’t have time for that? No, of course not, because you need your back to be mended right? Well think of activity in the same way. It is providing your body with the prescription it needs to stay fit and healthy. This is not about skinny you any more, these are not another set of diet rules, this is healthy you. The you that you will learn to love. You must give your body some love and this is how we do it.
How many times have you eaten something mindlessly and then said ‘I wish I hadn’t have eaten that’? Well that’s good thing about exercise, If you find some you enjoy I promise you that you will never come away after and say to yourself ‘I wish I hadn’t have done that’.
Move, move and move.
So there it is, 5 tips to Stop Dieting Start Living!
Please feel free to bombard me with your questions!