What is the diet mentality?
Even though you may not be consciously “on a diet,” our culture automatically feeds into the diet mentality. It’s the underlying ideas about things like” willpower,” the need to trick or ignore hunger cues, moral judgment of foods, or punishing yourself for things like “falling off course.”
Many of us experience diet mentality without even realizing it. This mindset blends in with the background of what’s normal in our culture. You may notice yourself doing things like weighing yourself each day and putting a lot of value into that number. Maybe you withhold food from yourself if you feel you “overindulged” at a previous meal. Or perhaps you make judgments about different foods such as vegetables being “good” and cupcakes being “bad.”
How the diet mentality holds us back
It’s not uncommon to want to pursue health. What we often get confused about is the message that weight = health. These are two very different things and the pursuit of weight change, rather than health, can often lead us to unhealthy places. Have you ever made changes to your “lifestyle” with the intention to lose weight, find that you aren’t losing the amount you expected, and turn those changes into more severe and rigid plans? Have you ever thrown out health changes to your lifestyle due to a lack of “results” in the form of weight loss?
Or perhaps you’ve chosen a diet plan that seems “healthy” but you just can’t seem to stick to it? Here’s the deal – any time you find yourself asked to ignore or manipulate your hunger cue, it’s a diet. Anytime you aren’t allowed to eat until you’re satisfied and choose a variety of food you enjoy and that fuel you, it’s a diet. These things eventually backfire. Sooner or later, you’re going to have what the diet industry calls a “loss of willpower.” Spoiler alert: it’s actually completely physiologically normal for these efforts to “backfire!”
But this is a false idea and the trap of the diet mentality.
You didn’t lose willpower. And you didn’t mess up. And you don’t need to punish yourself by working out harder the next day or having even less to eat.
The Cycle of Diet Mentality
When we have been limiting ourselves and trying not to respond to our hunger, we often end up eating more food at our next opportunity. This is a normal physiological response to not having had enough to eat. It is NOT a loss of willpower. When this repeatedly happens, over the lifetime of the diet (or many diets), many people start to experience things like obsession with food, low energy, and disordered eating habits. And even if it results in weight loss in the short term, studies show that in the long-term, 85%+ people regain weight that was lost and can actually end up weighing more than when they started the diet.
Weight, Diets and Motherhood
As moms, we are given a lot of messaging that getting your body back is something that’s attainable and desirable. Most workout and nutrition programs are marketed to moms in this way.
After having children our bodies have changed through pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood. On some level, many of us don’t recognize ourselves (physically and mentally) or our lives. Some find a sense of security and familiarity in dieting if that’s something that’s been used in the past; it’s what we know because of our culture of the diet mentality. We tend to believe if we want to feel better, we have to change the way our body looks and we’re constantly told in times of change in our lives that the way our bodies look matter – puberty, college, marriage, motherhood, menopause and even divorce! We CAN opt-out. Now, no judgment if that doesn’t feel like an option right now. Perhaps just consider this an invite to dip your toe in and consider an alternative.
The Healthier Option to Dieting
My goal is to provide a safe space for women who want an alternative to the dieting cycle. There is an alternative to choose whatever you want to do with your body and your health. It’s a false belief that the only option is the automatic desire and response of dieting.
Intuitive eating is something that can bring more peace to your own eating experience and your body image. It will also help you when feeding your family and fostering a healthy body image. This is why clients usually come to my practice; they have experienced a poor relationship with food, and they’re stuck in the diet mentality. They want something better for themselves and their families. Now that they have children of their own, their worst fear is for their children to grow up feeling the same way. While you don’t have full control over this, there is a lot you can do and it starts with you.
You can find peace with food. You can be in charge of your eating experience. You don’t have to live in a constant state of monitoring, limiting, counting, and restraint. This is such a big and powerful step in intuitive eating and a boost in confidence. If you want to learn more, check out my FREE Busy Mom’s Starter Guide to Making Peace With Food!