I work in an industry that is primarily driven by society’s obsession with having ultra lean hard bodies. I hear the following all the time from clients, friends, family, and anyone I talk to that knows I work as a fitness coach: “I suck at sticking to my diet. I just can’t do it.”
They tell me they went vegan for a week, and then ate nothing but Big Macs for two weeks straight after that. They did the “caveman diet” and then wanted nothing but bread for months. It’s sadly a common story shared by many people. They deprive themselves of nourishment and calories and then the pendulum swings the other way to compensate for the extreme restriction. It’s a survival mechanism.
The problem isn’t that you suck at sticking to your diet. Your body is really good at surviving. The real problem is that your diet sucks.
A “diet” in the conventional and generally socially accepted definition is food restriction for the sake of weight or fat loss. In the most blunt terms (I’m not one for subtlety,) it’s voluntary starvation.
Dieting and starvation have well-known and researched negative health effects, not limited but including the most extreme: DEATH.
A list of other side effects include but are not limited to:
- Malnourishment (energy, vitamin, mineral deficiencies)
- Loss of bone density
- Amennorhea (loss of menstruation)
- Low libido
- Pre-occupation with food
- Increased health risks over time with prolonged/recurring bouts of deprivation
Knowing all of this, it’s pretty obvious as to why you would have such a hard time sticking to a conventional diet. Our bodies have been evolving throughout history in order to survive hardship, and each time we endure more hardship via deprivation our bodies get even better at protecting themselves. The more you deprive your body of nourishment the more you will experience intense cravings, hunger, and preoccupation with food. Your body and brain will have the sole goal of making sure you eat and keeping you alive – and that’s okay.
Instead of trying to force ourselves into starvation and deprivation we should be focusing on what makes us feel well by listening to our bodies.
The more you can listen and obey your body’s signals the better off you will be. The best approach to nutrition that you can adhere to for long term health and wellness is by listening to what your body needs. This is called Intuitive Eating. This means listening to your body when you’re hungry, listening to it when it’s satisfied, listening to it to see what it wants and needs, listening to it to see what makes it feel best. Depending on where someone is at in their journey with eating intuitively their food intake may vary a lot, but most people in the long-term end up naturally eating in a way that is varied, moderate, and is congruent with maintaining good health while enjoying all foods without restriction.
It really is that straight-forward, and with patience and practice you can break up with dieting and get back to living a full and vivacious life without starving yourself. For more information look here.
If you would like more information on re-shaping your relationship with food and/or with your body, I highly encourage you to read the following books:
- Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole
- Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon
- Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe