Do you feel like you are constantly ‘on’ (of ‘off’) a diet? Do you feel like it is a never-ending struggle to eat perfectly in order to achieve or maintain your ideal
weight? But does your ongoing dissatisfaction with your body linger on, despite all these efforts?
Well, perhaps your ‘perfect’ diet is to blame!
I recently had a client who was so committed to eating perfectly, she wouldn’t dream of polluting her body with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and on the surface you would think her diet was perfect. But she was struggling to see the results she wanted.
On the other hand, I had another client who was equally dedicated and committed, but who also gave herself some slack. She’d allow the occasional treat then simply move on and be extra good for a while to balance things out.
She lost 20lb in 6 weeks, despite it being the end of her university year, involving a few parties. She even lost another pound while enjoying her holiday the next week!
So, what’s going on?
Firstly, the ‘perfect’ client actually looks fantastic. But she has not always had that body and is still mentally and emotionally stuck in fear of regaining her previous, somewhat larger, physique. Her self-image is shockingly low and totally inaccurate! She is living in a state of fear and to her, ‘imperfect’ food is the enemy.
As in life, if you can’t be happy where you are now, you are unlikely to be happy when you reach whatever destination you are going to, unless you address the root of the problem. If you are like this client, you may get to your goal weight, celebrate momentarily, then immediately get right back to square one, dissatisfied with where you are at now, looking for a new goal. I’m sure you know of people who’ve decided that living in a different city or even country will make everything better – but we take our issues with us. It’s the issues that need resolution first.
The second client did not suffer from that lingering low self-esteem. She could have a cocktail or two at the weekend and it wouldn’t send her into a guilt-fuelled pit of self-hatred. She managed her nights out by not drinking too much and not having sugary drinks or mixers, made sure she had as much fun as possible and danced as much as possible, and didn’t succumb to temptations the next morning, instead squeezing a workout in. Her positive mindset made all the difference to her experience of life, her stress levels, and her results.
The other problem for the first client was that by focussing on ‘clean’ and ‘perfect’ foods, she often overlooked other aspects of her behaviour. She would make up for the fact that she couldn’t indulge in her favourite things by over-doing the so-called ‘good’ stuff.
Despite what many diet books insist, calories do count, and you can very easily overeat (especially as a woman), even when your diet is only ‘healthy’ foods. If you are hungry, and choices limited, the body and mind will find a way to satisfy!
On the other hand, you can be over vigilant on counting every calorie which can then send you into a rebellious mode, resulting in giant binges that are triggered by such excessive restriction and control.
If you stick to the nutritious, healthy foods we should all be focussing on, but also allow yourself the odd treat, you will still get great results, so long as the overall calorie level is right.
Rather than externally controlling either quality or quantity, why not make every calorie count? By being eating slowly and mindfully, enjoying every morsel, you’re less likely to overeat.
Another reason for being more forgiving: we actually benefit from occasional higher calorie days, as you boost the hormone leptin. Low levels of leptin, as seen in those who diet excessively, mean you are constantly hungry which makes sticking to your diet even harder. Your less restrictive meals or your odd indulgence is not only psychologically helpful, it is advantageous on a hormonal level too!
There is another hormone that is relevant here: cortisol. It’s the stress hormone, and who isn’t a little stressed these days? But unmanaged stress is one of the biggest blocking factors when it comes to fat loss. Some degree of ‘stress’ is necessary, but when our cortisol levels become chronically elevated, the body is unable to function optimally.
The first client is stressed about her body and her diet and stressed if she ‘breaks’ her perfect diet…. If she lightened up a little, enjoyed the odd indulgence and relaxed about it (without going overboard) then she would notice a significant difference in her overall wellbeing, as well as her results.
Over-restricting calories or types of foods leads to an ‘all or nothing’ mindset which is actually the enemy of long term results, as it can result in ‘blow outs’ or binges. Rather than being able to indulge sensibly, these ‘off-diet’ moments become a license to splurge on everything you’ve been missing.
If the first client does ever let herself go a little, she’s in fear that she’ll let herself go a lot, which will hinder her results (and ironically she will use this to prove her point that imperfect foods are the enemy!). By being more permissive all the time, the fear of totally overdoing it is lost, and you can begin to indulge sensibly.
Are you stuck in the neverending cycle of perfectionism and self-hatred? Are you chronically dissatisfied with your body? Are you suffering from ongoing low self-esteem and sabotaging self talk? If so, this will be blocking your progress as well as meaning that when you reach your goals you are likely to be no better off. So you must address these things now!
What can you do? Some mindful techniques such as meditation or yoga can help. Yoga is especially helpful as it enables you to see just how incredible your body truly is! You accept your body whilst also seeing that you want a healthy, slim body out of respect for your body and you want it to be as fit and healthy as possible! This helps you make positive choices all the time.
Also, try writing some positive affirmations. Write down the things you are grateful for: by celebrating what we have to be thankful for, we realise just how much there is to be thankful for. Write your goals positively too: you want to be healthy so you can enjoy life more and have more energy. When our mindset and our goals are positive, and we focus on things in a positive way, miracles can happen.
For a new way of thinking and behaving to become automatic takes time, which is why writing things down really helps. Use index cards and make sure they are to hand at all times. Whenever you ‘catch’ a self-sabotaging thought pop into your head, make sure you notice it, and then consciously replace it with one of your affirmations. Trust yourself to make the right choices, believe in yourself, and give yourself a little slack.
Diet-wise, make sure you are building in some flexibility and are not aiming to be perfect. This is certainly not an invitation not to take diet and nutrition seriously, but being a little less stressed and rigid about it all will help you get things into balance. You are eating healthy food out of self-respect, not out of self-hatred, and when there are occasions that invite you to make less-than-perfect choices, you can enjoy these indulgences too! In fact, the more you enjoy the treats the more they will be worth – and without the added guilt you are less likely to go into a binge spiral. You will enjoy every calorie even more, and find that compulsive negative eating patterns dissolve.
So, get writing those positive affirmations now! And take stock of your diet rules – what are you feeling like you are missing? Plan it in, and work around it, so your overall picture is one of health and happiness!
It really is possible to break the diet cycle. As the Buddist proverb goes: If we are facing the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking. If you feel like you are running round in diet circles then this is one thing you need to work on, right now.This entry was posted in Lifestyle, Nutrition. Bookmark the permalink.