Feb. 4, 2016, 8:52 p.m.
Dieting. It’s so seductive. It gives us hope, the promise of weight loss and happiness. But, by now you know it just doesn’t deliver. (If your personal experience isn’t enough to convince you, review my post during NEDIC’s 2015 International No Diet Day campaign: Diets. Don't. Work. Body Trust Does.)
So acknowledge that. Repeat after me: Diets. Don’t. Work. Bottom line: any plan that has you giving over control to someone else’s idea of what you should eat is doomed to fail.
Every time I think of diets, I think of some women I once saw standing near a buffet filled with food. One looked at the display and said, “Oh, I really shouldn’t.” Another agreed, saying, “It really is tempting, isn’t it?” They all looked on sadly.
Who wants to feel like they constantly have to fight their desires? Yet that’s exactly the message of diets: “Do what we tell you, not what you want.” “Control yourself.” Any system that emphasizes external processes to determine what to eat is fragile and ineffective and promotes discontent and periodic rebellion and bingeing.
[Do you hear that? Dieting promotes bingeing. Don’t blame yourself for that binge, blame the diet! And then show some compassion for yourself, for why you chose to diet in the first place. It’s so easy to get suckered into dieting’s false promises – and to think you’re making the healthy, righteous choice.]
The good news is: you don’t need a diet to achieve happiness, health, or whatever else underlies your quest for weight loss. Just go after them directly!
There’s more good news: you are innately capable of making satisfying food choices that improve your health and take you to a healthy weight, without following any diet. Trust yourself and you will find that you are far more effective at managing your weight than any diet can be.
Yet more good news: indulging your desires will actually help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Why? Because you already have everything you need inside you directing you to make good food choices. I know that’s a difficult concept to accept, given the years you’ve spent hearing how inadequate you are because of your weight and that you need to subscribe to this or that theory or diet plan to “save” you.
No one profits from internal trust, except of course the individual. Perhaps that’s why it’s such an unfamiliar concept.
Taking that leap of faith and trusting yourself is a scary process. But I assure you: with time and practice, you can not only learn how that inner voice works, but how to listen to it. [For some people, getting professional help may be an important part of that process.] When you learn how to listen, you can determine what you really want—whether it’s food or something else. And as you learn how to better take care of those non-physical needs, you become less interested in eating when you’re not hungry.
Research (conducted by myself and others) shows you can dump the diet mentality, and re-learn the skills to trust and appreciate your body. You can also develop other self-care behaviours to manage your emotions, which will help restore food to its rightful place as a source of nourishment and pleasure.
And here’s some more good news: participants in the research program that I conducted reported that as they let go of the prescriptive aspects of weight-loss regimens and learned to trust themselves, these lessons spilled over into other aspects of their lives. They made better health choices overall and felt more fulfilled throughout their lives.
For more information, check out the Health at Every Size® movement.
This blog post is a modified excerpt from my book, Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. You can also find more information in my more recent book, Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Leave Out, Get Wrong, or Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, co-authored by Lucy Aphramor.
Health At Every Size is a registered trademark of the Association for Size Diversity and Health and used with permission.
Dr. Linda Bacon is an internationally recognized authority on weight and health. She is currently a Health Professor at City College of San Francisco and an Associate Nutritionist at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Bacon’s advocacy for Health at Every Size has generated a large following on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, health and nutrition listservs and specialty blogs, and the international lecture circuit. She has published her work in top scientific journals as well as the highly acclaimed bestseller, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight. Her recently released book, Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, or Just Fail to Understand about Weight, is a crash course in what you need to know about bodies, weight and health.
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