Beware the ‘This Is Not A Diet’ Diet

The diet industry has rebranded itself.

Now that diets have a bad reputation and there is lots of talk about how diets don’t work, the diet industry has rebranded itself. Diet and fitness gurus are still trying to sell us the next new diet, the one that really works, but they are calling it by another name. You will hear them claim, “This is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” or “This is not a diet, it’s a way of life.” Beware!

If the ‘lifestyle’ tells you what to eat and what not to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat, beware! This is a diet dressed up to look like something else, but under the veneer and the sales pitch, it is still a diet. If it is something you go on and off, it is a diet. If you plan to lose weight doing something you will stop doing once you reach your ‘goal weight’ then it’s a diet. Beware!

One of the danger of the ‘non-diet’ is that when you go off of it, and you will go off of it no matter how determined you are on day one, you will be caught up in the backlash created by deprivation and control. Isaac Newton taught us for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Dieting is no exception. Think of it this way, dieting is the action. Bingeing is the reaction. A diet by any other name is still a diet and you will not escape the laws of physics.

The allure of the forbidden is magnetic.

It’s human nature to want things more when we are told we can’t have them. We fixate on the very things we are not ‘allowed’ to have. This sets us up for the internal struggle between wanting and resisting. We try to follow the rules, but at some point, we are too stressed, too hungry, too angry, too… well it could be almost anything, couldn’t it? And then we are overtaken by our urges and impulses. We bust out of the diet jail. We rebel against being told what to do. We fight back against being controlled. Then the bingeing begins. Action – Reaction. Diet – Binge. And the fury and power of the reaction will match the level of control you clamped on yourself.

Going on some ‘plan’ you will go off when you get to some magical number on the scale doesn’t teach you anything about how to live in harmony with yourself in this food and weight obsessed culture. It doesn’t help you understand what is generating your compulsion to eat or restrict. It doesn’t help you own the parts of yourself and your past you have denied or split off from conscious memory. It doesn’t help you learn how to tune into your feelings, and to respect the what your feelings teach you about your needs, boundaries, limits, passions and longings.

Overeating and restricting are distractions. You need to become curious about what you are distracting yourself from and why. Thoughts of food keep you from thinking about other things. A full belly mutes your awareness of the feelings happening in your body. Without this information you are at a real disadvantage in knowing how to take care of yourself. How will you know what you need if you can’t feel the messages your body is sending you? How will you know you are in danger if you have muted your intuition or trained yourself to override the warnings your body and psyche are sending you? Dieting is a distraction. Dieting doesn’t teach you how to tune-in to your needs and longings. It doesn’t teach you how to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger. And it doesn’t teach you how to eat in harmony with your body. There’s nothing about dieting that prepares you for how to live without a diet! 98% of those who lose weight on a diet end up back at their original weight, or heavier. Those are not very good odds! If you focus on dieting and sticking to the rules someone else has set, you will find yourself in an endless loop. After all your effort you will end up right where you began, only more discouraged, frustrated and hopeless. There is no diet in the world that can heal your relationship with food, because your weight and what you eat are not the problem, they are the clues and signs you need to follow to discover out what is really at the root of this rupture in your connection to your Self.

Tired of struggling with food and fat?

If you are struggling with overeating, restricting and obsessing about food and weight healing your relationship with food and your body begins with reclaiming the parts of yourself you have denied or suppressed.  This reintegration takes time. It is a journey into your past. You will need to look at family dynamics, past relationships, what you were taught overtly and by implication, about feelings. Were you ridiculed or punished when you cried. Were you punished when you stood up for yourself? Was it safe for you to express your needs and set boundaries? Was there anyone in your life it was safe to confide in? Who comforted you when you were hurt? Were you made the caretaker of others and taught your needs were not important?

These are just some of the questions you will need to explore on your journey toward healing your eating disorder. This is not a quick fix, but you will begin to feel better and better each time you honor your feelings and needs. This journey takes time, but it is time well spent. Instead of grabbing food to distract yourself from uncomfortable feelings, you will learn to tune in and respect your feelings. You will get to know and respect yourself and your body in new ways. The goal of treatment is to bring harmony into your life. No more fighting your impulses. No more fighting your body. No more hiding your feelings, needs and boundaries. No more pleasing others at your own expense. Healing your disordered eating is not primarily about food, so focusing on food will not get you out of the loop. Your answers will come from paying attention to yourself, not from some one-size-fits-all cookie cutter program.

You have intrinsic value.

Turning to food in an attempt to take care of yourself is what you do when there is no one you trust, no one safe to turn to. Food is a substitute for real love and understanding. It is no one’s first choice. Your compulsive eating and obsession with food and weight are a coded message from your true self that something is wrong. Your ‘symptoms’ are arrows pointing to your need to pay better attention to yourself. The healing path is primarily your journey to reconnect with and honor yourself, to know and own your story, to discover what pushed you to disconnect from yourself in the first place. You will learn to own your right to feel what you feel and need what you need.

The journey toward healing your disordered eating is the journey toward wholeness, toward reintegrating the parts of yourself you rejected long ago. Your symptoms are your guide posts, your trail markers, directing you to the secrets you’ve kept from yourself. Don’t judge the signs. Try not to judge yourself. Judgement shuts down curiosity and inquiry, and inflames shame. You will not be perfect along this path. Perfection is not the goal. Be gentle with yourself as you discover what your compulsion is trying to teach you. On your journey you will encounter challenges and detours, but continue on. Find a reliable guide and be patient with yourself.

The journey towards wholeness is a journey worth taking.