Behind each diet, there are always hidden myths and truths. And this is the reason why there is so much literacy around diets.
When I was in my twenties, I remember that the most rational way to lose weight was to follow one of the negative caloric diets, and the best one was the Weight Watchers diet. The most extreme diets were the pineapple diet, the banana and milk diet, the rice and yoghurt diet, the cabbage soup diet, the lemon diet etc. Then, much later, the low carb diet was renamed, with some variation, as the “Atkins” diet. Today, we have the “Keto” diet. We also find a lot of information about the “caveman diet” (!), the “paleo” diet -travelling us thousands of years behind just to lose a few kilos- … or even the ancestral and the non-gluten diet (we say no to gluten, to cooking at high temperatures and to diary -not even yoghurt …). We also have the raw or plant-based foodists and, of course, vegans, the 3-hour, the 6-hour diet and the list goes on.
At this point, I have a confession to make … I tried (and hated) them nearly all, with all their variants. First days or weeks, I would try to convince myself that I was born again, that I didn’t feel hunger at all, and I had the illusion that my mood was at its best. Parallelly to the strict respect of the diet I had chosen to follow that period, I would also usually apply a very exhaustive bodywork. Obviously, I lost weight quickly, and I could fit back in all my trousers. Moreover, if this starvation lasted more than a month, I even reached my “ideal” weight…, which, by the way, at the “end” of each diet, went down. And what a surprise! As soon as I started to eat again more or less normally and I was back to being an ordinary human being, the scale immediately began to tease me … +1, +2, +3 and here we were again starting the same pattern! My frame of mind? … better not to speak about it … it was shallow. I was literally burning myself out. This was my vicious circle of auto-punishment.
I am pretty sure that you kind of identify with this pattern. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have read this narration so far! So please continue reading, and I hope you will get inspired towards a different relationship with food and a healthier lifestyle.
The good news for me is that, thankfully, I have entirely gotten rid of the diet and scale nightmare in the last few years. Since then, I have been steady in my weight and feel good in my body. How did that happen, and which was the eliciting factor that pulled me out of this repetitive self-destructive behaviour? It is probably a relative maturity that rose throughout the years and the genuine need to feel good and aligned with myself. What I can say for sure is that the old pattern drove me to a total lack of self-confidence and belief and to a nearly continuous sensation of lack of personal harmony and an omnipresent annoying interior voice resonating very loud.
When I was finally relieved from this obsession with diets, kilos and scale and that ultimately my food got associated with a specific lifestyle I chose to have, then, immediately, my relationship with food improved enormously. At the same time, I became more self-confident, I trusted myself and my strengths while also living space for my weaknesses. Together with better physical health, my spiritual and mental health were overall boosted, and I generally felt more balanced. Body and soul are connected to create our whole as humans and an overall sense of well-being that makes us feel healthy and happy.
All this is supported and well documented by science also. Indeed, according to Grant Pignatiello, PhD, clinical researcher & Doctor of Philosophy at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, it is estimated that individuals have a limited capacity to regulate and control their behaviours and acts of decision making (“Decision Fatigue: A conceptual analysis”, Journal of Health Psychology). According to the “decision fatigue” phenomenon, as conceptualized, each of us possesses a restricted willpower reserve. Some unbalances are generated when we often ask ourselves self-restraint and self-control, and internal conflicts result in potential impulsive and irrational behaviours and discrepancies. When experiencing “decision fatigue”, we make passive decisions because we can’t just bring ourselves to make a choice. This syndrome may also explain what happens when we impose restrictive diets … In this respect, a study at Case Western Reserve University found that individuals who had to finish unsolvable puzzles struggled much more when set on eating radishes rather than chocolate. On the contrary, individuals with the freedom to have as much chocolate as they wanted didn’t let down the efforts to resolve the puzzle!
Likewise, continuous dieting and self-limitation regarding food intake bring the opposite results. And now, what?
Allow me to share with you my personal perspective and the set of five rules I apply in my daily life that keeps me in rather good shape:
- I never deprive myself or feel guilty when I eat something “wrong”. Nevertheless, I do try to understand what generated this need. For instance: “I eat chocolate because it gives me a sense of warmth that I need today”. I see the wood for the trees.
- I follow “nutrition tips” instead of diets. These tips have become habits that are now part of my life’s choices (drinking a lot of water, limiting myself on sugar and junk food intake, having breakfast, opting for small and frequent meals, having high-fibre foods, restricting myself on cheese, diversifying the intake of good proteins, eating great amounts of fibres, avoiding “bad” food combinations etc).
- I enjoy getting off the table with the feeling of just being full or, better said, with the feeling that I could eat a bit more. I don’t enjoy trying everything that is served in front of me and feeling stuffed and consequently bad-tempered. I listen to my body and check in with my stomach before, during, and after meals, and I have a constructive dialogue with it!
- I never wait to be starving, and if it occasionally happens, I have 2 glasses of water before the meal.
- I go out in nature often, and I include variety in my exercise. I often opt for yoga.
- I respect my sleep, my need for resting and pausing.
To sum up, with this life choice and mindset, I maintain my desired weight and I’m free from the past’s restrictive diets. The most important is that this mindset helps to have positive psychology with an impact not only on myself but also on the people around me. I hope to have helped you!