Are All Diets bad? - How “Dieting” Set me up for Binge Eating Later in Life

I started “dieting” and heavily exercising to control my weight when I was 11 years old.  A few years before that point, I saw my mother and her friends rave and preach about the Atkins diet.  “Wow, you look sooo great!” they’d all say.

So to my 11 year old mind, dieting was how you got thin and if you were thin, people like you.  Simple enough! For my first round of this, I didn’t pick an official diet book but I made sure I slowed down my eating to a snail’s pace and that I had tiny portions on my plate.  If I slowed down enough that my family didn’t notice, I would end my meal at the same time as they did and no one would comment on how little I ate. I also started working out 2-3 hours a day so that anything I did eat I’d burn off easily.  It affected my sleep and my mood but I was proud of myself for being "so disciplined.”

Then as they say, with every restriction is an equal and opposite binge.  A year after, a part of me realized food was pretty damn tasty again, and I began to gain weight pretty heavily.

So next, I read “Eat to Live” by Joel Furhman, a mostly plant-based diet that if you were able to follow promised to get my weight down to about 95 lbs.  “Wow, how proud I’d be of myself if I could get down to that weight” I’d say. Except at 13, I wasn’t in charge of the grocery shopping nor did I cook much.  My dad was concerned when I turned down a pretty healthy Filipino nilaga (beef stew) to just eat raw lettuce for dinner... yeah, that lasted about 3 days.  The program did allow wheat bread though - and I found myself compensating for my restriction by eating almost a full loaf of bread each day. I actually GAINED weight trying to follow the plan and it wasn’t until I just “gave up” that I heard comments I had actually lost weight.  Really???

The funny thing is I repeated this pattern several times - with calorie counting, excessive running and exercise, intermittent fasting, etc, etc.  Time and time again I’d get excited about my new plan and succeed for a few days only to dive head first into a bowl of cheetos that night while I was beating myself up for screwing up yet another time.

Back then if you’d ask me, I’d blame it on lack of willpower - that I was lazy and incapable.

A few years ago, I had joined the anti-diet train.  “It’s not my fault!!! All diets are all bad - RESIST! RESIST RESIST!”

Nowadays, I realize it was neither - it was my “consciousness,” my set of beliefs and perspectives at the time that set me up to fail over and over again.  You know the “dieting consciousness” - it’s the "all or nothing approach."  It’s the thought: “I follow this perfectly or I don’t follow this at all.” It’s restricting then binging.  It’s telling yourself that every time to “fall off”, you’re broken, wrong, lazy, and incapable.

What I’ve found in my experience in losing weight sustainably and in coaching men and women in this space for the past 3 years is that it’s our consciousness that really determines our success.  Diets aren't "bad" in themselves.  Choosing a diet is just choosing the tool/strategy to solve a problem. The problem is that we often choose the wrong tool for the problem we want solved.  Choose the wrong tool and it’s hard and miserable. Choose the right tool and it’s effortless. It’s like trying to hammer a nail in with a screwdriver - you’re going to have to work REALLY hard to do that.  Then it's even worse if you blame yourself for your laziness, weakness, incapability to hammer the nail in....  But if you used an actually hammer, just a few easy taps and the nail is completely in.

So instead of trying to overhaul your life completely with this next diet plan, here is what I recommend if you are SICK and TIRED of this dieting-binging cycle:

  1. Instead of following a new diet plan right away, start with awareness:  This can be done by journaling on your current eating habits.  Get a journal and write down: “When,” “What?,” and “Why?” you ate.  You may find you will naturally start to make changes just based on your awareness.

  2. Some people are hares, some people are tortoises with changes.  If the “cold-turkey” approach hasn’t worked for you, try taking it one step at a time: Based on your food journal, make incremental changes.  This could be as simple as swapping “empty calorie” foods with “whole foods” each week.  Slow may not seem sexy but consistency is what gets results.  Make your new belief that "Consistency is new sexy."

  3. Think inside-out, rather than outside-in. Rather than relinquish your full power to a “diet guru, doctor, etc., create your own diet - The best diet is the one that aligns with your goals, values, and life. The best diet is the one that after some initial effort, you can easily stick to. Think of meal plans and diet books as inspiration for your choices. Diet books can be great for finding new recipes and tools to incorporate your life. But remember, whatever strategy you pick should FIT you, not you FIT the strategy. You are in power here. Never give over your power to anyone else - whether that be a diet book, a lover, a coach, or friend. You always have a choice.

  4. Give yourself credit & challenge the "inner perfectionist" - If you sense you are beating yourself up, this is the time to show yourself the most compassion. Give your credit for even the tiniest wins and use each "slip up" as an opportunity to learn and recommit.

  5. Get support and accountability - Sustainable weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s so common to get excited and do well in the beginning. But when things get tough and your commitment feels low, it’s very easy to fall back into default patterns. Get some support to help you stay accountable and troubleshoot any problems that you come across with along the way. After all, you are changing your lifestyle! That is not an easy task at first!

    Looking back, one of the biggest pieces of advice I would have given my younger self would be to get some support. We need to challenge the belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Instead, it is an act of courage. It's saying, "I'm willing to be brave and vulnerable to ask for the help I deserve. I deserve a healthy and happy body and life."

In my coaching practice, I help my clients with all of the above - building awareness, picking the strategy that works for them, and getting the support and accountability they need to be unstoppable.  If I can be of service to you, please let me know! I am always happy to offer a free “Jumpstart to Food Freedom consult” to help you get clear on your goals and get momentum to start moving forward. Feel free to schedule with me here if that aligns with you:

Posted on May 1, 2018 .