Most therapists will know nowadays – the mention of DIETS sends a shiver down the spine of anyone trying to lose weight. Some marketers insist that it’s because it has the word ‘DIE‘ within it. Maybe? But what’s more likely it is that the mere notion of a diet creates an image of abstinence racing through our minds. Going without this, going without that….. ‘Going without‘.
When introduced in the context of nutrition, ‘going without’ implies starvation. The mind thinks starvation, the body then begins its self-preservation routine of ‘storage’ to help you survive for as long as humanly possible… a bit like a hibernation.
So diets invariably make the body think that the person is starving, and the longer they pursue the diet, the more they end up bingeing. The person’s weight may drop satisfactorily but it is not in conjunction with the optimum mindset for successful weight maintenance.
Once the person hits their perceived ‘ideal’ weight, they often give up the diets and their body instantly realises that it’s no longer going without, it begins to fight back and sees the person return to their old pattern of overeating… and here we have the ‘YO YO’ effect.
We’ve all heard tell the stories that the majority of people lose weight temporarily and then they immediately put it back on – sometimes even more than they had before. I’ve encountered statistics showing that figure to be well over 70%.
The diet industry is as colossal as ever, even though they must know the truth, they still pump out their latest money-making schemes. So, why do people still keep starting diets?
Role-models and the Media
Diets are still promoted beyond belief. I bet off the top of your head you can name at least 3 different diets, some of you may be able to name many. And often at the head of a diet is some celebrity who is being paid millions of dollars to endorse the campaign.
The rich and famous have often been role models because people want to be successful like them; they want to copy their achievements or sometimes just want their own 15 minutes of stardom.
These overweight celebrities (some of whom nowadays only have to post one viral movie on the internet before they’re considered famous) are offered this money, to have someone representative from a particular diet scheme follow them around for months, meticulously directing their nutrition and exercise and sometimes even mindset. This makes the celebrity miraculously ‘drop the weight’ in a matter of weeks (they always mention weeks because ‘just 8 weeks’ sounds shorter than ‘2 whole months’) and able to talk about their painful story of being overweight and all the pain attached to the situation.
Who wouldn’t be able to lose weight if you had a dedicated team monitoring every part of your daily life and meticulously sorting your food for you? Let’s not go into the diet clubs who have (very well paid) doctors endorse their products shall we.
I have often though that diet clubs that only address nutrition, although meaning well, simply aren’t in the weight loss industry. The bonus of a weight loss club for many is simply that it gathers together like-minded dieters who can support each other on their journey towards success.
The participants lose weight, they plateau and then start to gain weight again as their body adjusts to starvation mode and creates binge eating. This is when the diet industry peddles their ‘chemically enhanced nutrition’ products…. you know the ‘wonder-foods’… the miracle weight loss products.
Those participants who are now in a fragile state, blaming themselves for their fall from weight loss fall for the snake oil approach and become artificial food junkies.
But let’s just say that a particular struggling dieter chooses to go on with their diet, in the face of pending failure. They’re resilient – I’ll give them that – but … why?
Is it because they feel guilty, do they feel guilty for allowing their weight to reach the extent that it has? Do they think the yo-yo-ing weight is their fault and so they need to continue to punish and restrict themselves in the name of progress?
Is guilt what started them dieting in the first place? Maybe, so how do they feel on top of that initial guilt, when their diet begins to fail too? They are then hit with extra emotional pressure and begin to spiral downwards towards anxiety and depression.
All because they simply didn’t understand that a few swift changes to their thoughts, their beliefs, their MINDSET… can make such profound changes to their physicality.
Food should be enjoyed alongside the benefit of it helping us to survive, but for whatever reason… an imbalance of the person’s personal needs… emotional pressure… internal thoughts… external influences… they’re struggling.
But instead it’s seen as the enemy and systematically eliminated from our nutrition in order to lose weight.
So what happens inside your body?
Okay, in simple terms, you restrict your food intake. Your mind is already thinking starvation; this sends the signal to your body to prepare for the worst, to start storing up fat reserves for the hibernation.
So the starvation commences and you begin to lose weight. Reports often say that the wrong kind of weight drops off first, whether you’re losing weight through water-loss and dehydration or your body is losing muscle mass and not fat itself studies are still arguing over the process – either way your metabolism slows down.
So when your weight loss begins to slow down, you feel guilty, your brain reaches for ‘naughty’ food to make you feel better cakes, buns, sweets etc. and the fat from these high sugared foods hits a slow metabolism and simply doesn’t process in the way it should. Fat storage develops again.
This makes the dieter worry even more; they begin to go off track or give up on that particular diet and try another one. They reinforce that food is the enemy. They begin to worry about every bit of food they eat, they become stressed and anxious. They obsess over food; it’s always on their minds.
This is where it all begins; this is where the solution lies. Not starvation, not magic pills… but a relaxed, enjoyable mindset in which food can be enjoyed and then forgotten about until you feel hungry once again. But how is that possible?
It’s possible by simply allowing yourself to become more in tune with your body’s internal signals at the same time as learning to calm your mind from disturbing emotional baggage and learning to love yourself, raise your self-esteem and let go of the guilt attachments.
Let’s compare. One side – diets – has you restricting food, counting calories, feeling bad, monitoring weight, bingeing, failing, getting fatter, feeling worse, turning to chemicals or giving up. The other side – mindset – promotes self-love, getting back in touch with true body signals, enjoying food and feeling great – oh and did I mention while still losing weight?
Losing weight a more positive mindset means that you CAN get hungry, you can respond by eating properly and consciously and stopping when you’re no longer hungry.
You’ll begin to realise that your pathway to a slimmer, healthier body can be an enjoyable journey that not only releases you from your food prison, it opens up your whole life to new adventures by releasing all the worry about food.
When starting a weight management journey – look to your mindset first.
Mindset coaching and other modalities which help spring-clean the negatives away and supercharge your motivation are nowadays being proven to be the best solutions for maintaining a healthy mind and body.
Sensible nutrition, some form of exercise every day and a positive mindset are the ultimate combination to success.