Why dieting won’t transform your life
I want you to think about the last time you went to the hairdressers; they’ve put the weird black cape around your shoulders and you’re staring into your own eyes under the harsh lighting.
You’re so excited about the new haircut/colour or whatever change you’ve requested. Fast forward some time and they unveil your new do. How do you feel? Often deflated?
The reason for this feeling is often we expect a new hairdo means a new person, a chance to start again. Even if that thought is subconscious so we don’t notice. And dieting can be the same. Diet starts Monday means from Monday you’ll be the person you think you need to be — newly organised, energised and #thatgirl (if you don’t know what that reference is, be glad. The TikTok trend took over a while ago full of 6 am workouts and green juices…).
But why won't dieting transform your life - even if it does somehow start to transform your body?
Eating is a mirror
First things first, your life is multifaceted and eating is just one part. And often it can be like holding up a mirror to your life. Are you binging at night because you restrict yourself all day? Or turn to food when stressed or emotional? I’ll let you in on the secret, food isn’t the issue here (gasp). It may be an indicator you’re overworked, not practising self-care or have a negative relationship with your body.
Action: Instead of a whole life overhaul look at some small things that you can change to improve your everyday. Notice areas of stress, tension or even focus on the good - what makes you feel good and is the highlight of your day. How can you make space for that, and more of it?
Not very intuitive
Another reason diet may not change your life is that by its nature dieting focuses on ignoring your internal cues. It’s someone else telling you what to eat, when and in what quantities. Not very intuitive, and if you know me you know intuition is a muscle we’re constantly working on. When we ignore our internal cues for a long time they might start to become muted. You might not know when you’re hungry, full, stressed, not feeling quite right or even when you’re burnt out.
The power of intuitive eating lies in coming back to your body and listening to it. And there’s a lot of power in that; knowing you’re doing what’s best for your body gives you strength to know you can transform your life — in the way, that’s best for you.
Action: Whether it be a journal, post-it note, notes app on your phone etc. start to notice sensations in your body. Maybe you take a few breaths before eating and make an effort to notice fullness or the need to fuel a little more.
Dieting has a deadline
Eight-week, 12-week diets, maybe even three months. Apart from marketing as a ‘lifestyle change’ it is often a set period of time. And this makes us push for that time period, maybe past the point that it is enjoyable and into the point it feels like a punishment. But what happens at the end of the diet? They’re not made to be sustainable. And life creeps in, whether it’s a social dinner or a one-day break from the diet that becomes two... And three… etc. Now the diet is over, and life is the same - or worse as often it’s made to look like failing a diet makes you a failure.
Action: Try and zoom out and see the bigger picture, maybe set some long-term goals you can break down into smaller steps. If you’ve done the actions above then use them to give you an insight into little things you want to add to your day. See how these build.
Change is little and often, not extremes
Waking up and deciding to change your life is extremely admirable but as humans, we’re not great at doing that consistently. Momentum doesn’t last, habits do. Little things like incorporating some morning mindfulness, using a hunger and fullness scale before and after mealtimes, or even taking one more rest day a week and seeing how that feels will build into a routine.
Action: Maybe try one change a week, set the intention and notice after a couple of days if these feel good or not. If it doesn’t then discard it - focus on letting go of what doesn’t serve you. You don’t need to stretch to 21 days or however long a habit takes to last if it’s actively hindering you. If it is something hard like meditating daily and it’s this tough aspect that you’re struggling with that’s different and might require some pushing through.
I hope this has helped clear up a little bit of that initial question. What will transform your life - you. But in the direction you wish to, and when you’re in tune with how you want to transform it. Not how you think you ‘should’.
And if you need any form of support in that transformation I’m here to help you focus on intuitive eating and movement, and finding a practice that nourishes you and your life.