I'm not really sure what happened that day. I just snapped out of it.
"Well, this can't be right.", I thought.
Earlier that day, I weighed myself. That was the central event of my morning ritual. Everything else came down to a sequence of events carefully planned to lead to optimal results. You probably know the drill:
I undressed, standing in my underwear and my underwear only. I sat down to pee, squeezing every drop of unnecessary water weight out of my body. I ignored my poor stomach roaring for breakfast, almost 12 hours after its last meal.
I had found what I believed to be the optimal scale corner in our bathroom. Experience had shown (?) that I consistently weighed less if the scale was placed to the right of the door (?). I never questioned the science of that or taken it to mean something about the accuracy of the number on the scale. Heck, I was just grateful I had figured that out.
I stepped on the scale and looked down. I stepped off and on again. Same number. I was troubled by what the scale had to say about me. Not even 15 minutes into my day, my mood was ruined.
I had a habit of beating myself for disappointing the scale, but some days I was harder on myself than usual. I couldn't understand what was happening and why. I had been so "good" the day before. Had it been that lasagna I ate on the weekend? Did I not run long enough? Did I forget to track any snacks?
"Well, this can't be right.", I thought.
Most days, I'd repeat this to myself as if to give myself permission to move on with my day. Some days I'd even go to the trouble of hopping from scale to scale, waiting for the calibration gods to bless me with good news. But the day I snapped out of dieting, I mostly meant that living like that couldn't be right.
It's not like I never looked back after that day. I didn't just stop dieting and weighing myself. I grew out of it. But, that afternoon, something made me realize how genuinely miserable I felt, and a precious little gem of self-love inside me opened up my curiosity about the rules that I had, up to that point, just taken for granted.
During the weeks that followed, I dove deep into the world of dieting, nutrition, and fitness. Today, I'm sharing with you some of the things I discovered and that helped me build the courage to jump off the diet wagon for good.
1. Diets Don't Work
That's the cold, hard truth. Research has shown that diets can indeed help people reach short-term weight loss goals, but they're not an effective strategy for sustained weight reduction. You've known that all along. That's what yo-yo dieting is all about after all. The problem is that you've been attributing this to flaws in your will or character, and not to the way diets are designed.
I'll just say it, okay? It's not you. It's the diet.
2. Your Body's Set Point
It turns out your body has its own ideas about how much you should weight. Because society educates women to comply with depersonalized diet rules, you've likely grown desensitized to your body's wants and needs. She's wise AF though, that body of yours. And she does her best to maintain a state of balance and optimal health for you.
That's where the set point theory comes in.
Your set point is the weight range your body "enjoys" the most. It's where she experiences a state of optimal health and equilibrium, so no wonder she tries her best to keep you there. When you diet, you're challenging your body's set point, meaning you're actively declaring war against her.
3. Dieting is Stressful. So Stressful.
There are many ways dieting increases your stress levels. The most obvious one is the mental stress that constant restriction adds to your life. Permanently controlling what and when you eat drains your mental and emotional energy -- not to mention the fear induced when you "indulge" in supposedly poor eating choices.
But wait! There's more:
As I mentioned, diets challenge your body's state of balance. This forces your body to push all sorts of hormone buttons to make sense of what's happening and prepare your body for whatever is coming. "It must be famine," she thinks). I'd be pretty stressed if I were in her place too.
In the long run, dieting results in chronically high levels of stress hormones. As you can imagine, that's not exactly what a state of balance and optimal health looks like.
4. Weight Loss Does Not Equal Health
Despite what your doctor might say, your weight is not a reliable metric of health. You're not automatically healthy and immune to disease once you're below a specific weight.
Research has shown that healthy habits have a significant impact on your health regardless of your size. This means you're able to pursue a healthier lifestyle no matter where you are on the BMI scale. When it comes to taking care of yourself, cultivating healthy and enjoyable habits is much more important than fighting the weight loss fight.
5. Disordered Eating Habits
I've met many women that feel entirely disoriented when they're not on a diet. I experienced the same during my own journey. For so many years I relied on external rules to tell me how to eat, so I had no idea how to work without them. Listening to my body's signals to figure out what to do with my life seemed daunting.
When you're disconnected from our body's wants and needs, you're inevitably walking down the disordered eating road. You no longer trust yourself to know what and how much you'd like to eat. That puts you in a state of constant internal struggle and resistance, which leads us to be "crazy" around food.
Over the long run and depending on your support network, this can and likely will lead to more severe forms of disordered eating.
But... What now then?
I know, I know. You're probably wondering what to do with all this information. Maybe you're not entirely sold on giving up weight loss, or you're unsure what a life without dieting even looks like. Many of us have been dieting for so long that we don't know what it means to eat in any other way.
First of all, I want you to know that it's okay. Your first step is to ponder on all I'm sharing with you today. With all myths busted and the science on the table, what are you gaining from your weight loss endeavor? More importantly, what are you missing out on considering the empty promises of dieting?
In the end, my big revelation, the one that got me peeking out the window and daring to leave the diet wagon, was realizing I deserved better than feeling miserable and obsessive all the time. You have to believe when I say this: So do you.
The next step is learning how to reconnect with your body, how to treat her with the same love and respect she's been trying to give you all along. The good news is that there are amazing tools to support you in this process, and an ever-growing community of women daring to not diet.
You can discover three things you can do instead of dieting below, or get familiar with the idea of Intuitive Eating here on the blog!
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