Do you struggle to lose weight? Do you feel like you never keep off weight that you lose? Do you notice that every time you lose weight, you regain even more? Do you feel defeated and discouraged because, in your eyes, your eating and your weight are out of control?
You are not alone.
Let’s be honest. We live in a culture that is obsessed with weight. You cannot turn on the TV or get online without seeing some sort of weight loss advertisement (and yes, I used to promote that same message—we will get to that later). You may get told over and over again by your healthcare providers that you need to lose weight in the name of health. It’s easy for these messages to make us feel shame or that our bodies need to be “fixed.”
When you decide you want to lose weight (or do it because your doctor said so), what do you usually do? I’m guessing it involves eating small portions of food, counting calories, cutting out the things you love to eat, eating things you don’t enjoy, dragging yourself to the gym, and following strict food rules telling you what, when, and how much to eat.
In the short term, these things may work. You see the pounds drop and your clothes becoming looser. People compliment you on your hard work and this makes you feel great. Over time, you find it harder and harder to control your food intake. Your hunger drive and cravings shoot through the roof. You have no energy to exercise. You feel out of control when you start giving in to those feelings. The weight comes back. Sometimes, you gain back even more weight than you lost. You feel discouraged. You feel out of control. You feel like a failure. After you get your “willpower” back, you try it all over again. The cycle repeats…
Does this sound familiar?
Let me reassure you for a second: YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE. You have not failed at dieting—DIETING HAS FAILED YOU.
If you don’t know me personally, let me tell you a little about my career background first. I have been a Registered Dietitian for about a decade now. My first job involved working at a weight loss clinic. I worked there for more than 5 years. I also helped people shed pounds via the World Wide Web. I share more about my background in Part 1. The weight loss cycle that I wrote about in the previous paragraph is what I have seen people go through over and over again. It can lead to discouragement, feeling like a failure, disordered eating, an unhealthy approach to exercise, and throwing healthy behaviors out the window when the desired weight loss does not happen.
We all have an internal weight regulation system. Our bodies try to protect us when it senses “famine”—calorie restrictions/ignoring hunger cues/dieting—by causing hormones to be released that increase our hunger, slow down our metabolism to conserve energy, and increase our cravings. We also have less energy to expend, making it harder to exercise and move our bodies around. It’s not a “willpower” problem when the hunger pangs and cravings strike while dieting—it’s biology. Think about when you get dehydrated or eat a lot of salt—your THIRST sensation increases. Your weight regulation system works in a similar way. Throughout history, this kept our species alive.
Research shows that most people regain weight lost through dieting. When we repeatedly put our bodies through this self imposed “famine,” it can also cause further weight gain over time. Dieting and restrictive eating trigger us to overeat. When we deprive our bodies of fuel when it is hungry, our bodies lose trust in us. If it doesn’t believe food will be there when we need it, it slows down our metabolism and/or increases our hunger and cravings in order to make up for the perceived lack (we can restore this trust between our mind and body through eating intuitively, which we will discuss in more detail later).
When you focus on weight loss and are unsuccessful, it is easy to feel defeated. It is easy to throw self care behaviors out the window when you feel like a failure. It’s detrimental to our mental health watching numbers go up and down on a scale and letting it affect our confidence.
If you are told to lose weight in the name of health, but focusing on weight loss can cause weight gain and more harm in the long run, isn’t it counterproductive? Based on the evidence, I’m just not convinced anymore that the pursuit of weight loss is the best approach to health and well being. Focusing on weight does not not usually lead to sustainable healthy behaviors.
You don’t have to try and manipulate your body size to become healthier. Your body isn’t something that needs to be “fixed,” even if the media or other people give you that message. While our natural weight regulation system may resist your attempts to lose weight through dieting, when honored, it can help you maintain a comfortable weight for your body. This weight range is what your body prefers to function at its best. It is the weight range your body naturally wants to maintain when we don’t interfere with restrictive behaviors.
The first step to freedom is realizing that DIETING is the problem, not your body size. Wouldn’t it be more freeing to take the focus off of our weight and just focus on taking care of ourselves? Can we give ourselves compassion and appreciate our body for what it does for us every day? This may not happen overnight. It may take some extensive mental reframing and internal reflection. My hope is that I can help you on this journey to freedom, or at least point you in the right direction.
You can get back in tune with your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues through intuitive eating. You can focus on SELF CARE and giving your body what it needs. You can feel in control again. You can create healthy habits and lose the restrictive food rules. You can eat what you love and feel satisfied after eating. You can enjoy nutritious food and movement because it makes your body feel good, not because of imposed rules. You can be in the driver’s seat. You can live FREE.
Over the course of time I will share tips to help you get back to your inborn intuitive way of eating. We will talk about how to eat mindfully and have more satisfaction after eating. We will discuss ways to cope with hard feelings/emotions that sometimes trigger us to overeat for comfort. We will discuss other important ways to be holistically healthy, including getting adequate rest and reducing the stress in our lives. I want to help you approach health in a holistic and joyful way. I want to help you end the restriction/overeating cycle that leads to feelings of deprivation and guilt.
Side note–coming from my background of helping people lose weight, needless to say, I’ve had a bit of a paradigm shift over the past year. To be perfectly honest, I cringe when I remember giving out calorie restricted meal plans. I know my motives were good, and I was acting out of what I knew at that time. I’ve had to offer myself compassion in knowing this and decided, from that point forward, I would no longer focus on weight loss as an outcome. I would rather focus on promoting a healthy relationship with food, a healthy relationship with movement, and a healthy relationship with your body through health promoting behaviors.
I have personally felt the damaging effects of restrictive behaviors, and I have experienced the journey to freedom. For this reason, this subject is near and dear to my heart. You can read about my journey in Part 1 of this post if you have not already.
I invite you to offer yourself compassion. From this point forward, do no more harm to yourself. Today is a new day. This way of thinking may be new to you and may even seem crazy, but let it sink in. Has dieting really been helpful to you? I am here to help you on your journey, or to just give you new things to think about. Stay tuned 🙂
Much Love, Dana MarieFollow me on social media: