I am always surprised when people don't realize they suffer from diet mentality.
While walking the dog yesterday, I bumped into my neighbor who is in her 70's. She was asking what I do for work lately and I told her I am coaching women to help them find peace with food and their bodies. She told me that she was going to sign up for a local weight loss program and that she hadn't gotten around to it yet. (I guess she thought that peace with food can only come when you lose weight.) She then shared, that over Halloween, she bought and ate a half a bag of candy corn. She said it was disgusting, and she was so mad at herself for eating it, but she couldn't stop. She also said when she was lying in bed later that night, she hoped her husband didn't see the bag she left on the counter, because she meant to hide it or throw it away.
This exchange made me sad - to see my 70 year old neighbor suffering from diet mentality and she didn't even know it.
Feeling like she needed to lose weight, feeling like certain foods were forbidden, feeling like she needed to limit her intake of a certain food, feeling guilty about eating the food, feeling shame at the idea that her husband might find out. This is all diet mentality and it contributes to the anxiety we feel about our bodies.
Why is diet mentality damaging? Because it causes emotional and psychological harm and keeps people stuck in a fear mindset that puts stress on the body. Diet mentality has biological consequences too, impacting fat storage, weight stability, metabolism, cravings and binges, just to name a few things.
That is why - one of the first principles when eating intuitively, as suggested by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, the authors of the book Intuitive Eating, is to Reject the Diet Mentality. Then you might actually stand a chance to re-learn how to eat without fear and judgment.
What are the characteristics of diet mentality?
Measuring your food or your body
Avoiding certain food groups
Judging foods as good or bad
Feeling shame or guilt at eating certain foods
Thinking you need to lose weight to be healthy
Exercising more to offset eating
Thirty Day Challenges
Eating less in front of others
Sadly, most women don't think twice about engaging in these behaviors. Isn't that what everyone does? Aren't these things good for you and healthy?
These behaviors erode any trust you have in your own body to tell you what it wants and needs and how much. The shame and guilt and feeling of failure on a daily basis, if not hourly, when a meal or snack isn't what you think it should be, is harmful to our mental state and adds stress and anxiety to our days.
In addition. the restrictive mentality can cause backlash bingeing or "I've blown my diet" mentality where you eat more candy corn than you even wanted even though it was disgusting. Telling yourself you can't have something makes you want it more.
It doesn't feel good and it's just not necessary.
Freedom comes from rejecting the diet mentality.
Eat the candy corn. Eat it because it tastes good. Eat as much as would feel satisfying. Leave the bag on the counter without shame.