How are You Going to Eat for the Rest of Your Life?

Listen.  Can you hear that?

That’s the sound of people everywhere falling off the New Year diet wagon.

Maybe you’re one of them.

Maybe you bought into the much-touted idea that enjoying yourself at Christmas is ‘sinful’.

Maybe you felt you must make ‘amends’ by starting some self-proclaimed diet guru’s “no fail, instant weight-loss, guaranteed results, easy 12-week eating plan”.  (If I sound a bit angry, I am, because these people make my job so much harder).

Maybe you now find yourself out of control with food.

I’m sorry if that’s the case.

It’s not your fault.

Diets are seductive.  You tend to lose weight quickly the first time you diet and that’s enough to have you hooked. You then spend the rest of your life saying “if I could just get back on it, I’d be OK”.

Is there any food that’s as unhealthy as bingeing? Absolutely not.

But that’s the point: you can’t get back on it because dieting is unsustainable.  You can’t eat that way forever.

When you start dieting you stop listening to your body and your body fights back.  If you’re not eating enough, it will battle to get the calories it needs.  If you don’t feel satisfied after a meal, it will make sure you keep eating until you do.  If you lose weight quickly it will fight to regain it.

Being at war with yourself in this way means you bounce back and forth between dieting and bingeing like a pinball.  Now you’re dieting, now you’re bingeing, now you’re dieting, now you’re bingeing.

It’s dysfunctional, exhausting and downright dangerous.

And I don’t want that for you.  I want you to have the calm, peaceful, natural relationship with food that you deserve.

So how do you do that?

How about you stop dieting or telling yourself to “eat healthily” and start working out how you actually want to eat.

What if you like chocolate or cake, or both?  These foods are often ascribed negative, emotive words such as “bad”, “naughty” or “unhealthy”.

But is there any food that’s as unhealthy as bingeing?  Absolutely not.  There’s nothing that’s as unhealthy as cramming more food into yourself than your body can handle.

If you like cake, say it – “I like cake”.  Wow, look at that, the universe didn’t implode.

Eating a piece of cake won’t put weight on you.  Bingeing on a load of food because you told yourself you couldn’t have a piece of cake will.

What other foods do you enjoy?  Forget healthy vs. unhealthy, good vs. bad. Seriously, how are you going to eat for the rest of your life?  Because if you want a peaceful relationship with food, that’s what you need to work out.

And no one knows the answer to that question better than you.

No one.

Not slimming clubs, not dietitians, not weight-loss gurus, not nutritionists, not doctors, not personal trainers and not the legion of people on social media who think they know it all.

And not me.

Is it that you can’t trust yourself or have years of dieting eroded that trust?

As a psychotherapist who specialises in overeating issues, I can help you understand your relationship with food and what drives your eating behaviour, but I don’t know how you want to eat.

But you do.

What I do know is that it is much better to incorporate the foods that you like into your life and make peace with them, rather than attempting to eliminate them and end up bingeing. And if you’re thinking “I’ll just diet to lose the weight and then do that”, forget it.  Your body’s smarter than that.

So start trusting yourself.  Impossible, you say?  How do you know?  Is it that you can’t trust yourself or have years of dieting eroded that trust?

If you’re always falling off the dieting wagon, then get rid of the wagon – it’s rigid, uncompromising and unreliable, and is only holding you back.

Instead, find your autonomy with food.

Be curious rather than ashamed about your appetite and your preferences and start accepting the foods you like.  That way, you can think about how to include them manageably so that you’re not overeating.

Ultimately, give yourself permission to eat your way – not the way ‘they’ say you should – and enjoy the process of finding out how you’re going to eat for the rest of your life.

***

“How Are You Going to Eat for the Rest of Your Life?” is the focus for the first eatonomy group on 26th January – please see the Community page for details.

For more information about why diets don’t work click here.

18 thoughts on “How are You Going to Eat for the Rest of Your Life?

  1. So apt and absolutely true. I feel I am finally leaving a cult that has tried to suck me in year after year. It can be hard to trust myself but I’m going to try. Thank you Julie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, Sarah. Dieting really damages our trust in ourselves and takes us away from our natural instincts and autonomy, but it is possible to reconnect – it just takes some time and determination. Many thanks for sharing your experience.

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  2. Terrific post, Julie and a timely reminder at the beginning of another year. I really like your outlook of ‘being curious rather than ashamed’ about food and appetite. That helps take the emotion out of it and gives a bit of much-needed distance. Thanks so much for this, Lxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right, Lol, being curious about your eating behaviour, rather than judgemental, helps to gives some distance from it. Then you’re able to observe and better understand what’s really going on. Thank you for your insightful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post. I believe that eating disorders always have underlying causes. We need to get to the core of ourselves to be able to learn a new way of coping. Moderation is always the key. Never deprive yourself of anything. Fuel your body properly and enjoy the feeling you get from nourishing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “We need to get to the core of ourselves” – I really like that phrase. It’s about finding out what’s really going on with us, why we struggle to accept and care for ourselves and why we turn to food as a coping mechanism. Great to hear your thoughts, Mary, many thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As someone who’s struggled with binge-eating, I thought your post was fantastic. And you’re right in that denial of foods and labelling can trigger negativity and bingeing, and nobody can decide for us what we’re going to do; we need to take back a little control there in how we want to see food, how we want our relationship with it to be, how we want to treat ourselves so that we get to the root cause of problematic relationships with eating.x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know this had been a struggle for you too, Caz, so I’m grateful that you’ve shared your experience. It is possible to change our relationship with food, as you say. I think it can start with consciously opting out of diet culture, and the general BS around food, and committing to listening to ourselves and finding our own way through. Such a helpful comment, many thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved reading this. As someone who has lost over 280lbs in my life (I lost 100lbs twice and 80 the 3rd time). It is such a great reminder that I am doing this for a life time. And it really comes down to my realtionship with myself and food. Food was my first drug, from the time I was a child. For so many years I went on diets thinking abstenents from any type of enjoyable food or even just cutting out food all together was the answer. I suffered threw bouts of excercise ballemia for years. Always, with this thought that if I were thin than people would love me and that I was a fat failure because I loved to eat. It took me so many years to get to the healthy weight and place I am at today. Realizing that I do love food and that is ok. I like everyone else on this earth am aloud to enjoy things in my life. I also realized how to love my self by not denying myself something when I am actually hungry along with a healthier view of excercise and practicing it everyday. My life has never been better and the image of myself while it is still not perfect is far better than it has ever been. I am good with that today. Thank you for writing this. Growing up with a weight problem and being tormented and bullied for it my whole life I felt so alone. I am so happy to see that there are people like you out there trying to make a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What an incredible journey, Matthew, thank you so much for sharing it, I know that many people reading will feel heartened to hear your story. Given that you started turning to food as a child, for you to be where you are today in terms of your relationship with food and yourself is wonderful. I was particularly moved by the line “if I were thin then people would love me”. This is so often the case for people with emotion-driven overeating issues – the belief that if they are thin enough they will be worthy of love. You and I know that isn’t the case – we are all worthy of love and our appearance has nothing to do with our worthiness. I really appreciate you taking the time to write such a thoughtful and personal comment, thank you.

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  6. Great post, Julie. I am still in the process of making peace with food but have made a lot of progress. I like to focus on how each food makes me feel physically after I eat it. Since I have learned to love my body and treat it with care, I am more likely to eat foods that make me feel good and that give me energy. But nothing is completely off limits, and an occasional treat keeps me from the rigidity that used to make me rebel against what felt like a punishment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You articulate your experience so well, Cristy, and I think you make such an important point – when we appreciate our bodies we’re more likely to choose foods that make us feel good. If we don’t appreciate our bodies, we really don’t care what we eat or how it makes us feel. I think it’s the learning to love and value our bodies which is the hard part. Like you, I like to focus on how food makes me feel physically – that way I feel more in tune with my body and can trust the information that it’s giving me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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