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.
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.