Expert Insight: Dieting and the Fear of Famine

“Our ancestors did not have a constant supply of food. When a large animal – a whale, a bison, a woolly mammoth or an elephant – was killed, everyone feasted, gorged… it might be weeks or months before another big kill, so large amounts had to be eaten quickly and then stored in the body for the times of scarcity that were sure to come.  

This is an ancient or atavistic memory that calls us to eat all we can now, even if we are not hungry, just in case there won’t be any food tomorrow… there is something deep in our primitive brain that still fears starvation, scarcity, famine.”

Jan Chozen Bays, “Mindful Eating”

Remember the panic-buying we witnessed when the Covid-19 crisis first hit?

Here in the UK, there wasn’t a food shortage but just the possibility of one made people panic – ironically bringing about the very shortages they feared.

There were similar experiences worldwide: supermarkets struggling to keep up with demand as people began to hoard food and supplies.

The danger of scarcity led to stockpiling.

This is what happens when we diet.

When we exert outside control on our eating, rather than respect internal cues, our bodies perceive the restriction as scarcity or famine.

When we break the diet, as we inevitably will, we’re compelled by a primal instinct to eat more than we need, in order to prepare for further food shortages.

When we say “I’ll start the diet again tomorrow”, we confirm the impending deprivation and trigger the order to binge.

Our bodies store the excess food we eat as fat to help us prepare for future famines. We hate them for gaining weight but it’s not their fault. They’re simply doing what they’re supposed to do.

Our bodies aren’t to blame, it’s dieting that’s the issue.

When we begin to normalise our eating, we focus on giving ourselves full or unconditional permission to eat exactly what we want. In doing so, we prove to our minds and our bodies there’s no famine, no scarcity. Therefore, there’s no need to “stock up” by bingeing.

It’s probably one of the hardest parts of the process of recovery because it swims against the tidal wave of diet culture, but it’s possibly the most rewarding.

Every time we give ourselves permission to eat what we really want, we chip away at our old diet mindset and move a step closer to making peace with food.

Ultimately, we can learn to relax and enjoy food, and that fear of famine “deep in our primitive brain” can stand down, safe in the knowledge we’ll never diet again.

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For more on giving yourself full permission to eat, click here. And don’t forget to access my Scoop.It page for even more information.

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Reference

Chozen Bays, J. (2009), Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food. Boston: Shambhala.

 

 

A World Without Dieting

If dieting never existed, what would your relationship with food be like?

Just think about it for a minute.

How would you eat if you’d never learnt to diet?

Would you wake up feeling confused and stressed about food?
Would you feel guilty and ashamed about eating something you “shouldn’t”?
Would you still binge? Label food as “good” or “bad”? Hate your body?

Continue reading “A World Without Dieting”

Why is Change Such a Challenge?

While the process of change never runs smoothly, sometimes it feels like an endless battle with yourself which can wear you down and make you feel like giving up.

So let’s examine some of the reasons why change might feel like such a challenge.

It’s not coming from a helpful place within you
Often the attempt to change is motivated by your Inner Bully who says you’re unacceptable and have to improve to earn your place in this world. Trying to change yourself to please others isn’t healthy motivation and doesn’t work. The only motivation for lasting change comes from an authentic place within that is concerned for your wellbeing and wants the very best for you.

Continue reading “Why is Change Such a Challenge?”

Season’s Bleatings: Dodging Diet Talk

At a Christmas party, two guests are standing by the buffet. One has their plate piled high with food. The other has cleverly taken a Buffet Tour and has selected only the food they really wanted. The first guest is eating very quickly, the other is taking their time and savouring their selection.

Continue reading “Season’s Bleatings: Dodging Diet Talk”

Expert Insight: Losing Weight Naturally

“When you do start to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full after years of being on one scheme or another, you will most likely go down a size or several sizes.

Unless you have been eating drastically less than your body needs for years, your weight should stabilise at its natural set point, which will be lower than what you’ve achieved through dieting and bingeing”.

Susie Orbach, “On Eating”

When clients first seek help for their emotion-driven overeating issues, they often think if they can sort out their weight, everything else will be OK.

In this way, therapy can be seen as another weight-loss initiative.  There’s sometimes a sense of disappointment that we’re not focusing on weight during sessions and, as a result of this, some clients assume I’m anti-weight loss.

Continue reading “Expert Insight: Losing Weight Naturally”

Expert Insight: What We Really Lose When We Diet

“I started each new diet with burning enthusiasm – this was going to be the diet to beat all the others, this time I was really going to lose weight and keep it off forever.  I never did.  Every single diet ended with me regaining all the weight I had lost, plus a few pounds extra.  What I did lose, I had not intended to lose – I lost time, I lost energy, I lost me”.

Dr Cherie Martin, “Naturally Slim Without Dieting”

It breaks my heart when I see a young woman on Instagram hating herself for not being able to stick to her slimming club’s diet plan, dreading her next weigh-in and vowing to do better tomorrow.  What will tomorrow bring for her?  More of the same and, in all likelihood, a life-long messed-up relationship with food.

Perhaps you were once that young woman.

I was.

Continue reading “Expert Insight: What We Really Lose When We Diet”

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.

Continue reading “How are You Going to Eat for the Rest of Your Life?”