The thought of quitting dieting is really scary for a lot of us. After all, many of us have been doing some sort of diet (or ‘healthy lifestyle’) to lose weight, or keep our weight in check for most of our lives.
It makes sense then, that we can find a number of reasons why we believe we can’t, or shouldn’t, be quitting dieting, so we can stay safe and comfortable inside our diet bubbles.
But a lot of these reasons we come up with are actually myths. And believing these myths to be facts might be harming rather than helping. They could be holding you back from food freedom and body peace.
Why do I want food freedom and body peace anyway?
OK, I want you to get honest with yourself here for a minute. This is just between you and your computer screen.
If you are one of those people who has been trying to lose weight or control your weight or believe the status of your health is tied to your weight for some time now, I want you to stop and think about how that experience has been for you.
Has it been smooth sailing?
Has it been effortless?
Has the weight has fallen off and never come back again?
Have you been able to eat whatever you like (no, TRULY whatever you like) and not feel deprived of food?
Or has it been a struggle?
Have you felt you have been constantly at battle with your body? And at war with your mind as it keeps obsessing over the food you can’t eat, or that fact that you are always hungry?
Maybe you were doing it to lower your blood pressure or your blood glucose levels and losing some weight hasn’t made a difference. So, you feel scared that you are going to have to be even stricter with your diet and exercise so that you don’t develop diabetes, or cancer or heart disease?
NOT having to live and think this way is the reason why you want food freedom and body peace. And the first step to this freedom and peace is quitting dieting. So, let’s bust some of those myths, so you can let go of some of those roadblocks holding you back.
Myth #1: Quitting dieting will mean letting myself go
There is a very real belief and fear, that quitting dieting – in whatever form that may look like – will cause you to let yourself go.
But dieting or pursuing weight loss is our current default position. Everyone does it. Health professionals suggest it as the solution to all illnesses and health problems. It is the expected course of action in the New Year, or after a woman has had a baby. Dieting is the norm.
So, quitting dieting in our thin-obsessed culture is actually a radical action. And it is anything but passive. Letting go of the diet mindset and embracing a weight-neutral approach to health involves a lot of work – mentally, emotionally and physically.
I much prefer to frame quitting dieting in the same way as my girl crush Julie Duffy-Dillon:
“It’s not letting yourself go. It’s letting yourself be.”
Myth #2: Quitting dieting will cause me to eat rubbish
It is often thought that as well as letting yourself go, quitting dieting will cause you to eat nothing but chocolate, biscuits and ice cream.
I can totally see why that might be the case.
It is logical to think that the opposite of controlling our food through portion sizes, rules about good and bad foods, rules about when to eat, foods that are allowed in the house, foods that are banned etc. is eating junk food uncontrollably for the rest of our lives.
This black and white, rigid thinking is not health promoting and is also not true.
Yes, a lot of us find that when quitting dieting or loosening our grip on our food rules, we initially feel like we are eating more foods considered ‘less nutritious’. But that is just our inner diet rebel seeking some relief from all of that restriction!
Over time, however, quitting dieting allows us to become more intuitive eaters. This involves listening to our internal cues of hunger and fullness and choosing the types and amounts of foods that satisfy our bodies. And so, by practising intuitive eating and trusting that our bodies know best, we end up naturally gravitating to those more nutritious options we were so desperately trying to force ourselves to ONLY eat while we were dieting.
This is one myth I see great transformations with in my clients. They always express amazement to me that when they start listening to their bodies rather than their diet rules, that they find they are craving vegetables or salads with their steak rather than hot chips, or feel satisfied eating couple of chocolate biscuits rather than the whole packet. But this is because they have learnt from experience what makes their body feel good the majority of the time and know they don’t have to eat a perfect diet 100% of the time to reach their health goals. They don’t need to be controlling their weight.
WHAT'S YOUR EATING STYLE?
Answer 5 quick questions and find out!
Myth #3: Quitting dieting means I will never be healthy
If quitting dieting means letting yourself go and existing on a diet of junk food, then it is reasonable to expect that these behaviours will lead to poor health.
You would need to scroll through tonnes of links to journal articles if I were to list every piece of scientific evidence that has been published showing that dieting, dieting behaviours and dieting thought patterns are DAMAGING TO HEALTH. They may cause some temporary weight loss initially, but overall, they don’t lead to long-term improved health.
Instead, they cause poorer mental and emotional health, stigmatise fat people, increase the risk of developing disordered eating or an actual eating disorder like Anorexia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder and can make people less physically healthy due to the stress weight cycling puts on the body (1-3).
On the flip side, quitting dieting, embracing the Health At Every Size movement and a taking non-diet approach to health has been found to IMPROVE health markers such as blood pressure, blood glucose levels and mental health regardless of what someone’s weight is. These are the health markers that correlate more accurately with a person’s risk of developing heart disease or Type 2 diabetes – not weight (1,4,5).
So, you might find that quitting dieting is just the thing you were looking for to help you get healthy.
Myth #4: Quitting dieting will make me gain weight
Saving the biggest and baddest myth holding people back from quitting dieting ‘til last!
To be honest, maybe you will gain weight after quitting dieting. But maybe you won’t. The point is, no-one (not even those people who guarantee you will lose weight following their 12-week program) has a crystal ball and can gaze into the future and predict how your weight and shape will change.
But what IS a fact backed by science is that the pursuit of weight loss through dieting behaviours in 95% of cases, causes people to re-gain weight and often gain more weight on top of that. (1) There is a saying that goes along the lines of: “The quickest way to gain weight is to try and lose weight”.
What is holding you back from food freedom?
- Am Psychol. 2007 Apr;62(3):220-33.
- Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 Feb;25(2):317-322. doi: 10.1002/oby.21716.
- Obes Rev.2015 Feb;16 Suppl 1:7-18. doi: 10.1111/obr.12251.
- Appl Physiol Nutr Metab.2007 Feb;32(1):125-42.
- J Am Diet Assoc.2005 Jun;105(6):929-36
WHAT'S YOUR EATING STYLE?
Answer 5 quick questions and find out!