You know the feeling all too well
It begins like all the classic dieting stories (on a Monday). Every time you start a new diet or *ahem* - "lifestyle change", you are filled with optimism, motivation and determination that this time you are going to stick with it. This will be the time you are going to get past those first few weeks of awful hunger pangs and cravings as your body adjusts to its new (and very likely reduced) food intake. You start out strong sticking to the plan for a couple weeks (maybe even months!) and the scale moves in the downward direction - yay! You feel happy, hopeful and successful. See - this time you are going to do it, and you're proving yourself right!
And then it happens.
It's been a long day and you're stressed. It's 3 PM and someone sends an office-wide email that there's leftover pizza in the kitchen. Or perhaps Sharon comes round selling Girl Guide cookies on behalf of her daughter's troupe (and they really want to go on that camping trip) and Girl Guide cookies are so damn tasty, so you buy a box. Or you get that slice of pizza from the kitchen because...
"I'm allowed a "cheat meal" (or cheat day) on this plan"
"I've been so good these past few weeks"
"Everything in moderation"
"Screw it! I have been eating enough fruit and vegetables to supply a juice bar for a month, I can have a freaking slice of pizza!"
So you eat it and it's so so good...
Now you're at a point of reckoning. You either feel like you're satisfied and that was enough and you merrily continue on with your plan, or you're like most sentient human beings and remember that amidst life's trials and tribulations there are indeed moments of pleasure, and some of those pleasures come in the form of Girl Guide cookies. Something else also happens - you're hungry. You've consumed a bit more food than is allowed on your diet and now those hunger pangs you worked so hard to quell are growing stronger.
It typically goes either one of two ways:
1) The Slow Slide - you ever so gradually allow yourself one cookie here, or a slice of pizza there, and before you know it you're back to eating everything that you haven't been able to eat in forever.
2) The Deep Dive - this one has a definite "screw it" feel to it, and you dive head first into a box of cereal (carbs taste so good!) or poutine (because you're Canadian) or a burger with cheese and fries (you get what I'm saying).
And once again, for what feels like the hundredth time - You've Failed. The thoughts comes flooding in:
"What's wrong me?!"
"Why do I lack such willpower?!"
"I'll never be able to do this."
"I'm such a loser."
It's harsh. You feel so down on yourself. You might even continue that dive deep into comfort eating for days or weeks. But it doesn't work, you don't feel better. In fact now you feel even worse. So you resolve that next Monday (or maybe a few Mondays later) you're going to do it - once and for all - this time. And the cycle starts again...
But I want to tell you something. Something that the 60+ billion dollar diet industry does NOT want you to know...
DIETS. DON'T. WORK.
That's right. I'm sorry to tell you this, but 97% of dieters will gain the weight back in three years. Of those who keep it off, they likely stick to a very restrictive food and exercise regime for the rest of their life (what could be considered disordered eating, or even an eating disorder). There might be a tiny percentage of people who keep it off comfortably without much effort, but for those rare individuals, they likely are at a weight their body feels comfortable at. However for the rest of us, that's not the case.
When most people embark on their first weight-loss attempt they are not actually "overweight". Perhaps they may be considered "chubby" or even a bit "fat", and in our fat-fearing, thin-obsessed culture it's not always a fun existence. The pressure to be thin comes from everywhere - the media, the medical establishment, friends and family. It's so pervasive and intense that the average age girls start dieting is now 8 years old (the average was 14 years in the 1970s). The problem is we've lost a grip on reality. We are so afraid of fat that we think almost any amount of it on the body is bad and undesirable (reality check - it's not). So, we attempt to lose weight.
At the beginning it works, and usually fast. There is an absolute high we get from losing weight - all the positive comments from friends and family, fitting into coveted smaller clothing, and we want to keep this feeling going forever. However for the majority of us, our bodies were perfectly happy and healthy before we decided we "needed" to lose weight, and when our body got the signal that it was dropping weight fast it panicked, because it thought it was starving (and hello, starving = dying!), so the body fought back tooth and nail to get itself back to normal, and for good measure, it added on a little extra weight just in case this starvation nonsense happens again.
This "fighting tooth and nail" show's up as:
Constant thoughts about food
Increased cravings for high fat and sugary foods
The weakening ability to say "no" to foods
Eating a lot when you do allow yourself to eat
All these actions the body takes (things we blame ourselves for) - are actually the loving and generous acts of the body trying protect you from dying, because your body wants desperately to maintain a certain weight range that is healthy for YOU, not what some beauty ideal du jour, or faulty Body Mass Index decides is healthy for you.
This act of body stabilization is called Set Point Theory.
Set Point Theory purports that the body is happy within a weight range that if we didn't interfere with it through food and exercise manipulation, the body would naturally maintain. Similar to how the body maintains homeostasis of temperature by shivering when we are cold, or sweating when when we are hot, cuing us to either add or remove layers of clothing, the body will do this with weight as well. When we have dipped below a weight that the body is uncomfortable at, it will strongly signal to us to eat. This signaling was demonstrated very clearly in the famous Minnesota Starvation Study where healthy, normal college-aged men underwent a semi-starvation experiment during WWII. The effects of the starvation? - pretty much exactly what happens when we "fail" on our diets.
Here's the thing - the body is actually more comfortable holding onto extra weight than it is being underweight, because despite what the medical community is telling us - it's actually more dangerous to be underweight than it is to be overweight. So every time you diet, the body believes it is starving, and will do whatever it can to protect you, and that means holding onto a higher weight so that the next time you diet, you don't lose as much.
It can be summed up like this: you are not failing your diet, your diet is failing you.
If I could cry from the mountain top (or the social media mountain top) I would say this: STOP TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT. It's causing more harm than good, not just to your physical health, but to your mental and emotional health as well. But I get it, in this crazy, thin-obsessed age where everyone and their uncle is trying to lose weight or keep it off, it's not an easy thing to do (especially for women whose value and worth are tied to appearance).
However you may be at a point where you can finally say "enough is enough - I'm tired". You may be feeling the mounted weight and pressure of the negative effects of constantly looking in the mirror and criticizing yourself, the mental space it takes up to count calories or "watch what you eat", or the physical time you put in at the gym. When you've hit that plateau and are ready to start the journey of disassociating from the world of diet-culture and find peace and happiness within your body and yourself, I am here to support you through that process. Feel free to reach out.