In this episode of How to Live a Life of Peace with Food, I’m going to explain to you why I think you’ve been caught up in dietland. I believe it’s because you’ve been sold false promises of the benefits of dieting.
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Welcome to my bite-size video series on How to Live a Life of Peace with Food. If you’re watching this video, you’ve probably spent a good portion of your life on a diet, planing a diet, or thinking you should be on a diet! Why? Why do you continue to get onto the dieting rollercoaster, only to crash? In this video, I’m going to explain to you why I think you’ve been caught up in dietland. I believe it’s because you’ve been sold false promises of the benefits of dieting.
My name is Vania Phitidis and I am the founder of Peaceful Eating, where I help people stop obsessing about their bodies and what, when and how much to eat, so they feel relaxed around food, at ease in their bodies, and use all that freed up energy to do the things that really matter to them. I’m a certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor, a qualified mindful eating coach and I’ve been mentoring and coaching people for over two decades.
Let’s talk about the false promises of dieting. Take a moment now to think about what you’ve understood that dieting will bring you.
The main thing you’ve been promised, provided of course that you can stick to the diet, is that you’ll lose weight.
But so what? What does weight loss promise? What we’re led to believe through the culture of dieting is that by losing weight:
- you’ll be healthier
- you’ll move more easily
- you’ll look better
- you’ll get more approval and less disapproval from other people and that
- you’ll be happier
There is so much to say about every one of these promises – but remember, these are bite sized videos, so I’m not going into a lot of detail here.
Having said that, let’s take a closer look at these promises:
The main promise of dieting is that you’ll lose weight, but is that even true??? Losing weight is possible for many people – but maintaining the weight loss is what’s hard – so when we say dieting doesn’t work, what we mean is that it’s almost impossible to sustain the weight loss. Research on the efficacy of dieting shows that almost everyone who loses weight through dieting, regains it 1-5 years after the diet. There’s really only a very tiny percentage of people who are able to sustain weight loss through dieting. And up to 60% of dieters gain additional weight.
This is not your fault by the way, though you probably think it is – and that’s another lie that has been sold to you by the dieting industry.
OK, so we’ve looked at the main false promise of dieting – that you’ll lose weight over the long term. Now let’s look at what you’re promised weight loss will give you, because you wouldn’t put yourself through the misery of dieting if you didn’t think you stood to gain something from it.
Promise number 1: You’ll be healthier
This is what is true: being in a slimmer body does not guarantee health! Thin people get diabetes, cancer, hypertension, cardiac disease, arthritis and every other disease. Being in a heavier body does not guarantee ill health. If your health is important to you, then engaging in health promoting behaviours will give you the best health outcome, regardless of what happens to your weight. Weight loss is not a behaviour; it’s an outcome. Health promoting behaviours are things like stopping to smoke, cutting back on alcohol consumption, moving your body in ways you enjoy – not ways you hate or as punishment for eating; eating a variety of foods with attunement; getting enough sleep; and reducing your stress response
My clients sometimes say to me: ‘but I felt so healthy when I was thinner.’ There are a couple of things involved in this: The first piece is that you might ‘feel healthy’ but not be. How many people walk around with cancer and don’t know it until they start to feel ill and that’s when the disease has already progressed too far to save their lives? Too many! The second piece is that you might ‘feel healthy’ because you’re telling yourself you’re doing all the ‘right’ things. That will make you ‘feel’ more at ease. The third piece is that while you’re dieting, you might be eating more fibre through increased intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, and you might be moving your body more; these are health promoting behaviours, if you’re doing them while listening to your body.
Its also worth knowing that there is research that indicates that there are health risks associated with what is known as weight cycling – or yo-yo dieting. Since it’s almost impossible to sustain weight loss that was achieved through dieting, if you’re dieting, you’re likely increasing health risks as you yo-yo.
Promise number 2: You’ll move more easily
If you struggle to do up your shoes, or go for a walk, then losing weight may well make your life more manageable. The trouble is that dieting is highly highly unlikely to lead to sustained weight loss. If they worked, you’d have succeeded with them by now, right? Your energy and effort would be better spent working on increasing your stamina, strength and flexibility at your current weight. That will improve your ability to move and bend.
One of my clients comes to mind here – she ditched dieting and started to work with the body she has. She was having pain walking and difficulty bending. Over time, she built up her strength and her flexibility. She’s now walking without pain, getting down on the floor with her grandson and getting back up again without a problem. She hasn’t lost a pound.
Promise number 3: you’ll look better (with or without clothes)
‘Better’ is a value judgement.
There’s no objective standard by which ‘looking better’ is measured.
‘Better’ is measured through cultural beauty standards – which change!
What you mean when you say you’ll look better, is that you’ll fit better into the socially accepted norm of body size. But that norm is just a cultural mindset. Different cultures have different beauty standards: it isn’t an objective measure.
When you say you’ll ‘look better,’ what you’re reinforcing to yourself is the belief that as you are, you’re not good enough.
And that belief is absolutely not true.
Because your size does not determine your value.
Leading on from this, is promise number 4 that you’ll get more approval or less disapproval from other people.
Unfortunately we live in a thin-obsessed culture, so I can’t tell you that this is a false promise. You probably have your own examples of the approval you’ve received for losing weight, and the disapproval you’ve encountered when you’ve regained the weight.
At the end of the day, you’re not in control of what comes out of anyone’s mouth or how they look at you. You’re only in charge of what you make it mean and how you respond to it.
That is it. It’ll help to learn how to manage your mind around other people’s judgements, and how to disentangle your self-worth from their approval or disapproval.
I think what’s also important here is that you decide if you’re going to attempt to comply with unattainable beauty standards, or not. Think about that: how is it possible to comply with something that is unattainable? Do you want to spend your time and energy trying to comply?
Promise number 5: You’ll be happier
Here’s the thing: your happiness has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR WEIGHT, other than the temporary happiness that comes with other people’s or your own approval for your weight loss
I have many examples from my clients and indeed myself, of feeling happy at all different weights, and feeling unhappy at all different weights. It’s fantasy thinking, to believe that losing weight will take away all the other issues in your life. It won’t! In fact sometimes what the focus on weight does, is draw our attention away from the other things in our lives that are overwhelming and seem too difficult to resolve.
BEING THINNER WILL NOT MAKE YOU HAPPIER in and of itself. However, because you TELL YOURSELF THINGS ABOUT BEING THINNER, you end up feeling happier.
For example, you might tell yourself, that now that you’ve lost weight, it means:
You’re worthy of love, affection, attention, taking care of yourself
that you matter
that you’re attractive
that you have a right to take up space on this planet, to have a voice
that you’re lovable
The truth? These things are true no matter the size of your jeans or the number on the scale and if you continue to attach your value to weight loss, it yo-yo like your weight.
So, if diets are full of empty promises, what do you do next?
There is a way to make peace with yourself, your body and food, and it’s not by dieting! It’s by learning how to eat with attunement and how to separate your self-worth from your appearance. That is where the freedom lies! I’m here for you. And I can’t wait to support you to do just that.
I’d love to know if this was useful to you. Please leave your questions and comments below and I will do my best to reply to them personally. If this video was helpful, please share it, it might help someone else.
Visit my website where you’ll find hundreds of helpful blogs and links to my free eBook and Facebook Community. If you want tailored, expert and compassionate support in making peace with food, eating and your body – book a free Discovery Session to explore working 1:1.
Until then, bye from me, and I’ll see you in the next bite-size video on How to Live a Life of Peace with Food.