Think for a minute of all the diets you’ve been on. What’s ONE thing they all have in common? Different diets may have restricted your consumption of different foods, perhaps replaced meals with a processed concoction, have varying amounts allowed, and even meals at different times; some may allow snacks, some not… But what do they have in common?

The one thing I see in common is that diets encourage you to disconnect.

Disconnecting from your body

When you’re physically hungry and you don’t honour that signal, you’re disconnecting from your body – in fact, you’re dishonouring your body’s wisdom – that innate intelligence that knows exactly what, when and how much your body wants. In my first post in this series on The Role of the Brain in the Failure of Diets, I discussed in more detail what happens when you don’t honour your body’s hunger signals.

I’ve been on diets that have restricted the most bizarre foods: one that immediately comes to mind eliminated red peppers (one of my favourite vegetables) and broccoli! I bet you can guess what I craved when I was on this diet – you got it, red peppers! But I was told by the diet guru that one sniff of a red pepper would render the whole diet useless, mess up my metabolism, and I’d have to start all over again. Ever had that sort of experience? Empowering or disempowering? The dieting industry persuades you to believe and trust the dieting guru, rather than your own body.

Have you noticed how you behave on a diet? I know I’d often overeat on ‘free foods.’ Hungry or not, if the diet said I could have unlimited servings of celery, then that’s what I’d have! Whether I wanted something hot and savoury rather than cold and crunchy, I’d eat it because that was what I was ‘allowed.’

What about honouring your signals of fullness? I know on many diets you feel hungry pretty much all the time (until your tummy gives up growling and you just feel tired and weak), but I’ve been on diets where you can eat as much salad or veggies as you like but only at meals times. My fear about feeling hungry later would mean that I’d eat beyond fullness at meals on the ‘free’ veg and feel overly full and uncomfortable, because I knew if I didn’t I’d feel hungry way before I was next ‘allowed’ to eat.

Diets disconnect you from your body’s wisdom. And when you decide to ditch the diets for good, it does take some time to be able to tune in to those signals again – to discern the nuances of hunger and physical satisfaction. If you keep overriding them it is difficult to know when to eat, how much to eat and when to stop. I used to watch my mother in law in utter amazement – she knew exactly when she’d had enough, and stopped that very moment! It didn’t matter if there was just a bite or two left on her plate – when she’d had enough, she’d stop eating. And she was a World War II veteran – someone who used everything and wasted nothing. The food left on her plate was never wasted. She would find somewhere for it to go other than the bin – the birds, the pets, the compost, or a soup!

Because you’re following an outside authority when you’re on a diet you don’t pay attention to what your particular body needs at this particular time. Your body is the expert on what it needs. The diet gurus don’t know your body: your specific combination of cells, memories, life experiences, neural connections, muscle mass, bio-chemistry, likes and dislikes; the way you uniquely digest and eliminate; your specific requirements to meet your particular lifestyle. Your body does though! You just need to listen to it.

Disconnection from your mind

One of the biggest problems with dieting is how it messes with your mind!

You learn a whole bunch of food rules! You learn what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad.’

You might learn when it’s ok to eat: before a certain time in the evening; before or after a certain time in the morning; the spacing between meals etc.

You learn how much you ‘should’ drink.

You make yourself eat foods you don’t enjoy because they’re ‘allowed’ or ‘free’ or ‘superfoods’ – and deny yourself foods you love, because they’re ‘bad,’ ‘fattening,’ ‘evil,’  ‘too high’ in some unwanted nutrient or you believe you have no control in how much of it you eat. You believe the Alcoholics Anonymous saying that ‘One is too many, but a hundred is not enough.’

Even though you’ve convinced yourself that you’re choosing to restrict yourself from a certain food or food group, your mind believes it’s being deprived – even if it’s ‘for your health’.

The more you try not to have something, the more you want it. It’s the classic example of Eve with the forbidden fruit. The more it was denied, the more attractive and tempting it was.

Dieting robs you of your freedom to choose.

It reinforces this mental deprivation. It sets up your inner rebel.

It sets up a fight inside – and that is disconnecting. It’s the opposite of inner peace.

We are made for connection.

To feel and acknowledge our connection – to ourselves, to others (people and planet), and to that which is greater than ourselves is our natural state. Our culture has led us to believe that we’re separate – and diets just exacerbate and entrench this myth.

With love,