If we were to take a random survey of people on the street, most likely, a majority of them would either be dieting or would have done so in the past. Dieting is incredibly popular in our culture, and entire industries of foods, books, and videos perpetuate it.
In fact, it is so common that, in our daily lives, it often seems difficult to find someone who hasn’t dieted or restricted what they eat in some way—and this is especially true for women. It’s something that is socially accepted, and even considered admirable. It’s thought of as a sign of self-discipline. As a result, many of us diet chronically over years and even decades, trying everything from low-carb to low-fat, from paleo to veganism.
So the natural follow-up question is, do diets work? And the answer is, yes and no. Sometimes, diets do in fact help us lose weight. But they don’t often help us keep it off. There is a kernel of truth in most diet plans. With low-carb diets, for example, it is actually true that a diet high in processed carbohydrates is typically not the healthiest option. But by suggesting that people cut out healthy, whole foods like fruit and sweet potatoes, they become unsustainable both practically and nutritionally. (The disclaimer here is that there are some medical conditions where it is indeed recommended to eliminate even some whole foods that are considered healthy.)
Diets may be effective weight loss methods for a short period, but by taking nutritional principles to the extreme, they make it nearly impossible for us to continue following them indefinitely. That is part of the reason why so many people have tried such a wide range of diets. So, if you’ve been dieting for years and you’re still unsatisfied with your weight, it might be advisable to try something different. Here’s how to know if it’s time to stop dieting:
You’ve been doing it for over 10 years and you still haven’t lost weight sustainably.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that, if dieting hasn’t worked for you yet, it’s just because you haven’t found the right diet. So you jump from diet to diet, searching for the silver bullet that will allow you to lose weight and keep it off. But the reality is, often times, dieting isn’t the solution at all. There may be underlying emotional or behavioral concerns that need to be addressed before you’ll b e able to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle over the long-term.
You are in a constant battle with food.
Food is not your enemy. It is something you need, and it gives you nutrients that help you to be healthy. Our natural relationship with food is not to fear or hate it. Instead, it is to enjoy and appreciate it. If you feel like you’re always fighting a war with food—always trying to restrict it, feeling tempted by certain foods but at the same time not wanting to “give in” and indulge in them—it’s a sure sign that you’ve been dieting too long.
You keep thinking your real life will begin when you finally lose the weight.
Your life is happening now, this isn’t a dress rehearsal! The feeling that you have to put your life on hold until you achieve the “perfect” body means that you’re making your happiness far too dependent upon your physical appearance. Many times, we diet because we believe that we will only be happy when we win the approval of others, which we think we can only do by losing weight. We imagine how much better our lives will be once we have that flawless body, and it begins to feel like what we’re experiencing now is just preparation for that better life down the road. If these are your reasons for dieting, it is definitely time to end it.
You’re secretly afraid to stop, even though it hasn’t worked.
This makes a certain kind of sense. Dieting hasn’t worked, but you’re afraid that if you stop, others will think you’ve given up, and you may even gain more weight. In addition, dieting gives you a sense of control, and letting go of that can feel like chaos. But making life decisions out of fear is never a good idea. You don’t have to force yourself to continue doing something that actually diminishes your quality of life just because you’re scared of the alternative.
You’re actually sick and tired of dieting.
If you’re fed up, it’s absolutely time to stop. Any changes we make to the way we eat should come from a place of positivity. Changing our eating habits should be something we do because we respect ourselves and we want to make healthy decisions. It should never be something you force yourself to do, even though you don’t want to. Working with diet should come from a place of inspiration, not obligation.
If any of these sound like you, and you suspect it might be time for you to stop dieting, what’s your next step? Well, start taking steps to holistically create a healthy lifestyle for yourself. Begin eating healthy, whole foods, without counting calories or restricting. Enjoy your meal and eat with a sense of celebration and love. Find a form of movement, whether it’s taking walks, jogging, yoga, or hiking, that feels good! And begin to address any deeper insecurities that make you feel you would only be only worthy of love if you had a certain body type.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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