Diets are Like Bad Boyfriends

Our relationship to food and eating is complex.    If you’ve been on even one diet in your life, that relationship becomes even more convoluted because diets have a way of disconnecting you from your natural appetite – what I call your happetite.  Compare a diet to dating that boy you just knew wouldn’t be good for you, but you did it anyway.

The word diet is derived from the Latin word diaeta and the Greek word diaita, meaning mode of living, or, diaitan meaning to direct one’s own life. Contrast that to our current cultural interpretation, which is nearly always prescribed by someone not the least bit familiar with who you are or what is best for your body.

Consider these points as you muddle your way through the conflicting thoughts, feelings and responses that swirl around food and body image:  a) disconnecting from your natural appetite will occur if you’ve been on even one restrictive diet, b) the disconnection will be sustained if you feel guilty coming off that diet – especially if you do some catch up eating afterwards, and c) you may never have been truly connected to your natural appetite if there was physical or emotional abuse or neglect in your past. This can further hamper your ability to recognize your appetite, much less understand what foods will best support your happetite.

The peril of continuing the diet-binge cycle is that it inevitably leads to constant ruminations about food and weight.  The more you have dieted (or think you should be dieting), the more of your day will be taken up with thoughts about food, eating, weight and shape. In contrast, the less you think you need to lose weight and diet, the less you ruminate.

Back in the 1980’s I worked with individuals to implement diets prescribed by a doctor.  The use of liquid supplement diets and 1200-calorie diets for weight loss were popular. Although weight loss results were dramatic, rapid weight gain and sometimes binge eating would occur once patients started eating again.  I was at a loss back then about how to help, but my clients showed me the way.  Over time, their experiences revealed an Eating Continuum to me.  The Eating Continuum identified what all those thoughts about food, eating and weight really meant.

Diets do work for the short-term, which is why they are so enticing (like those bad boys were before you knew better), but they do not help you figure out how to manage your weight long-term. Understanding and reconnecting with your happetite takes time and attention.  It may also mean healing those core childhood wounds.  However, finding your happetite can transform your relationship with food and eating.  It can free up your day to think about all the other things that currently get pushed out of the way by diet-driven thoughts.

What percent of the day do you currently spend thinking about food, eating, weight, and shape? Today, what one thing could you do to get closer to finding your own natural appetite, your happetite?

Go to Understanding Your Eating for more information.

This post also appears as an article on page 43 of the July 2017 issue of Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of Women