Stop wasting time dieting (or not). It doesn’t work and you know it.
We’re living in black and white times. Republican and Democrat. Have and have not. While we haven’t always been so polarized politically, those of us who grew up dieting are experts in living in one of two extremes.
When I was a small Coffey, my mother dieted. A lot. Mostly Weight Watchers. When she was on a diet, dinner was roast chicken and steamed broccoli. When she wasn’t, anything went – pizza with extra (!!) cheese, Chinese food, calzones (again with the extra cheese), piles and piles and piles of pasta.
DIETING VS. NOT
From the beginning of me, I understood that there were two “norms” – the “norm” of trying to lose weight and the “norm” of not. In the first, days would slog by in a haze of hunger and boredom. In the latter, no craving went unsatisfied. I ate myself numb.
By now, most of us know that diets don’t work. We know they typically leave us heavier than we were when we started. A 2007 study out of UCLA uncovered that the single greatest predictor of weight gain was that someone had been on a diet. We know this, but every spring we fall for the promise of fitting into our old, favorite jeans by summer.
WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?
When women begin their work with me, they have a hard time categorizing my approach to food.
“I’m eating healthier, but am I dieting?” they ask.
“No,” I say. “You’re just eating with care.”
“Great! Wait… what the hell does that mean?”
The problem with growing up in diet culture is that we don’t even know what it means to eat with care without feeling, eating, and acting like we’re on a diet.
How we eat isn’t black or white, feast or famine, and we set ourselves up for a whole bunch of bullshit by continuing to believe that it is. In this paradigm, if we’re in diet mode, eventually all we can think about is diving headfirst into a box of takeout. When we’re eating whatever we want in whatever quantities we want, we’re plagued by the notion that we should probably start eating 1,200 calories a day.
I’ve maintained massive weight loss for over a decade, and experience has shown me that every time I tried to lose weight by dieting, I ended up heavier than I started. This is as true for me as it is for you.
The only way I can return to a weight I’m comfortable with, and the only way I can stay there, is to eat with care. This is as true for you as it is for me.
Because eating with care doesn’t involve impractical, life-force-sucking extremes of austerity or gluttony. It isn’t dieting and it isn’t out of control.
It’s practical, reasonable, doable, and can’t not yield positive results.
EAT HEALTHY WITHOUT DIETING
Eating with care isn’t rocket science. It’s simple. Simple, but not easy. Every day, several times a day, I ask myself, “Is this the most caring choice I’m capable of making in this moment?” I practice being rigorously honest with myself about what it means to be cared for, and what I’m capable of.
To eat with care, you’ve got to nail down what care means to you. Does care include feeling safe? Yeah, me too. How about feeling comfortable in your body? Absolutely. Does care make you feel energized? Hell yeah. Empowered? Duh. Does care make it easier for you to get shit done? Like a boss.
Once you nail down what care means to you, you can practice asking yourself the same question I ask myself – at the grocery store, at restaurants, standing in front of the fridge – “What is the most caring choice I can make for myself in this moment?”
Sometimes, the answer’ll be a resounding, “This! Yes!”
Sometimes it’ll be, “None of this is a caring choice, and I’m eating it anyway.”
Sometimes – often – it’ll be more complicated than that. And you know what? Coming from a caring place means you give yourself a hot minute to figure it out.
As with everything, what’s important is that you start to practice. Even if, when you ask yourself, “What is the most caring choice I can make around food right now?” a voice responds, “Screw you, I’m eating crap,” just having begun to see food choices as opportunities to care for yourself will help you to break free of black and white thinking.
I’m locked into the black and white metaphor, so you know we’re about to enter the gray…
There in the gray (this is a joyful, breathtaking gray, with sparkles) you can work into making consistently caring choices – one day, one meal, one bite at a time.
Unlike dieting (and not), eating with care is something you can feel good about doing every day for life. It’s practical and doable no matter your weight, budget, health, or life circumstances. It takes all of you in to account, and you can do it anywhere, anytime, under any conditions, for life.
And that’s why it works.
What would it mean to you to eat with care? How would it feel? What are you capable of? Leave a comment below, or just practice asking yourself these questions and you can eventually settle into a whole new way to eat healthy without dieting.