Have you ever had a bad eating habit that was so hard to break that it became a part of your identity?
Many bad habits are actually rooted in a dieting mentality that ultimately sabotage progress towards building a healthy lifestyle built upon self-trust.
I can still remember trying to break my perpetual habit of restricting calories. A day of overeating led to exercising off bad foods, and basically restricting in subsequent days with ways to “make me skinny!” There was a whole lot of Diet Coke going on…
Sound familiar? A calorie counting habit and the dieting mindset surrounding it are a reality for most.
Are you stuck with eating habits and speaking the “diet mentality” so much so that it has become a part of your identity? Diet Coke, working to restrict food from my day, and tracking calories were ingrained in my very existence. They were a part of my identity, so it’s no surprise that finding my name or “coach” on a Diet Coke was a very happy day! It reinforced who I was…
When you are stuck in the diet mentality, you ignore feelings of energy or hunger, choosing instead to follow a set of dietary rules. You soon find your self-trust is degraded, making the diet mentality the core of your existence and allowing food, fads, and diets to steal your power.
Been there, done that? You’re not alone! With an estimated 45 million Americans dieting each year, and more than one in three U.S. consumers following a specific diet or eating pattern, it’s no surprise that the diet mentality and the poor habits driving it are so prolific.
Have you fallen into the trap of dietary habits and mindset?
Do you have a Diet Mindset or are you Eating for Health?
Which words are you using habitually in your daily language?
Diet Coke personally held great power in my life, keeping me STUCK in the diet mindset as I looked for any method to restrict food, yet I was secretly starving, having constant brain chatter about food, and ignoring true hunger.
I knew deep inside that I was getting into a pretty deep rut that was damaging my running, health, weight loss, and that a radical mindset shift was required. But the persistent pull of restricting calories was hard to shake. And it spilled over into my daily language too!
“I’m not really that hungry!” ..thinking that more Diet Coke would make me skinny.
Bad habits and the diet mentality sneak into our lives with stressful times and a culture focused on calories, exercise, and fad diets!
Diet foods, sodas, and low sugar, low fat processed foods only add to the confusion that have formed many bad habits and that are reinforced in diet culture.
It has taken a lot of work to manage my mind and habits to break this dieting mentality.
I see these habits routinely in my clients and in modern day pop culture too:
- Eating less healthy and then running extra miles
- Drinking wine but skipping dinner to compensate
- Eating healthy to indulge on the weekend
- Extended, intermittent fasting only to binge or have cheat days
Fact: Getting out of a dieting mindset can be a LOT harder than expected. It involves getting clear on being OPEN to adopting a new mindset of loving and respecting your body by honoring your intuition and your true hunger.
Here are three steps to get you started on your journey of a healthy lifestyle, while ditching bad habits engrained in a diet mentality:
STEP ONE: Adopt intuitive eating.
The fact is, we have lost self-trust and the ability to use intuitive eating, surrendering instead to diets driven by time or days, food group restrictions, and endless rules.
Intuitive eating lays the foundation to ditch the habits engrained in a diet mentality. It requires that we begin to look at food as nourishment and fuel and as a source of empowerment to fight disease, to increase energy, to perform better, and to feel great!
Intuitive eating requires us to lay down the old mantra and habits of trading exercise for food and of taking on emotional baggage for eating.
These conditions can only be met when we learn to slow down.
Most eat way too fast, overriding the automatic “shut off” response built into our bodies, restricting sufficient time for fullness to kick in! That can mean we end up eating more food than we are meant to – and more than we need, leading to “guilt,” exercising off calories, extended, unnecessary fasting, and a general obsession with the scale.
Not only do we take in too much food with each bite AND eat too fast … but we also don’t chew it enough.
This can drag your energy down as your body struggles to digest the excess food. It can also make maintaining your weight a big challenge. It’s no wonder that food, eating habits, and a dieting mentality become intertwined!
So the first and biggest tip for intuitive eating and to break the cycle of a dieting mindset is to …SLOW DOWN
Action Tips to Slow Down:
- Take a moment BEFORE you eat to be grateful for your food.
- Take smaller bites.
- Put your fork down between bites.
- Chew more.
- It’s not a race … slow down while you eat.
- If you want another plate, drink a glass of water, wait 5 minutes, and then decide if you still want it.
Take small bites, and take the time to taste and enjoy your food.
I know if you’re used to eating fast, it can take some time and energy to switch this up.
I’ve been there myself … but to speed up results, sometimes you need to SLOW DOWN.
Another tip: If you are tempted to have a second helping, drink a glass of water and wait 5 minutes to see if you still want it. If you’re still hungry … have it!
STEP TWO: Move to a position of loving and nourishing your body.
Healthy eating isn’t about depriving yourself – in fact it’s just the opposite of a dieting mindset! It’s about honoring your body by learning to key into its messages, so you can give it exactly what it wants and needs.
We already talked about how intuitive eating is all about learning to tap into your body’s own cues and respecting your hunger!
But if it has been a while since you’ve tuned into your hunger cues, that can take a little practice. And, the fact is that you might already be eating super healthy, but equally important is HOW you’re eating! You really can gain weight if you overeat healthy foods all day long!
This Hunger Scale is one adapted by the Pritikin Longevity Center.
One of the things I like about this scale is that it’s relatable. I definitely have been everywhere on that scale at one point or another. I think we all have! Certainly I’m one who has gained pounds with healthy foods!
Consider printing this scale and using it as a reference until you become skilled at tuning into your body and hunger cues again.
Here’s why using a scale matters …
When you get too hungry, it sets you up to overeat, especially the less healthy foods… And when you overeat, you feel tired, sick, and tempted to skip meals. It can turn into a yo-yo cycle and it reinforces the dieting mentality.
Finding your sweet spot is a big part of loving and nourishing your body, becuase it allows you to eat what you should eat and to eat the proper amounts for your body.
It might take a little practice … but it’s definitely worth it!
How hungry do you get before you eat – and how “full” do you feel before you stop? It can take some retraining to live within the 3-6 range, but it’s definitely worth the effort!
STEP THREE: Surround yourself with a like-minded community!
Research shows that having a social network can lengthen your lifespan, help you stay slim, and keep your brain healthy as you get older!
Support from a healthy, like-minded community is critical for transitioning into a healthy lifestyle and ditching a diet mindset. It’s impossible to move into a healthy identity if your habits and language are reinforced by others, who make poor choices.
Prune back your life to include family, friends, and a network of others who speak the language of health! Watch your habits and mindset instantly improve.
No more guilt for healthy choices. No more “heckling” for foods that don’t serve you!
Your friends and family play a critical role in breaking the diet mentality.
The goal is never about perfection! It’s about aligning your words, actions, and mindset to make the best choices for being 1% better than you were the day before. Make your goal to adopt a healthier lifestyle…for LIFE! It’s really not about counting calories, how much you restricted your diet, or even about seeing a lower number on the scale.
A healthy lifestyle is all about living fully! Are you ready?