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If I Give Up Dieting, Am I Giving Up On My Health?

tape-line for a dinner; plate with tape-line, knife, fork.

With all the diet talk that surrounds our culture, I find myself telling people that I don’t diet anymore pretty often.  And the response is generally predictable.  Either I get, “Good for you!  Diets don’t work, anyway,” or “I care about my health so I am doing xyz plan.”

The second response is far more common.  People don’t directly tell me that I don’t care about my health, but they imply that because they’re dieting they care about their health and because I’m not, I must not care.

The truth is that giving up dieting was the biggest step I’ve ever made toward my health.  Diets ruled my life for many years and I’m not any better off because of it.  In fact, I would argue that my health would be even better if I had given up dieting years before I did.

Dieting is Bad for Your Health

Diets are actually bad for your health, though that isn’t the message we hear in the media or in the doctor’s office.  Let’s take a look at a few reasons why:

Diets don’t work long term.  Anyone can follow a diet plan for a few months or even a year.  But most diets are ineffective in the long-term.  People may find that they lose weight on a particular diet only to gain it back (and more) when they no longer follow the plan.

Diets encourage disordered eating.   If someone with anorexia tells you that they count the number of grapes they eat at breakfast, you would probably think that behavior is very unhealthy.  But if someone is fat and they count their grapes you might cheer them on.

The behavior is the same and in both cases it is disordered eating.  Diets encourage many behaviors that are disordered such as counting and measuring food, skipping meals, ignoring hunger signals, basing your worth on weight, chronic yo-yo dieting, weight fluctuations, and preoccupation with food and exercise.

Diets lead to weight cycling.  When your weight is moving up and down frequently we call that “weight cycling”.  Doing this over and over again is actually linked to poor health including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and immune problems.

Diets cause weight cycling.  In fact, a study performed at UCLA found that the greatest predictor of weight gain was actually reporting having previously lost weight on a diet.

Diets cause emotional stress.  Dieting can increase your stress levels.  Focusing your life on food and exercise narrows your interests and keeps you from spending energy on other areas of your life that are important.

Dieting also leads to feelings of guilt and shame about eating specific foods, how much you eat, and your body.  When dieting you tend to celebrate weight loss and put yourself down when you don’t lose.  You can also find that your entire day can be ruined by stepping on the scale and not experiencing the desired results.

Give Up Dieting and Take Back Your Health

Body, spirit, mind Balance

When you give up dieting, you’ll find that there’s much more room in your life for good health.  For example:

Food will be in its proper place.  When you don’t have to be obsessed with food and restriction you can spend more time looking up delicious recipes and trying new things.

You can eat with balance, variety, and moderation and give up foods that you don’t like.  You may find that some foods don’t work for you.  But those decisions will be made based on what your body is telling you not external rules.

Food will be something you enjoy, but not something that takes over your life.  In fact, you’ll find that you just don’t worry about food anymore.  It’s a need that you have and a part of life you enjoy, but not something that causes stress.

You’ll focus on other health behaviors.   Eating and exercise are just two behaviors that can affect our health.  When you spend all of your time focusing on them you might miss other things such as reducing your stress levels, taking appropriate supplements or medications, getting good sleep, spending time with friends, meeting spiritual needs and making time for fun.

You’ll let go of shame.  This is one of the most important things you’ll gain by giving up dieting.  You’ll no longer worry about feeling guilty about eating specific foods or what the scale says.  Instead you can focus on how you feel.  You’ll worry about feeling good, not being good.

This isn’t a quick and easy road.  It can take time to unlearn behaviors that haven’t served you well and implement new ones.  But in the end, giving up dieting will benefit you much more than the diet roller coaster.  You’ll be able to experience better overall health and wellness and you’ll be able to have more joy in your life.

If you’re ready to stop dieting and focus on meeting your true needs, I can show you how.  Contact me today and ask about an Am I Hungry? Workshop or one-on-one coaching.

Jeni 🙂

 

Is It Mindful Eating? Or a Diet in Disguise?

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about mindful eating in the media and in discussions from family and friends.  Some of what I’ve been reading and seeing has me very concerned.  It turns out a lot of programs that are advertising themselves as “mindful eating” are really diets in disguise.

So how can you tell if it’s true mindful eating or a restrictive diet program?  Read on for a few clues.

It Promotes Weight Loss

If a program claiming to support mindful eating is also being touted as a weight loss program, it’s a diet in disguise.  And these programs are rampant.  What’s the problem with including weight loss as a goal?

When you start working to pursue weight loss, you actually lose sight of the self-care and health benefits that come from this way of living.  Changes in weight become your sole measure for success or failure.

For some people mindful eating may result in weight loss but for some people it can result in weight gain or no change in weight at all.  If you focus on weight and measurement, you disconnect from the intuition and learning that the practice of mindful eating seeks to develop.

True mindful eating isn’t dependent on any measurements.  It allows you to tap into your body’s wisdom to know what is best for you in the present moment.

It Promotes External Rules

Mindful eating is about trusting your body’s wisdom and making decisions based on internal cues.  Dieting depends on external rules to make decisions about what to eat.  So if you’re counting any grams, points, or calories you’ve stepped outside of mindful eating.

Labeling any food as “good” or “bad” is also diet culture instead of mindful eating.  If a “mindful eating” program advises you to eliminate foods or elevates “health” foods above others it’s a diet.

It Uses Exercise to Earn Food

Another common diet tactic is to connect exercise and food in such a way that someone exercises to “earn” more food.  In mindful eating we disconnect exercise from food choices.  Instead we focus on mindful and joyful movement for its own sake – not as a weight loss tool.

If you see a “mindful eating” program that promotes exercise for earning the right to eat more, steer clear!  This is not true intuitive eating or mindful movement.

True Mindful Eating

True mindful or intuitive eating helps you to connect with your body’s own signals to determine when, what, and how much to eat while using nutritional information to help create balance, variety, and moderation – but not as a rigid rule.

Exercise is seen as a way to move, explore the world, feel stronger, and experience joy rather than a way to lose weight or earn the right to eat more food.

If you want to learn more about mindful eating, make peace with food, and live a plus-size life (not a small life focused on dieting and food), the Am I Hungry? 8 Week workshop is a great way to start.  You’ll learn new skills and become more comfortable with trusting your body’s wisdom.

Contact me today to find out how to register for my next workshop!

Jeni 🙂

 

Are You Drinking Enough Water? 5 Ways to Add More

True confession:  I would rather drink soda than water given just about any situation.  But what happens when I do that?  I feel terrible!  Too much caffeine, dry mouth, sore joints, headaches, dry skin, and the list goes on.

So the reality is that with mindful eating I look at how that affects my body and I say, “What do I need?” and the answer is WATER!

Drinking water is just a habit I have to be mindful of.  It’s very easy for me to get busy and not pay attention to my water intake – and I know I’m not the only one!  Here are a few ways you can add more water (and I do these!) when it isn’t your top favorite.

Get a Fancy Glass

This for me is one of the best ways to make sure I get water.  Your glass doesn’t have to be fancy, but it can be special in some way.  We have a very naughty cat living in our house who likes to knock over water glasses, so my special glass has a lid and straw (by the way, drinking through a straw helps you to drink more – that’s a bonus #6 for you!).

But just by having that out I remember to fill it up, carry it around with me and I end up drinking more water.  In fact, that glass is reserved only for water – no other beverage.  It’s also pretty and I love it.

Use a Convenient Dispenser

When we first got a fridge that had a water dispenser on the front of the door, I couldn’t believe how much more water everyone in the family started to drink.  Just having water that was fairly cool, filtered, and very convenient made it easier to make that choice.

If you don’t have that available, consider a water filter pitcher with a spout that can store cold, filtered water in the fridge.  You’ll be surprised to see how much more you drink when it tastes great, is nice and cold, and is convenient.

Choose Watery Foods and Drinks

Did you know that all of your water doesn’t have to come in its purest form?  Your body can use water from fruits, vegetables, and other water rich foods.  When you consume those you’ll add water to your daily intake.

Additionally, beverages that don’t contain caffeine can also help add to your water consumption.  One of my favorite treats is iced herbal tea in the summer.  When I get tired of plain ole water, I reach for that instead.

Add It to Your Order

When you’re at a restaurant, ask for water.  Seems simple enough!  As you eat your meal your server will keep filling it up.  Often, I order a flavored beverage and water when I’m in a restaurant and I alternate so that I don’t miss out on hydration.

Kick Start Your Day

The first think I drink in the morning when I wake up is a glass of water.  I started doing that intentionally in the beginning, but now I notice that when I wake up I am thirsty and crave it – because I need it after having gone several hours without any.

If you make it a point to start your day with water it can help you to develop the habit and actually help you to want more water throughout the day.

How Much Water Should You Drink?

For years we’ve all heard that we need eight glasses of water each day.  The truth is that there’s no one number that’s right for everyone.  A lot depends on your activity level, climate, health conditions, and more.

So, it’s a good rule of thumb to drink eight glasses a day, but some people need more and some need less.  If you pay attention to your body’s signals you’ll know when you need to drink.

For example, if you feel thirsty that’s your body telling you to drink.  But sometimes the feeling of thirst can also be confused with hunger.  If you feel hungry, you might try drinking a glass of water and see how you feel.  You may also have low energy or a headache if you’re starting to get dehydrated.

Mindful eating is about staying in tune with your body and trusting that it knows what you need.  It’s important to pay attention to how you feel and what messages your body sends you.

Sometimes I just want a soda.  And when I do – I get one and I drink it with enjoyment.  I just try to make sure not to miss out on the water that I need as well.

 

5 Tips for Developing Self-Compassion

In a world where we are constantly told we aren’t good enough and companies are making billions off of our insecurities, it can be hard to feel compassion for yourself.  But having self-compassion is one of the most important steps toward taking care of your body, mind, and spirit.

Here are 5 tips for developing self-compassion and taking baby steps toward loving yourself the way you are right now.

 1. Treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend.

When your bestie comes to you having made a mistake, do you berate her and put her down?  Of course not!  That wouldn’t make for a very long friendship.  But often we do that to ourselves.

When we make a mistake, often we immediately shame and guilt ourselves to death.  Instead, pause and think, “How would I treat my best friend if she were in this situation?” and then make a different choice for yourself.

2.  Affirmations

I used to think affirmations were pretty strange and I didn’t get how they could help.  But it turns out they’ve been very powerful in my life since I began to use them.  Basically, this is a way to rewire your thinking.  And by improving your thoughts you will improve your actions.

I like to write affirmations on the bathroom mirror or on sticky notes and place them where I’ll see them often.  Some examples for self-compassion include:

I have infinite value.  My worth is not dependent on how I look or what I accomplish.

I deserve kindness and unconditional love.

I accept myself as I am right now.

3. Watch your words

It’s important to be mindful of the words you speak about yourself.  Do you find yourself being critical of your body or your actions?  You may have developed a habit of putting yourself down and not even realize it.

Spend a few days paying careful attention to how you think about and talk about yourself.  If you find yourself saying something negative, make a point to turn it around and give yourself compassion instead.

It may take some time to change this habit, but you’ll find that the more you do it the easier it gets.

4. Forgive yourself

Having self-compassion doesn’t mean you think you’re faultless.  Think of anyone in your life that you truly love.  Do you love them because they’re perfect?  Of course not!  If that were the condition for friendship we would all be friendless.  But when they make mistakes you find grace for them.

It’s important to also give yourself some grace.  You aren’t perfect – and that’s ok!  Recognize your mistakes and forgive yourself.  If there’s something you want to improve upon, make a plan to do so.  It will be easier to make positive changes when you’re not spending your time beating yourself up.

5. Prayer and Meditation

When I was a high school teacher I would pray every morning that God would help me to see my students the way He saw them.  Often that’s how I made it through tough days and looked past bad behaviors to see beautiful spirits.  I believe that same prayer works for helping you to see yourself the way God sees you – with infinite love.

Prayer is a form of mediation and connection with a higher power.  Using prayer and guided meditation can help you to connect with something larger than yourself and begin to understand your value and purpose more deeply.

Takeaway Challenge

I challenge you to try one or two of these tips this week and see how it changes the way you feel about yourself.  Self-compassion doesn’t mean that you see yourself as perfect; it means that with all your imperfections you love and value who you are.

 

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