I went on my first diet at age nine and continued on the diet carousel well into my late 20s developing some pretty damaging eating practices and body image issues along the way.
I have tried every diet in the book – fat-free, ketogenic, Atkins, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, high fat/low carb, high protein/high fat, etc, etc.
I went on so many diets that in the end, I was totally confused about what I should be eating. My body was confused too. It had no idea what to expect from one day to the next, so almost out of fear, it was holding onto extra weight in anticipation of what diet punishment I might serve it next.
My body became my enemy and I was in a constant battle with it. I had lost all ability to use my intuition to listen to my body and discover what it needed to thrive.
The problem with dieting is that it is all about deprivation - about giving up a food or an entire food group. Most diets work in the short term but they are not sustainable because we feel like we are missing out.
Foods become labelled “good” or “bad”. The problem with that is we start eating foods because we think they are “good” for us even though we don’t particularly like them (hello, cabbage soup diet).
Some diets even allow us a “cheat day”, a little taste of freedom before we lock ourselves back up in diet hell the next day. It’s taken me nearly 30 years but I now know, diets don’t work in the long-term and for many, including me, they take a lot of the enjoyment out of food.
For me, the catalyst to change my dietary habits was becoming a mother. I have four young children and my hope is for each of them to have a positive body image and the tools to know what their body needs to grow strong and healthy.
For me, it was a great release to be able to ditch the diet for good. Instead, I have learned to ask myself,
“What does my body need more of, in order to feel better?”
I challenge you to try the same. For example, most of us need to eat more vegetables. So instead of saying, “I am not eating any ice cream this week”, make a commitment to add more vegetables to your diet by eating five full serves a day for seven days. You can still have your ice-cream, you just need to eat your vegetables first!
You will find that by adding more healthy, nutrient-dense foods to your diet, you will naturally start to feel and look better and your desire for less healthy foods will decline naturally without you feeling deprived.
Don’t tell yourself you can’t eat bread. Have some bread but instead of choosing a highly processed white sandwich loaf, allow yourself to buy a beautiful spelt sourdough which is easier to digest and heavier in texture, meaning you will eat less.
If you find yourself in the habit of reaching for sugary drinks in the early afternoon, to get you through the
Treat yourself to a new water bottle and fill it with some clean, filtered water (add a squeeze of lemon if you wish) and sip on it throughout the day. You will find that by staying well hydrated you will have less need for (and room for) your usual afternoon pick-me-up.
If one afternoon you do still want your sugary drink, then don’t punish yourself. Enjoy it. The next day, start your morning with your fresh water again. No punishment.
By increasing your intake of healthy foods and healthy liquids, you will crowd out less nutritious foods without feeling deprived.
Your skin will improve, your hair will be shinier, your brain fog will clear and your clothes will start to fit better. And the wonderful thing is, the better you start to feel and look, the more you will crave nutritious foods and ditch your less healthy habits.
By doing these things, I have learned to show my body I love it by nurturing it with the foods it needs to keep functioning the way I want it to. I have learned to enjoy food again and to enjoy indulgence too, without guilt. It is liberating. Try it. Ditch the diet for good.
Jane Blake, Busy but Balanced