Conquering the Urge to Diet: Three Steps

By Katie, 5:18 am

Monday I shared with you an audio recording in which I chat about how my self-image improved  when I let go of my obsession with my weight. Lest you think that means my time in front of the mirror is all roses and butterflies – “I’m so glad I’ve dealt with my issues! Now I love the way I look all the time!” – I decided this post would be an appropriate follow-up.

Because believe me, it ain’t all roses and butterflies.

Despite all the work I’ve done on honoring my hunger and the intensity with which I’ve pursued a positive body image, there are still days when I look at my reflection and think, “Ugh. This is not good.”

(Source)

Many times I am able to catch myself, remembering that those thoughts illustrate a problem with my perspective rather than with my body. But there are still times when I’m certain my stomach and my thighs are the problem, and the solution is to go on a diet and lose a few pounds.

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Before I explain how I deal with this urge, let me make a qualifying point about dieting:

I define “dieting” as anything that goes against our bodies’ natural course. Dieting is enforcing an external structure or plan on our eating in attempt to control our bodies in a way that is more harmful than helpful, both mentally and physically. Simply paying more attention to our food choices and how they affect our bodies in an attempt to feel our best is not, in my book, dieting.

Moving on.

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So last week I looked in the mirror and instantaneously felt an urge to diet. I wasn’t happy with what I saw; although I’ve been feeding my body well and listening to its cues, I desperately wanted it to look different, more like our society’s ideal. And I knew I could make that happen by cutting a few side items here and a few desserts there.

It would be so easy, I thought.

I’ve had these kinds of thoughts before, and chances are you have too. Here’s how I handle them.

Three Steps for Conquering the Urge to Diet

1. Call It Like It Is

The first thing I always do is admit to myself what’s going on. This seems so simple but is incredibly important because we can easily trick ourselves into thinking what we want to do isn’t really dieting. “I just want to be healthier,” we think, even though deep down we know we just want to change the way we look. “I just want to look my best,” we think, even though deep down we know we’re using society’s definition of “best” instead of our own.

Dieting takes on many disguises and shows up through various code words. Sometimes we just gotta call it like it is.

2. Uncover the Underlying Beliefs

For me, the urge to diet is always about something more than just my body. I want to drop a few pounds before the party next weekend…because I’m scared of being judged or rejected, and I think that being thinner will protect me from that. I want to start counting calories again…because then I won’t have any mental space for confronting the fears and anxieties I’m avoiding.

When I think about it like that, I remember this crucial point: Dieting isn’t going to fix anything.

3. Eat Double Intuitively

Like I said above, going on an itty-bitty diet would be pretty easy for me. No one would know if I skipped my afternoon snack (except my grumbling tummy). No one would think twice if I started eating half sandwiches at lunch instead of whole ones (except for my energy levels). But once I start, it’s easy for the diet-binge-repeat floodgates to fly wide open.

So instead, I vow to do the opposite. I vow to make an extra effort to tune into my body the next time it calls for a meal or snack. I vow to listen carefully to see what kinds of food would be most satisfying. I vow to eat every bite as mindfully as I can.

Sure, it feels a bit exaggerated, but it’s exactly what I need to conquer that dieting urge.

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In my experience, it doesn’t matter how passionate I am about intuitive eating, or how dedicated I am to improving my body image, the urge to diet is still going to strike every now and then. But I am determined to fight it. Following these three steps gives me the strength and perspective I need to do just that.

Have you ever faced the urge to diet, even though you knew it wasn’t good for you? How did you handle it? You can also follow some guidance from LIFE Health and Fitness center to get satisfying results for a well-toned body because life is good when health is good!

36 Responses to “Conquering the Urge to Diet: Three Steps”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by abbey chapman, Katie McLaughlin. Katie McLaughlin said: Conquering the Urge to Diet: Three Steps http://goo.gl/fb/keEOk [...]

  2. Karen says:

    I do face the urge to diet rather often…usually about once a month : ) It’s always around “that time of the month” that I become unhappy with my body. I always have to take a step back and tell myself that these feelings will pass in just a few days. After a few days everything is back to normal and I feel okay again. There are those rough days every now and again where I feel the urge to diet on a non “that time of the month” day. I usually just stop and ask myself if that is really what the problem is. I tend to find that it’s something else bothering me – usually stress – and find another outlet for those feelings…other than dieting!

    • Katie says:

      That’s awesome! It does make sense that some of those feelings correspond with spikes in our hormones and things like that.

  3. Kelly says:

    I can SO relate to this. Can I just ditto to everything you just said? Even the way I solve it is very similar – the double intuitive eating (although I never thought to call it that) and especially calling it what it is. This is such a great reinforcement of everything I’ve learned about myself and dieting over the past several years. Thank you!

    • Katie says:

      Thank YOU, Kelly! It’s great to hear that others are using similar strategies too! :)

  4. Great post, Katie. I also really like the distinction you make about what you feel is dieting and what isn’t. Body image is a funny thing because it can be awesome one minute and the next you are all of a sudden hating the way you look. It is so important, like you said, to find out what is really going on there. I always refer to it as “dieting is a coping skill, too”. We use it as a tactic to avoid whatever we are really feeling so those times are big red flags too.

  5. Thank you for this post! I can certainly relate. The body image issues never completely go away but we can have control over them. And dieting is NOT the answer. Even now, while trying to lose weight – I’m focusing on taking care of my body with good foods and not depriving.

  6. Cait says:

    wow what an an inspiring post girl! I def can relate to it! You are doing fabulous and you can have great advice!

  7. My history with food and dieting is all over the place (from restricting to eating “whatever” to stuff my feelings). So I know that dieting or any sort of “planning to eat certain foods” isn’t good for me. I really try to pay attention to my body and what it needs. But it can be tough, especially when life gets hectic (and that’s also usually when I feel that I should change my body….). What works for me is slowing down, making me a priority, and trying to do what you wrote about above.

  8. Thanks for this post today! I actually just published my own post on how I’m struggling right now with a little bit of weight gain which is causing my pants to be a little tight. When things like this happen, it’s like an alarm goes off in my head and I have a HUGE urge to get back on the diet train. I’m definitely still trying to figure it all out, but it’s incredibly hard!

  9. Ditto on the thanks for this post! Yes, I have felt the urge to diet even though I know it’s never a permanent fix. Most recently I got this crazy idea that I wanted to try a weight loss supplement– some of my friends have used it and lost weight…and my old habits crept up on me and made me really want to try it. I’m a health counselor! I should definitely know better!
    It turns out I DO know better– because I did just what you said: I sat down and thought about what would happen if I used the supplement. Yes, I might lose weight quickly, but why do I want to lose weight quickly? Once I stop taking the supplement, the weight will come back– Why do I even need to lose weight in the first place? My answer was “to see if I can do it” Which is a totally insane answer. Needless to say, I did chose listening to my body and eating whole, fresh, healthy food over the supplement…

    • Katie says:

      I can very much relate to your comment, and thank you for being so open about your experience. It’s really awesome that you chose the healthy route over the supplement!

  10. A says:

    Thanks so much for this. I fight the fight to diet *constantly.* I seem to be on a perpetual diet. Always searching for the lowest cal items, low fat, fat free, obsessive calorie counting, etc. I’m a healthy weight and don’t need to do any of that. I guess I’m scared if I don’t I will gain. I don’t trust my body to tell me when it’s hungry or full. I depend on the calorie numbers. I make sure to hit a certain amount of cals a day, but eat light through the day and have a controlled binge to get to the number at night. It’s so unhealthy, but I don’t know how to break out of it. :(

    • Katie says:

      First let me say this: I have been there, and I know from experience that you CAN break out of it. :)

      My best advice is to go slowly. Don’t try to toss all the numbers out at once. Just try to eat a couple meals and snacks really mindfully, to see if your hunger levels match up to your current intake. You don’t have to change anything; just notice. Then eventually you can move on to trying to eat a meal without tallying, then a full day. Going slowly like that is what worked for me. It’s a process. :)

  11. Melanee Dahl says:

    Thank you for this post. I am in the beginning stages of learning to be an intuitive eater. It is hard to learn to listen to our bodies. And then there is the continual desire I have to diet. But I appreciate these steps. I’m going to give them a try.

    • Katie says:

      I hope you find them helpful! Learning to eat intuitively is DIFFICULT stuff, believe me. While our bodies really are the most trustworthy thing we have, we’re taught the opposite; we’re taught that our bodies need to be kept under tight control or else they will betray us. It’s a process, but definitely a worthwhile one. :)

  12. Lisa says:

    Not calling what I do “dieting” is the way I get over it. It’s not dieting, it’s not restricting, it’s living healthy and eating whole foods!

  13. Great post! I think it’s so important to share these concrete strategies. When the urge to diet comes up for me, I also try to give myself a lot of space. Buying myself some time usually allows the urge to pass, and if it doesn’t, it gives me time to get some other strategies in place. Thanks for this!

    • Katie says:

      Great point! It’s amazing what can happen when we just step back from the situation and give ourselves a little perspective.

  14. Love the point about looking underneath the urge to diet, to see what else is going on. For me, I’m not sure if negative body thoughts have ever been purely related to my physical body. But always to something else–loneliness, fear, sadness, anger, you name it.

  15. When those dieting thoughts come into my head, I KICK THEM OUT! I love this post! It has reaffirmed my commitment to eating intuitively! :D

  16. [...] I ate breakfast this morning, I read this awesome post by Katie over at Health For The Whole Self.  She wrote about how to conquer the urge to diet and I couldn’t agree more with her.  When [...]

  17. Nina says:

    Hi Katie,
    Wow. Its like you read my mind. I have had exactly the same issues come up and you describe the problem and solution perfectly. I have been an intuitive eater for 4 years now, after battling with a 10 year eating disorder. It actually happened quite easily and naturally because I was so DONE with DIETS. However, I have certainly had these sneaky little diet thoughts pop in every now and again. And you describe the consequences of that so perfectly – it would allow the diet-binge-repeat floodgates to fly wide open.
    Awesome post and love the 3 tips to conquer diet thoughts

    • Katie says:

      Thanks, Nina! It’s good to know that someone else who has faced similar battles has found the same strategies to be useful.

  18. Katie, I love this post! Thank you for your honesty and great suggestions!

    I can absolutely relate to everything. What struck me in particular was dieting for an event. I can relate to the urge to diet, which really masks the fear of rejection. I have to stop myself many times when I’m thinking about a future event that I’m not thinner in it. It used to be that before I envisioned any engagement, whatever it was, I always thought about my physical appearance first. I think it totally goes back to worrying what others think and believing that my outside will somehow shield me from judgment or rejection. Looking at the underlying reasons is so important.

    Again, this is an excellent and truly insightful post!!

  19. Liz says:

    This is one of the best posts I have ever seen about healthy eating/living. I definitely feel the urge to diet sometimes and I think this advice will help me get through those times in a healthier and happier way. I especially like the “looking at underlying issues” concept because I think that’s something most of us don’t consider.

    • Katie says:

      Thank you, Liz! I appreciate your comment, and I truly do hope you find the strategies helpful! :)

  20. Thank you so so so so so so much for this post. It is just what I needed to read after going through a slight relapse in the past month. I know I’ve been nervous going meeting my bf’s family in hawaii, then running around on the beach all day, and summer is coming and so on and so forth. you are so right and i love your take on it. dieting has never gotten me anywhere but feeling like crap! def a good thing to listen to our bodies twice as intuitively to make sure it gets what it needs!

    • Katie says:

      Believe me, I know where you’re coming from. I’ve needed to remind myself of the points in this post several times over the past few months. It’s an ongoing struggle, but it’s worth it!

  21. Beautiful post, Katie. You are one of the most powerful and talented bloggers I know. Thanks!

  22. [...] Conquering the Urge to Diet: Three Steps. Katie at Health for the Whole Self provides some really great tips for tuning into your need to diet. My favorite step is #1 Calling it Like it is. Basically, this step is asking you to be completely honest with yourself: why do you want/need to diet. Next time you feel the urge to diet, ask yourself why and really listen to what your body, heart and soul tell you. You will probably be surprised! [...]

  23. Great post. Another thing that has helped me get over the urge to diet is the science that is proving that dieting causes stress in the form of increased cortisol, which actually leads to weight gain. My logical brain loves having a reason not to diet :-)

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