Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Principle Number 1: Reject the Diet Mentality

"Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating."

And this is where I'm stuck. I can't seem to believe this step. My own experiences, plus the experiences of family members, friends, and of course the weight loss community, have lead me to believe that losing weight is a relatively simple process. As Weight Watchers says, to lose weight one must eat less and move more.

Throughout the chapter, the authors Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, discuss both the physical and psychological problems with dieting. Physically, the two authors say that, with each diet, our bodies get more efficient at saving fat, therefore making it more difficult to lose weight. Additionally, regained weight seems to center in the stomach which causes increased health risks. The two authors assert that it's healthier to stay obese rather than to lose and regain (yo yo) the same weight multiple times.

But in my opinion, the more interesting damage is psychological. The authors reference a famous study of deprivation from the 1960s (I believe). In the study, a group of healthy men who typically consume 2500 calories a day are forced to limit their caloric intake to 1500 calories. As a result of the deprivation, the men start obsessing over food, particularly treats. Some men start "cheating" the diet and others become defiant. After the deprivation, the men are allowed to eat normally. And guess what? The vast majority of the men more than double their initial normal caloric intake, eating over 5,000 calories a day.

The author's basic argument is that dieting (i.e. deprivation) leads to food cravings and, ultimately, overeating. The basic premise is that people start out with eating behaviors that are in tune with their biological needs. For instance, a toddler naturally regulates his or her eating (over a period of a few days) to meet his or her needs. However, as people age and go on diets, this "intuitive voice" becomes drowned out by external cues.

One thing I noticed as a dieter was that I nearly always finished my portions of food. Because I counted the "points" for each meal, I wanted to get my value's worth. I didn't pause mid-meal to ask myself if I was full, I just kept eating and stopped when the plate was empty. While this habit was okay when I was measuring my portions, it can cause problems when I go to restaurants or have bigger than normal servings on my plates. This habit causes me to rely on the external cue of an empty plate rather than my satiety level.

Anyway, those are the two main points in the chapter.

First off, I'm not overly concerned with the physical factors. From the research I've seen, your metabolism is not a stagnant thing and will bounce back over time. That's why it is possible for yo-yo dieters to continue to lose weight. And that's why it was possible for me to lose weight. As for regaining in the stomach area, that sucks. But what dieter ever expects to regain the weight lost?

As for the psychological, it is SO HARD for me to consider that I'm not at fault here. I feel like I was born with some "fat defect" that brought all of this on.

On my worst days, I think that some witch stood over my cradle and said, "She will be pretty. She will be intelligent. She will have a sense of humor, but she will be fat. And that cancels everything out. Hahahahaha."

Could it really be that my first diets around age 12 caused this whole mess? Was I meant to be slim like the rest of my family? Did I unwittingly cause my weight problem by trying to diet?

That's a depressing thought. And it's hard for me to wrap my head around.

Before I get to that deep psychological issue, wouldn't it make more sense to lose this 20 pounds? Then, I can take the time to think about all this in my comfortable size 10 pants.

According to the authors of Intuitive Eating, my bargain is a common misconception of dieters. All dieters apparently believe "this will be the last time." And all dieters want to focus on the immediate effects (i.e. smaller pants) before they focus on the not quite so apparent psychological issues. And apparently this "last ditch diet" approach is a part of the yo-yo problem.

So, as you can tell, I'm trying to wrap my head around the first step. It isn't easy, and I acknowledge that it might take a while. However, blindly going through the steps, without acceptance, seems like a worthless idea.

Anyway, enough on this for now. On to breakfast: oatmeal with banana, milk, and a tablespoon of Nuttella. Yum.


  1. Wow. I found this incredibly fascinating! I both agree and disagree with the methods of thinking here. I've experienced both the cheating and the overeating when I feel I'm deprived. But right now, I'm using sparkpeople.com, which is different from WW in that it's mostly calorie counting (and free)....and I've found myself shunning my usual mid-afternoon diet soda for another bottle of water now that I've been "on plan" for two weeks. I'm replacing bad habits with new ones, because I'm becoming addicted to a healthy habit? That doesn't mean I didn't totally go overboard this past weekend with wine because I've been depriving myself of it, though. I think it can work both ways, but that a "diet" (if it's reasonable) can work in your favor in the aspect that if you can make a few healthy changes and make it a habit, it was worth it. Flip side - dieting and feeling the need to lose weight in general definitely plays with your mentality and emotions in so many ways. Interesting information to ponder, for sure. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jessie, thanks so much for the feedback. I really agree with your comments. I think that being more aware of health and making small changes, i.e. substituting water for soda, is a great thing. It means that you respect your body and health. On the other hand, I think dieting can be a slippery slope, especially when you start thinking about losing X pounds.

    Thanks for reading. You made my day =)