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Portland Therapy Blog

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Losing the Diet is Not Losing

Posted: May 09, 2014 by Anne Cuthbert, M.A.

Disordered eating begins with your first diet.

You may have had very good reasons to start that first diet. Perhaps a family member was concerned about you and how the other kids would treat you. Perhaps your mother commented negatively on her body and you realized the importance of looking thin. Perhaps your body was criticized for how it looked. Maybe you and your friends decided to diet together.

Whatever the reason, your first diet started you down the path to disordered eating-ville. Here’s how it works.

You start your first diet and you lose some weight. Great. You get compliments from others and it feels good. You stop the diet and start eating again. The weight comes back on and maybe even a little more. So you start another diet. The yo-yo cycle begins.

What also begins is the development of the “Binge Part” (aka “Binge Voice”). This Binge Part starts to rebel against the diet. “I won’t let you starve me!” It yells and drives you toward the fridge and cupboards for more food.

With each diet you embark upon, the Binge Part gets bigger and it’s voice louder. 100 diets later and it may be pretty loud.

You likely hate this voice and wish it would go away and leave you alone. If only it would go away, you reason, you would be able to lose weight and keep it off. Your life would be good, you would feel good enough, in control, and all would be well.

The Binge Voice won’t go away and, in fact, it will get worse over time! The reason is that the Binge Voice is the healthy part of you!

It is trying to keep you from deprivation and ultimately starvation. It is trying to keep you sane; because dieting is unhealthy for your body. The yo-yo cycle of weight loss and gain is much more unhealthy than staying the same weight (research shows this). In addition, dieting causes bad moods, obsessive thoughts, isolation, shame about your body, periods of restricting and bingeing, and an overall craziness around food and body image.

So listen to the healthy voice and get healthy. Start by losing the diet!

Dieting was the first step toward disordered eating and therefore it’s the first step to healing and having a healthy relationship with food and your body.

When I talk to clients about this, they feel scared, even terrified. They believe that if they give up dieting, they will gain a ton of weight. They don’t. They fear that if they give up dieting, they will lose control. They don’t. They fear that if they give up dieting, they will be giving up
on themselves. They aren’t.

Because you are giving up dieting not giving up on you!

What giving up dieting means:

  • No longer feeling ashamed for eating tasty food
  • No longer wanting something to eat but depriving yourself of it
  • No longer feeling a hunger that leads straight to bingeing
  • No longer being crabby from denying yourself food you love
  • No longer saying no to the cake at the party only to binge on one later
  • No longer being in a cycle of losing weight and then gaining it back again
  • No longer fearing weight gain
  • No longer fearing your desire to eat
  • Learning new ways to deal with your feelings rather than emotional eating
  • No more salads unless you really want one
  • Knowing you will want a salad eventually and even soon
  • No longer listening to what someone else says you should eat
  • No more thinking about food all the time
  • No more thinking you can control your body’s weight only to find out once again that your body always wins
  • No more gaining back all the weight and maybe even more
  • No more worrying about what will happen when the diet ends or when you lose control once again
  • No more hating your body
  • No more feeling like a failure

Just a few of the things you will gain:

  • Trusting yourself again
  • Eating a variety of foods and feeling completely satisfied
  • Having a meal last the length of a meal, rather than an on-going torment of dissatisfaction
  • Enjoying veggies, cooked just the way you like them
  • Eating at a variety of restaurants with your friends and family without thinking about the menu first
  • Closer relationships with those you care about
  • Exercising because you enjoy it and love yourself enough to do it regularly
  • Resting because you don’t feel like exercising that day and feeling perfectly okay with this
  • Learning to not care what your family members or friends say to you about your weight/health
  • Taking responsibility for your health in a way that truly feels healthy
  • Learning to like, accept, and even love your body because you see more what it can do rather than what it doesn’t look like
  • Living your life rather than thinking about food and your body all the time
  • And so much more!

Imagine it. Imagine having all the above in your life. Imagine how much more peace you will experience. Imagine no longer having the urge to binge. Imagine accepting yourself as you are. Imagine living your life fully rather than being distracted by how you look. Imagine feeling beautiful just as you are – because you are!

You can have all of this! Just take the first step and give up on dieting. Because when you give up on the diet to solve your problems, then you get to start facing your problems and learn how to cope in a healthy way – a way that brings you the true happiness you seek.

How to give up dieting:

To take this first step, you can begin anywhere you want. You don’t need to give up dieting completely, unless you are ready for that. You can just start by eating what you want of just one food. Try it this week. Pick a food that you’re going to eat whenever you want it. Go to the store and buy several containers of this food item. Take it home and stock your cupboard with it. Whenever you want it, eat it and eat as much as you want. When you feel done, put it away. When you want it again, take it out and enjoy it. Repeat.

What will happen, and more quickly than you might ever imagine or hope, is that you will desire this food less and less. Once that Binge Part of you knows it can eat that food whenever it wants, it won’t want it anymore. After all, it never really did, it was just rebelling against not being able to have the tasty food. So when you allow those yummy treats to be eaten, you will start to listen to your body and what your body really wants to eat. That’s when you have freedom with food and can eat what your body needs and what you love and feel perfectly healthy about the whole thing.

Of course, you can do this with all foods if you’re ready for that! In fact, the more you can start to eat whatever you want, whenever you want it, the faster you will have the freedom with food you want. But taking a little time to get there, by allowing yourself to enjoy one food at a time is perfectly perfect too!

I hope you can see how losing the diet is not at all about losing! Instead, it’s a way to claim you back from the cycle of dieting and bingeing.

Try it for a week and you too will see a shift in your relationship with food.

Anne Cuthbert, M.A., LPC, is a liscensed professional counselor in Portland, OR. You can find out more about her practice by visiting her website or her profile.

Tags: mood and feelings, anxiety, addiction and behavior, body issues

Anne Cuthbert, M.A.

Licensed Professional Counselor

Are you tired of yo-yo dieting or using food as a way to fulfill your emotional needs?

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Body Image Issues, Eating Disorder, Sexual Abuse, Obesity