Dieting sucks, and I think deep down we ALL know that. But for some reason we keep doing it! We keep saying to ourselves 'on Monday I will be giving up chocolate, alcohol, and all other pleasure', and then we are surprised when we end up miserable. But WHY does it suck quite so much? And what is the alternative?
We are constantly being conditioned to want more, and want it faster. The dieting mentality plays to this perfectly, with promises of substantial results in 12 weeks, 8 weeks, or even 21 days! Often the focus will be around some pretty severe restrictions, such as little or no carbs. Or perhaps it could be eating how our ancestors ate, allegedly. Maybe it's only drinking juices all day for a week. Reading those back just makes it so clear to me just how much dieting sucks.
Whatever it is, it's usually something you wouldn't want to sustain long-term. I mean, maybe you would but if that's the case then you're not really 'on a diet', and you probably don't need to read this.
There are some pretty damning statistics regarding diets. For example, 95% of diets fail and most dieters end up exactly where they started within 1-5 years. Plus 35% of people who jump on the occasional diet end up with disordered eating/pathological dieting, and around 25% to full-on eating disorders. See that, and more, here.
Beginning to sound like a pretty rubbish idea on paper, right? Yep, dieting sucks.
So what's the alternative to miserable and quite frankly ineffective dieting?
Habit change. Lifestyle change. You will have far more success, and find much greater enjoyment, in making small permanent changes to your routines. Dieting sucks, but habit changes can be awesome!
Instead of condemning yourself to a life of 'no bread ever again', why not try looking at how you end up eating a full loaf every day and tweaking your routines to reduce it. Instead of dropping from 2 sugars in your tea down to zero because 'diet', why not start with 1.5 sugars? This will barely be noticeable, and then after a few weeks drop it to one sugar and even that won't be noticeable! At this point you've halved the sugar in your tea, which is a substantial change to your habits.
With a diet mentality we end up fearing food, being scared of going off-track due to one biscuit or a handful of crisps. God forbid we get invited out for a friend's birthday, or any other social event! I once found myself sitting in my car outside a kid's birthday party eating cold chicken and veg rather than having a few sausage rolls.
Just typing that made me wince, what the hell was wrong with me?!
Well actually nothing, other than the fact I had bought into the dogma pumped out endlessly by diet companies, many personal trainers, and the 'fitspo' brigade on social media. I had become convinced that dieting was the only way to get the results I wanted. Results which, by the way, I had also become convinced I wanted when in actual fact deep down I couldn't care less about having a six-pack.
You feel me? We've all been there, or at least somewhere nearby.
When I finally broke up with dieting I felt new. I felt like I could make positive changes to my lifestyle without feeling constantly deprived, hungry, miserable, and cranky. I felt like I could start to think about what I really wanted to add to my life, rather than what I 'should' be taking away.
Some people talk about eating to fuel your body, rather than dieting. I get where they are coming from, but food isn't just fuel. Food is also fun! Food is social, emotional, celebratory, bonding, sharing, and even spiritual. So yeah, food is fuel, but not just for your body. It's also food for your soul! That may sound cheesy or cliche, but you know I'm right.
So don't see food as the enemy or something to be feared. Don't buy into the diet mentality which is leaving millions of people feeling hopeless, useless, and generally rubbish. Start thinking of food as a positive part of your life, and your ability to make lifestyle changes as an opportunity to add into your life what you want more of.
If a positive move for you would be to begin finding new things to do when stressed other than eating, then go for it! Maybe you think a good direction for you to take would be increasing the amount of vegetables you eat with your evening meal, crack on! If you want to get more active try reading this. Or maybe you are starting to realise that the pressure you put on yourself to eat clean and maintain a perfect diet isn't helping your mental state, and your positive change would be to chill out and eat more doughnuts. And once again, more power to you!
We are all living different lives, and we all want different things. We are all at different points in our stories. But one thing is for sure, life is not about deprivation, stress and misery. Life is about enjoyment, experience, and learning. Well, that's how I see it anyway.
The only thing that pretty much everyone wants across the board is happiness. Not all the time, that's just stupid, but just to generally get more enjoyment from life overall. And buying into the dieting dogma just ain't going to give you that, results or no results.
So here's my final thought, a la Jerry Springer: dieting sucks, so instead try thinking about all the little ways you can add more to your life.