There, I said it. And, I think we can all agree.
Dieting implies restriction, deprivation, bland, boring foods and frequently guilt, self-hatred, and regret. No one wants that and no body responds well to that. Trust me, I tried.
I tried the low-fat diet, the low-carb approach, vegetarianism, no white foods, all of it. I tried shaming and criticizing my body into losing the weight. And you know what it made me? Fatter and more resentful.
Why? Because dieting doesn’t work on a physical level nor on an emotional level.
Good habits and self-love are what work.
Let me explain. On a physiological level, weight loss can be accomplished with good nutrition, exercise, and success-promoting habits. On an emotional level, weight loss occurs when the weight of emotional baggage, stress, and negative self-talk is lifted.
Once I gave up following every fad diet, I began implementing practices that were good for health (and coincidentally were supposed to be good for weight loss). I switched from the restriction approach that required cutting foods out of my diet to the nutrient-dense approach, which meant eating something green every single day. I began including more real foods: fresh and cooked vegetables, fresh fruits, seeds, nuts, healthy fats, and organic sources of protein. Filling up with these whole foods meant I was consuming less sugar and processed foods, not by willpower and depriving myself, but because I wasn’t hungry for them and they weren’t as appealing.
I also prioritized sleep, which meant honoring myself and my need to go to bed by 10:30 in order to get 8 hours of sleep. In order to make this a habit, I set an alarm on my calendar to ring at 10pm on every one of my devices, reminding me it was time to get ready for bed.
To make sure I had the most important physical bases covered, I also changed my exercise routine and my probiotic. I gave up my college habit of spending 45-60 minutes running or flapping around on an elliptical, and switched to weights and high-intensity interval training. That change began to give me muscle definition that I’d never had before and in less than half the hours per week. (With the extra free-time, I was able to do more of the self-love practices mentioned below.) Testing out different probiotics (supplements containing ‘good’ bacteria) helped me find ones that work better for my digestion, raised my energy levels, kept hunger at bay longer, and improved my mood. It may sound crazy but gut health and the balance of gut bacteria matter a lot more than we ever thought.
Many people think the above should be enough to create a slim figure, but in my case, the real change that needed to happen was with my thoughts. For the same reason you can’t deprive a child of sleep, guilt him for dozing off, and then still expect him to be a successful student and happy kid, to deprive my body of love and guilt it for craving sugar, how could I expect it to become thinner?
Through a lot of trial and error, I started developing a new approach. It started simply, with a nightly gratitude journal of at least 3 things I could be grateful for that day. After months, I even added one thing about my body I was grateful for.
I sought peace from my judgmental, critical thoughts with meditation and asana (yoga style moving meditation). With yoga, I also learned to breathe again–to notice when my breath was shallow and stress was high and to take that as an opportunity to fill my lungs with deep, relaxing breaths. Over time, I felt less stress and less anxiety, and coincidentally less hate toward my body.
As my attitude changed, my new lifestyle habits began to be more effective, and slowly my body responded. Just like kids, our own bodies do best with love, care, compassion, nourishment, and acceptance.
Little by little, my body and my self-talk improved and finally there were days when I could actually like and appreciate parts of my body.
Of course this didn’t all happen at once (it took years), nor was the progression linear (there were a lot of stumbles) but now I can proudly say, I no longer diet! Which includes totally enjoying an occasional dessert or treat without stress, shame, or guilt.
But more importantly, I love my body, how it looks, and all that it does for me. Even to maintain my weight (or to drop a few post-vacation pounds), I don’t diet. I return to my good habits and self-love practices and within a few days I feel good again and quickly return to my same level of leanness.
Whether you follow my approach or discover your own, I hope that you too can find the freedom that comes from ditching dieting and living a life that matches your health goals and is filled with self-love.
Toffler Niemuth is a natural health and self-care advocate passionate about enabling individuals to take care of their own health and vitality. She does so by creating products for people who are ready to improve their health, naturally and holistically. Customers have been described the products as the boost that “empowers me to make healthier choices” and “helps me get on track and stay on track.” Through her articles, ebooks, and wellness tea blends, she’ll show you that you can be your own doctor and health coach, even if you’re just starting your health journey.