So you decide this is the last diet, the last time… you start it and you’re feeling great, momentum is building. But then you can’t keep it up - and the diet break happens. You feel guilt and shame, and realise. It’s happened again - you started with great aspirations but now feel horrible. Again. What is this cycle you’re trapped in - and how to get out? That’s where I can hopefully help…
First things first what is the diet cycle -
You start wanting to lose weight / change your body in some way. This leads you to a diet - and the actual diet can vary - and you go for it. You go super restrictive, cut out whole food groups and majorly reduce how much you’re taking in. And you start to notice changes, and you get compliments from other people. The little voice in your head says you’re finally doing it, and maybe you feel in control.
But then one day you’re feeling exhausted and run down, so you pause the diet for a meal / day. And one ‘cheat meal’ turns into a binge or loss of control around food. And you’re full of guilt and shame - it was all going so well until you had no self-control. You feel like it’s your fault. After a little while you resolve to fix what you’ve done - you’ll jump back on the wagon. And give it even more. So the cycle restarts…
That is the diet cycle.
And with each cycle it gets harder, and you feel worse. It becomes all consuming - but also we live in a world of diet culture. So it’s slightly inevitable that you’ll pursue a diet - whether for thinness, body weight manipulation or for your quote on quote health (as getting trapped in the diet cycle isn’t healthy for you).
There’s something called the pendulum of deprivation to overeating. If you think of a pendulum swinging back and forth that’s what happens when we diet. We swing towards rigid deprivation, and then inevitably move back to overeating / bingeing.
Recommended article - weight cycling 101.
So why are you stuck?
A diet that isn’t a diet - it’s a “lifestyle change”: Not naming any names but it’s gone from covert messaging to literal marketing slogans. If it looks like a diet and acts like a diet - it’s a diet. I was on tumblr when #fitspo and all the other pro-ED talk was out there and the number one tactic was claiming it’s a lifestyle change and all in the name of health.
Nostalgia / you’re wearing rose tinted glasses: There’s many things we look back on as better than they were - and dieting is the same. We can convince ourselves we felt great, we weren’t that tired etc. and so why not do it again? Because it wasn’t that bad. Then we start and realise how run down and terrible we feel…
Other people can do it long term, why can’t you?: It’s a well known secret that a lot of influencers don’t rely on diet alone to maintain their bodies, or that they have great genetics. But from the outside it’s easy to think well they’re just more disciplined than me (although discipline is easy when it signs your paycheck).
You’re at extremes either way: whether it’s the diet or the rebound it’s 1000% there’s no middle ground. It’s all absolutes, either you’re majorly under-fueling or you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater and thinking screw it and losing control.
You haven’t looked at your relationship to food in its entirety: Nothing is in isolation, we eat socially, emotionally etc. but with diets is seen as calories in vs. calories out and nothing more. And when you take the bird's eye view you can see why you eat the way you do, how eating fits in with your life etc.
So how to get out of the diet cycle - some starting steps:
Acknowledge you want to get out: And whether it’s writing it somewhere you can see e.g. on your phone notes or just something you call on often. Having it in mind, and something you call on will help when the next diet pops up, when friends suggest one etc.
Action: Make a list of reasons you don’t want to diet - think about how diets have affected you physically, mentally, socially, emotionally etc.
Commit to eating enough for your body: and chances are that’s more than you think. Start to notice signs of underfueling (including increased hunger, lack of sleep, brain fog, constant illness, recurring injury etc.). Make an effort to increase your intake and reflect on how you’re feeling - regardless of weight.
Action: If affirmations are your thing set yourself an affirmation such as ‘It’s okay to give my body the fuel it needs’. ‘My body deserves nourishment’ etc.
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat: The word unconditional is basically defined as not subject to any conditions. It is absolute. In terms of food, this means eating what is satisfying to you without judgement or guilt as a by-product. It means letting yourself eat what you would like to.
Action: Take a second to think about what you would like to eat, what you fancy etc. what emotions does that bring up in you? Why?
Stop labelling food: Move away from thinking in the binary of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ when it comes to food. What you think is good someone else may think of as bad, everything is subjective and depends on the context. If you had lettuce everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner that would be unhealthy no?
Action: Next time you think of something as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ try and stop yourself and ask why?
Commit to not trying to change your body: Probably the hardest one to be fair but something that needs to be addressed if you want to move away from diets long term. It’s harder to eat in a way that satisfies you and without guilt if you’re trying to change your body.
Action: Think about the reasons you want to change your body - if it's for health reasons will losing weight automatically improve your health or are there other methods? If it is for the way you look and being confident - was there a time you were most confident, or are there other methods of increasing that confidence?
Reject the scale, calorie counters, macros etc.: All diet tools that don’t serve you. And let’s not talk about the endless notifications from calorie counting apps… Find tools that help you move away from diets - not pull you back in.
I hope this has been useful - send me a DM or book a discovery call if you have any questions.
Some recommended books:
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