Getting off the merry-go-round of dieting and indulging
Getting off the merry-go-round of dieting and indulging
It’s not uncommon when following a diet to feel deprived and to incessantly think about all the foods we are missing out on, making the focus all about food.
We are following someone else's rules when we go on a diet to lose weight, and this can create a tension within ourselves that can lead to feeling like we can't wait for this way of eating to end.
When we are on a diet to lose weight it is very likely that we dismiss the signs our body is giving us – signs telling us when we are hungry, how much we truly need to eat, and what foods would nourish us. We may override our awareness of how unsupportive some foods are for our body – and accept unpleasant symptoms – when we follow the rules of whichever diet we are on.
Once we come off a diet we may feel like we can finally escape the tension of eating under such a strict regime by indulging heartily in our favourite treat foods as a reward for all our ‘hard work’. Having a ‘blow out’ can feel like the perfect antidote to the self-imposed deprivation.
This is such a set-up.
Diets are something we ‘go on’ and ‘come off’ – like a merry-go-round. Instead, why don’t we make it just a way of living that supports our body, something that we can sustain every day, instead of the elastic band of yo-yo dieting and yo-yo living, where we deprive ourselves and then indulge in rewards?
Yet life brings many tensions. We may find ourselves living continuously between depriving and indulging ourselves, going from the strict regime of a diet to letting ourselves loose by flouting all the rules and thinking we are ‘free’ again.
The merry-go-round of diet deprivation and indulgence is something that many people trying to lose weight experience. It’s hard to know which comes first – the deprivation or indulgence. It can often feel like a cycle that never achieves an end goal.
Deprivation often follows overindulgence with food, because this overeating often makes us feel heavy and sluggish and our clothes get tight. Then we feel we have to make up for it by starting a diet and restricting our food intake. We set a date to begin our diet. We know it’s not going to be fun, that it’s going to take willpower and hard work, but we believe that it is the only way to gain back control.
By trying to eat very little, or fasting, and applying self-control and discipline, we think we are going to lose the weight and get on top of our eating patterns, but unfortunately this leads to hunger and obsessing about food. In this deprived state, and with this focus on eating, resentment can arise, along with tension and frustration, as we get tired of resisting the temptation and urge to eat, eventually succumbing to over-indulgence, and hence the cycle repeats.
It becomes a merry-go-round we can’t seem to get off.
Many of us know that when we are over-indulging in food it is because there is something we do not want to feel, so we make sure we are not connected to our body. Yet, if we were absolutely honest with ourselves, we can all feel how over-eating makes us feel heavy, sluggish, lethargic and unmotivated. It can also make us annoyed with ourselves, even to the point of self-loathing.
We can chastise ourselves for our ‘lack of willpower’ or beat ourselves up for being ‘stupid’ and knowing better. How do we get off this merry-go-round? We all know that although willpower may work for a while, it simply does not work long-term. Perhaps we could ponder on why it is that we need to indulge in food.
When we are overcome with sadness, anxiety or even boredom, for example, willpower goes out the window. So maybe we need to bring awareness to how we feel, especially to how our whole body feels. For this of course we need to be connected to our body and the messages it gives us.
Is it possible that not only do diets not work for long term weight loss, they can lead us further away from being in connection to our body, and listening to and honouring what our body needs to support our wellbeing?
When we are not eating well, we are overriding the signals our body gives us for the types and amounts of food that would truly nourish us. A weight loss diet is often very much the same, dictating types and amounts of foods that may not truly serve our body and its needs. What neither dieting and indulging are about is listening to and respecting the body. Self-love and body awareness are not truly present in either style of eating.
Whilst it’s great to lose weight if we are overweight, and to educate ourselves about a healthy diet, there is something missing here. What led to the weight gain and the supposed need to diet in the first place?
Could it be that we are missing an honest and loving relationship with our body and our self?
When we are indulging in food we are actually depriving ourselves of something else – our inner beauty – so we feel the drive to indulge or escape. Both depriving ourselves and indulging ourselves is us playing less than who we are, which is very unsettling to us. This is the opposite to how amazing we feel when we are connected to our true selves.
There is another way of eating that exists outside of this merry-go-round of deprivation and indulgence – a way of eating that is not prescribed by an outer authority, but one that comes from the authority within.
As we start developing a connection to and awareness of the body, we can more easily become aware of what to eat or what not to eat to truly nourish our body. If we did that, there would be no question of continuing the not-so-merry-go-round of depriving and indulging ourselves, and the whole harmful set-up would be exposed. Instead, we would embrace a loving cycle of feeling what food and drink is needed to support our body and being. Diets would all go out the window!