First off, I apologize for the week delay in releasing this post. I could make excuses for why this didn’t make it up on the site last week, but I’m just going to apologize and hope, even a week late, this can be of some value to anyone that has struggled with yo yo dieting. With that out of the way, lets start the discussion.
I think we all know what the term “yo yo dieting” refers to, but just in case, lets clarify. Some may of heard of this concept as the roller coaster of dieting, where you hop on and hop off at any time. Usually the hopping on centers around some reason or event (i.e. I am getting married, I am going on vacation in Hawaii, I just started a new relationship, etc.). And the hopping off likely centers around either a lack of willpower and/or motivation. Sound familiar? Like so many, I too have been victim to such tactics and, let me tell you from personal experience, there is no quicker way to fall off your proverbial health and fitness wagon. Why? You may ask. Well, lets take a deeper look at the dark side of this vicious cycle in what I have aptly called the Perils of Yo Yo Dieting.
Peril #1: The Binge/Purge Cycle
Raise your hand if you’ve ever succumb to this one? I know I have! And the unfortunate thing about such a cycle, as it pertains to dieting, is that it is practically unavoidable. Modern dieting has essentially become a restriction game. If I just restrict my carbs, my fat, my alcohol, my sweets and on and on, I can have the body of my dreams. Oh if it was only that easy. But we all know what happens when you tell us we can’t have something or better yet, something is forbidden. We automatically, or even subconsciously, want the thing we can’t have. Thus we feel like we can never win and we make ourselves miserable trying to achieve something we probably don’t even really think we can achieve. This leads me straight into Peril #2.
Peril #2: Believing Dieting is About Food
Ok, I know what you’re thinking, how can a concept tied to food not be about food? This may require you to stretch your current beliefs about yourself and your relationship to food, but once you make this critical mindset shift, you can break free from the power food has over you. See that word I used? POWER. Who has it? Do you? Or does your food? Can food even have power? I think it’s pretty clear, as illustrated by much of society’s unhealthy relationship with food, that food oftentimes does have the power and therefore we become powerless to the control it has over us. Now if you’re reading this and thinking, that is totally me, guess what? You are not alone. I guarantee many people you know feel exactly the same and are looking for a way to regain the control just like you are. But the the thing about power is that it often shifts. Certain situations, events or people may make you feel powerless, resulting in a lack of ability to take control of your food choices. Yet, even in this lack of control you have the ability to take control, just by recognizing the power shift that is occurring. In that moment where you feel food take the power, take it back! And remember you are in control, not the food that you put into your body.
Peril #3: You Treat Dieting Like a Sprint When It Is a Marathon
I know we have all heard someone say that healthy eating is a lifestyle not a diet, and while I find this statement somewhat cliché, there is a shred of truth to it. And while I think the blanket term “lifestyle” is about so much more than the way you eat, the way you eat does have a large effect on your lifestyle and vice versa. The only problem with this “your diet is a lifestyle” mentality is that it requires you to assess what your lifestyle is all about and how what you eat plays into that. Conversely, the yo yo diet is all about the short-term and achieving the most gains (or losses if that’s what you’re about) in the shortest amount if time, most likely using methods that are not sustainable for the long-term (i.e. your lifetime). And this is exactly where I think the shred of truth lies in the aforementioned statement. Your lifestyle dictates the things that you enable yourself to do over the course of your lifetime, not the things you are going to do this week or this month. It sets in motion the idea that you are going to commit to something that is not just sustainable in the short-term, but something that is laying the foundation for the rest of your life. And when you start to think in those terms, you can see just how empowering it can be to start creating strategies that support the rest of your life. Building a lifestyle that allows you to look and feel the way you want, as well as support doing the things you want. Start looking at your health through the lens of creating a lifestyle and you will never need to resort to the extreme measures of yo yo dieting again.
Peril #4: You End Up in A Worse Place Than Where You Started
I’ve always loved the saying, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it again.” It has always seemed so poignant and eloquently put, and it couldn’t be more relevant than in its application in building a healthy lifestyle. Oftentimes when you start down the path of an unsustainable diet, you are not at all concerned with the long-term ramifications of the extreme measures you are taking (ex. extreme calorie restriction can lead to a host of metabolic and hormonal issues). You are only concerned with the short-term goal in sight (Ex. losing 30 lbs before Summer vacation). But what is the problem with focusing on the short-term over the long-term? Primarily, you’ll never learn the skills and tactics necessary to sustain a healthy and vital life for the rest of your life. You’ll simply go in and out of dieting cycles, and as a result of the binge/purge cycle, usually end up regaining or gaining back more weight than you started at. It’s important to remember that dieting creates a space where food becomes the enemy and when food is the enemy, we cannot have a healthy relationship with it. Starting down a path where you not only see food as friend, but as a means to achieve the healthy lifestyle you aspire to, is critical to making progress. I have often said, perfection is the enemy to progress, and when it comes to dieting, which basically requires some level of perfection, progress stalls out quickly! Slow and steady really does win the race. Start in the right place, with the right frame of mind and build the healthy lifestyle you’ve always wanted.
Peril #5: You NEVER stop being on a diet!
This is the biggie in my opinion! This is the most dreaded side-effect of all when it comes to yo yo dieting. Once you get on the roller coaster, you can never get off! And who wants to live their life on a perpetual roller coaster? Sure it can be fun for a certain amount of time, but it can become downright terrifying, not to mention monotonous if we stay on for too long. So how do we stop being on a diet? Get off the roller coaster and get off now! Choose to take a closer look at your relationship with food and where it has taken the power away from you. Then actively take the power back. Start making the necessary mental shifts to regain the power and never get back on that dreaded roller coaster.
We only get one life and one body and the choices we make when it comes to our diet (the nutrition we need to sustain life, not the negative term we have come to know), are critical to building a happy and healthy life where you feel in control of the outcome. This week, take some time to assess where you stand with your relationship with food. Are you firmly in control or does it control you? Do you see a way you can regain the power it has taken from you? Only through recognition can we take the necessary steps forward to truly transform our lives. Recognize and take those steps. Your life will never be the same.
Stronger in life,