Do you really need to diet?
BACP Accredited Psychotherapist and Counsellor Beccy Lindsay lists ten tips to help you survive the post-festive season and a deluge of diet advice from the media.
In my experience…
1. Diets are bad for your health and state of mind!
I would compare a New Year’s resolution to lose weight with placing a banana skin on the pavement in front of you and setting yourself up for a fall! I believe diets have the opposite effect to that of helping you lose weight because they encourage you to be preoccupied with what you eat and drink.
2. The real goal is to find your natural weight
… and maintain it as part of everyday life. This is done by a simple but mislaid ability to respond to your body’s real needs. Most of us suffer from eating disorders because we can’t just eat/drink when we are hungry and stop eating/drinking when we are full.
3. The source of binge eating is often anxiety
Anxiety usually comes when we are under pressure, over-stretched, worried about something, feeling guilty, angry with someone, ‘stuffing our feelings down’ or feeling emotionally empty.
4. If your tummy isn’t rumbling...
We know when the source is anxiety rather than hunger pangs because it comes from a different part of us; when we are really hungry for food, our stomachs rumble.
5. Are you really looking for emotional nourishment?
You can tell if you are because then the pangs often come from inside the mouth. An early instinctive desire to make a sucking movement may cause this. Try to notice when it happens and think about what may have triggered it. Before your reach for the Toblerone, try something else first; it can be anything that doesn’t have a calorie count, like a water bottle or a matchstick.
6. Please don’t weigh yourself – you are not an object!
Knowing your weight and watching your weight in a literal way is likely to set off bingeing in the same way that diets do. I don’t think you need to know your weight. You can tell if you are happy with your body by how it feels to move around and no doubt also by the way that your clothes fit.
7. All food is good
Dividing food up into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food can be unhelpful. I don’t think we should resolve to ‘never again’ eat carbohydrates or sugar. It’s just a question of balance. The imbalance comes from the lost art of knowing what we need.
8. Put your foot down!
Body image messages all around us, through advertising, fashion and celebrity culture, convince us that we are not good enough, because we don’t look good enough. If you don’t already question it, draw a line in the sand and don’t be dictated to!
9. There is a chink in the vicious circle…
… a quiet mental space where you can step off the treadmill cycle of over-eating because you feel bad about yourself, which leads to feeling worse about yourself! Diets are part of that same treadmill. It is better to be sensitive to how you are feeling - and to exercise, while you are about it. Exercise is calming and cheering, even if you can’t or don’t feel like doing that much.
10. Happy New diet-free year
… and good luck!
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About Beccy Lindsay
Beccy Lindsay is a BACP accredited integrative psychotherapist and counsellor in private practice in clinics in London SW13 and SW14.