(Cue the ominous drums.)
There, I said it. It is a word most of us have come to despise or at least try to avoid thinking about any more than superficially, and that is for a very good reason.
Unfortunately, when it comes to dieting, the connotations associated with the word are much better left out of sight and out of mind. Thanks to the way most diet programs are designed and marketed, we’ve come to think of the term as a restrictive way to eat for a limited period of time in order to reach some arbitrary goal. We start off with good intentions but are usually ill-equipped with bad information and a broken system. We end up dissatisfied and feeling worse about ourselves than when we started.
To make matters worse, when we fall off our “diets”, we punish ourselves with a more restrictive version of our rules or with exercise. What a great way to teach ourselves to hate exercising when we have come to think of it as something we must suffer through! Then, when we follow our program more closely, we reward ourselves with some type of junk food, claiming that we “earned” it. In our mind’s eye, we just drove that good feeling we had from eating healthy even closer to the bowl (or carton) of ice cream we just polished off. Next time we are in a rough patch and in need of something to help us feel better, it will be that much easier for our brains to prompt us to reach for the junk food to try to recreate that feeling. The whole system sets us up for failure both in the present and in the future, and it treats the body as an object instead of a living part of ourselves.
We can’t treat food or our bodies like challenges to be overcome and tamed while still expecting good results. The whole idea of punishing and rewarding ourselves with something that we require to live is a sick practice, but it is not an easy one to break out of. It takes time and a lot of effort to change and heal the ways our brains are wired when it comes to thinking about food. Still, it can be done, and it very much worth it. The word diet does not have to strike fear into us when we have a healthy relationship with what’s on our plate and see it for what it really is: as a way to nourish our bodies.
When we stop asking ourselves to perform tricks to get rewards, we can be gentler with our falls and our triumphs. We can stick to the whole focus of trying to eat better more easily because the road is not filled with yo-yo plans that spring us back and forth between feeling great and then feeling horrible about ourselves. We switch from a limited time mindset and start to see lifelong changes in the way we treat our bodies. It becomes a lifestyle of love. When we learn to show respect to ourselves and our bodies, a diet is simply how we feed ourselves and support the life we want to live.
If you would like support on your journey towards healing your relationship with your diet, I offer wellness consultations over the phone and virtually as well. We all deserve to love ourselves.