Friday, July 4, 2008

Get rid of your Dieter's Mentality!

How many of us have been "on a diet" for most of our lives? Too many, in my opinion. Not just because it's bad for our health or because diets don't work. It's bad for our mental health too.

If you have Dieter's Mentality, you need to cut it out because it's going to sabotage your success. This is true whether or not you have had Weight Loss Surgery, are on your pre-op diet or are doing it the traditional way through diet and exercise. Diet Mentality is evil and it puts you in a bad place.

What is Diet Mentality? It has four major components:

1) Putting food into Good and Bad buckets

First of all, food is not Bad or Good -- it's just food. Some food is a better choice than others, but even then it's really just all food. If you are getting in enough of the essential nutrients and you account for your calories each day, you are doing good no matter if you have a bite of dessert once in a while or not. All food is bad food if you eat too much of it or only eat one kind. It's just as unhealthy to eat nothing but protein as it is to eat nothing but birthday cake. A healthy diet is balanced and can even include a certain amount of junk food as long as it's a small amount and it doesn't trigger you into bad behavior.

2) Judging your worth by what you eat

Making bad food choices does not make you a bad person. Your self-worth shouldn't be tied up in what you eat. Good people make bad choices all the time. Instead of beating yourself up when you make a bad choice, hating yourself, seeing yourself as a failure and otherwise engaging in destructive behavior, just figure out how to make a better choice next time.

It's not easy to be dispassionate about your own behavior, but telling yourself that you made a bad choice and next time you'll make a better one is a good start and much healthier than telling yourself you are a bad person and you'll never lose the weight and you hate yourself.

3) Judging your worth by how much you weigh/how much you've lost this week

The scale is just part of the picture. If you get too tied up in the scale, you get a distorted view of the world. Weeks where you lose are good weeks even if someone close to you died. Weeks where you don't lose are bad weeks even if you got a big promotion at work and did everything "right" in terms of diet and exercise.

One of the dangers of measuring everything by your weight on the scale is that you can convince yourself that making bad choices is okay because sometimes you can make bad choices and still lose/maintain. You can also convince yourself that making good choices is pointless because some weeks you make all good choices and the scale doesn't move. But clearly making more bad choices than good will lead to weight gain in the long run. Anything thinking that leads you to conclude otherwise is destructive thinking.

4) Waiting until you are thin to start living

Stop waiting until you get to goal to start living or loving yourself. Love yourself now. Live your life now.

Many of us have had the experience of thinking we were so fat back when we were in HS or college or a young adult and not being happy. But then we got even fatter and we look at those pictures from back then and we realize that we were actually pretty hot. In fact, we'd give anything to be "that fat" right now. Why not love yourself now while you're living your life instead of waiting until 10 years later to tell yourself how good you had it back then?

What happens when we stop "dieting"?

One of the best things I ever did for myself was to decide I was never going to diet again. It really allowed me to examine my relationship with food and to start listening to my body and figuring out why I eat what I eat. That would never have happened when I was caught up in "Dieter's Mentality".

One of the things I found is that my approach to food was that of a child. I wanted people to make me or bring me food because I associate being fed with being loved. So I got myself to a point where all my meals were either quick things that require no cooking or can be zapped in a microwave or are made by Mr. Mac -- who does all the cooking -- or were purchased. In other words, other people had complete control over what kind of food I ate and how it was prepared!

I never saw anything wrong with this until I decided to grow up about food. I realized that by approaching food this way, I was giving up tons of control over what I ate. Mr. Mac buys the groceries so it's not my fault that there aren't healthy snacks in the house. It's not my fault that I had that ice cream cone -- there was nothing else to eat and I was HUNGRY.

Once I saw this pattern, I vowed to change it and start being an adult about food. I now plan out what I'm going to eat before I go to work. If I'm going to work late, I bring extra food so I'm not eating out of the vending machine. I don't eat lunch at the Cafeteria every day so my food choices aren't limited to what they want to make for me. I have healthy snacks in my drawers at work so if I do end up working late without having planned ahead, I'm eating a protein bar instead of a Snickers bar.

This change in attitude and behavior has made a BIG difference. Which is not to say I haven't got much farther to go ... I still don't cook and I still eat way too much prepared food (because I don't cook). But I'm much better than I used to be and it's great to feel like a grown up!

You may relate to what I said about having a child's approach to food or you may not. Not everyone gets fat the same way or has the same issues to work through. But one thing I can guarantee is that once you throw off the shackles of Dieter's Mentality, you will have the brain cycles available to see your relationship with food more clearly. What you do with that insight is up to you.
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