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To Eat or not to Eat...

I am getting worried over a friend's diet regimen. I have nothing against dieting, it's really a judgement call. But over the years, I am what you might call a diet veteran... been there.. done that. And I've come to realize that I can never really go down beyond 145 lbs, I will always have a voluptous, curvaceous body and now, I am more at peace with my body and of course food.

There was a time when I really restricted myself. No meat, no fat, no sugar.... in short.. boring! But I came to realize that I can never accept a diet that I can never keep for life. This is just a personal testimonial of why diets don't work. Sure, you'll lose weight but those fat cells are very intelligent. After one or two years... they're back with a vengeance. You'll gain weight even if you restrict your calories. It's no way to live...

If you want another opinion... please read on..... I really believe now that moderation is really the key and we must be kind to our bodies and to ourselves.

Most of us will not deliberate too long over our decision to begin a diet. Why should we? Isn't dieting safe? The answer: Not exactly! As innocuous as dieting seems, it is not without hazards and side effects. Medically speaking, the more well known hazards of dieting are loss of hair, loss of gall bladder, gallstones, lowered immunity, anemia, sensitivity to cold, depression, constipation, diarrhea, hypoglycemia, loss of body muscle, dehydration, cardiac arrhythmia's, fatigue, amenorrhea, inability to concentrate, and even death, may occur. The lower the calories, the least variation of food in the diet, the greater the medical risk.

Research shows that dieting is not a very effective treatment for long term weight control. Only five percent of dieters maintain their weight loss. In fact, one of the side effects of dieting can actually be weight gain. Diets backfire on us. At best, one to two years after a diet we gain back most of the weight we lost. But some of us will weigh more than we did before our diet started.

Humans appear to be "diet resistant". There is a scientific and psychological explanation for this concept. Our ancestor, Stone Age Man, ate in a feast or famine style. For survival, the Stone Age man's response to a famine was to feast and fill up his fat cells when food was available. This prepared him for the inevitable famine. The human body has a universal memory of the early ancestor's feeding experience.

Today, our body interprets our intentional dietary restriction as a famine. Thus, when food becomes available, we lose control. Our body takes over and we feast. We may even binge. Our body tries to prepare for the next famine by overeating and gaining weight. Our metabolism changes in order to defend our body fat. Our "natural weight" is reset at a higher level. Each time we diet, we get better and better at gaining weight. Gaining weight is a side effect of dieting.

The psychological explanations for diet resistance and the ensuing side effect of weight gain is identified by looking at the design of diets. Diets are set up by labeling foods as either "allowed" or "not allowed". Not allowing foods leads to yearning, a trapped feeling, curiosity, feeling of deprivation, and obsessively thinking about foods. Eventually, we feel we must have the forbidden foods and we eat them. We may eat them in larger quantity than if we hadn't dieted. The amount of sensitivity we have to feelings of deprivation will determine how psychologically resistant we are to dieting.

Diets require preoccupation in order to stick to them. Our thoughts about food, our weight, and eating increase greatly while dieting. Our feelings throughout the day begin to revolve around what we ate - was it a good food or a bad food? and what we weighted - did I gain or lose weight?

If we have eaten a forbidden food or gained weight, we may feel angry, sad or guilty. If we have eaten all good foods and/or lost weight, we feel powerful, good, and successful. Our life gets narrowed down to the safety of food and weight thoughts. This is another side effect of dieting a small life filled with thoughts and feelings about what we have eaten, what we will eat next, and whether we have changed our weight.

Dieting reinforces that we should feel good from the outside. They rob us from learning how to feel good from the inside. A "diet dependency" may develop, whereby we grow to rely on the diet as the source for our sense of well being. We feel good, confident, and happy based on how well we follow a particular diet and/or what our weight is. By jumping from diet t diet, we lose touch with who we really are and how we feel about our life. Dieting to lose weight becomes a desperate attempt to feel good, to achieve something and to be accepted. This is how we become addicted to dieting. It is another side effect of the dreaded "D" word.

The questions are: Are you willing to risk your physical and mental health in order to lose weight? What kind of relationship do you want with food? Do you want short term or long term results? If you do not choose to diet, if you want the diet monkey off your back, if diets don't work for you, there is an alternative. I suggest a Non-Diet Approach.

Begin by learning to trust your "natural instincts" First, start to recognize when you are physically hungry. What does it feel like for you? Honor your physical hunger by eating much the way you honor the urge to go to the bathroom. forget about clocks to tell you when to eat.

Second,eat until you are satisfied. When does hunger disappear and you feel food in your belly? When do you feel comfortable and satisfied? Stop eating at this point even if your plate still has food on it. Learn to rely on yourself as your best resource about when and how much to eat.

Third, eat foods that you normally eat. If you find that there is a food that scares you, one that you are uncomfortable with, consider bringing it into your home and eating it when you are hungry. Pay attention to the taste, decide if it is as good as you thought it was. It it still "glitters" at you, keep a medium quantity (more than you could eat at one sitting) in your home. Eat this food until it is no longer a novelty. In other words, "legitimize" the food.

Pick only one guideline at a time to work with. Set reasonable goals. Make gradual changes. For example, decide to make a change in your eating three times for the first week. Increase slowly and at your own pace. Continue to practicing these three guidelines. It may take six months to one year to get the dieting mentality out of your system. When you have mastered these three steps and all foods are legal, compare your diet against the Food Guide Pyramid. Make changes so that you do not deprive yourself of healthy eating.

Staying "diet free" is very difficult. It will be easier if you can find support for a non-diet approach. Try books, friends, a support group, or a professional familiar with these concepts. Be kind to yourself, respect yourself, be gentle with yourself and I guarantee that in one year you will be in a totally different relationship with food.




Anonymous said…
Hi Net. I mainly agree with you and am also concerned about G. I think his diet changes were too radical, but I do support him and recognize his need to reduce his size.

I have another friend who is a little larger. She (American) is in her early 50s, dynamic, educated (degrees in engineering and music), accomplished, professional and and and. She is about to have her stomache shortened. A risky and radical life changing procedure. But I think she is doing the right thing.

We are very close and I know how her size affects here life. Physically she has knee problems and knows she is facing greater problems in medical terms as she is chronically obese. She has a 16 year old son and wants to be alive (that simple) to see her grandchildren...

But greater actually are the psychological reasons. Self esteem and the way others regard her and dismiss her. She is one of the bravest people I have ever met and not afraid to try or do anything. Why? Because she has to be and this is so wrong.

G is obviously talented, bright, a capable and energetic sportsman. You and I see that and much more - but what do people on the street walking past see? A client walks into the office and sees what? ... This has a massive and insidious effect and I am in no doubt that G feels every loaded comment and second look and suffers from it.

Of course I would like to see him take a more moderate approach. If and when he does, I will support him in that too, but for now, if he wants to try a dried bat wing diet, I'll support him in that too! The alternative of being in his current shoes is worse and will worsen.


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