Breaking the Diet-Binge Cycle For Good
When I was 21 I started dieting for sport.
When I was 25 I started dieting like it was my job.
Dieting like my life depended on it had some pretty terrible consequences, including me stepping onto the crazy carousel known as the diet and binge cycle. I hated the ride, but I didn’t know how to get off.
Would tightening the reins on what I was and wasn’t allowed to eat keep me in check?
Hmm, nope, that made it worse.
Would letting myself eat whatever I wanted?
Nope, that made me scared to death.
Would going vegan help me make peace with food?
Um, no, that’s just another way of restricting my food intake, which means ultimately going wild and eating everything.
Around and around I went, usually either dieting harshly or eating everything I could get my hands on. It was an awful place to be, but I couldn’t figure out how to get myself on steady ground.
Here are my top tips for breaking the diet/binge cycle.
- Break up with restrictive diets for good. If a diet asks you to remove an entire food group (like all grains, even whole ones, or most fruits, or most fats, or whatever), it’s not your friend. Work with your doctor or dietitian to determine an appropriate goal when it comes to eating, but throw away or ignore any magazine or book that guarantees amazing results in 30 days or less. You may think, as I did, that restrictive diets will keep you in check, but they’re really just setting you up for your next binge.
- Make nice with your body. Hating your body isn’t going to get you anywhere. In fact, when I felt down about my body I ate even more, which would then throw me into panic mode, then restrictive diet mode. Get away from both extremes by looking for the good in your body and trying to help it, not hurt it.
- Make exercise fun. Ugh, I know, you read that tip everywhere, but it is so true. Stop thinking of it as exercise and start thinking about it as play time, like when you were a kid. Remember when you’d explore the woods or run around with your friends or shoot hoops or skateboard? Maybe the exact same activities don’t appeal today, but there’s got to be something that would feel fun, rather than like drudgery, that falls into the exercise category. Try dancing in your living room, throwing a Frisbee, walking on the beach, swimming in a lake, walking your dog, or lifting some weights (including your toddler); all count toward your body movement goal. Don’t think if you don’t do an hour of circuit training followed by an hour of spinning that you’re not doing enough.
- Treat yourself like a friend. Would you ever even consider doing some of the stuff you do to yourself to your close friends? I highly doubt it. If you wouldn’t punish your best bud by forcing a family size bag of potato chips down his throat, then don’t do it to yourself. And you wouldn’t tell her she was lumpy and worthless, or tell her that she needs to go on a juice fast, either.
- Focus on adding, not subtracting. Instead of making lists of all the things you shouldn’t eat, pay attention to all the things you can (and want) to eat. Eat more fresh fruit, learn to prepare veggies in a way that you enjoy. Buy foods that are both healthy and delicious, and don’t let yourself go hungry. Stop listing all the things you aren’t allowed to eat and instead list all the things you can (and want) to eat.
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