Have you ever been on a diet?
Have you ever found yourself thinking, “If only I went on a diet, I could finally lose those extra five pounds and be happy”?
Or wondered if there was something wrong with you that you just couldn’t stick to a diet even though you desperately wanted to get rid of those unlovable love handles?
Most of us have found ourselves in one of these positions at one point or another. We wonder what it is that we’re doing wrong, that we can’t just seem to get it right and stay on whatever diet we’ve placed ourselves on.
But the truth is that we’re already on a diet – OUR diet.
This is the true meaning of the word – all the foods we put into our mouths day in and day out is our diet.
This concept of “going on a diet” is misleading. Whether we like to believe it or not, even what you eat when you’re alone or in secret counts as your diet.
Most diets that are promoted on television or in advertisements come from a place of restriction, limitations, and a place of “I can’t.” The notion of “I can’t eat this” or “I can’t indulge in (or even think about!) that” is what the traditional “diet” is based around.
It’s this idea that what you want or like to eat you’re not allowed any longer. It’s this mentally straining concept, that the things that we enjoy are now off limits, that makes us want to give up before we’ve even started!
Now, I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me not to do something, I want to do it!
Maybe you aren’t as rebelliously minded as I am, but for most of us, whether we want to believe it or not, this is true. Even if we make it a few weeks into our new diet just fine, many of us find ourselves thinking, “If only my diet let me eat one cookie, I’d be satisfied.”
We have fallen into this notion that I call the “diet mind trap”. We have come to believe that being on a diet is the only way to change the way that we look or feel about ourselves. That instead of making small changes in what we eat every day, we think that we have to go on a very restrictive “diet” that will keep us away from the things that we want.
We believe, because of what we’ve been fed through commercials and ads, that in order to lose weight or change our bodies, we have to give something up that we enjoy.
While this might be true in essence, it doesn’t have to come in the form of restricting and reminding ourselves of only the foods we can’t enjoy.
When we begin to focus on our diet, as in what we eat every day, we move from the “I can’t” mentality to the “I will” mentality of what we will nourish our bodies with and what will make us feel good, and maybe even help us to lose some of the weight that we’re trying to get rid of.
How to Get Out of the Diet Mind Trap
If you find yourself stuck in this diet mind trap, use the following steps to make your diet a life change instead of a restriction to yourself:
1. Acknowledge that you’re ready to make a change in how you see what you eat each day. That your diet already exists and you’re ready to start changing it.
2. Set an intention for yourself that in order to make changes in your body, you must make changes in the way you eat.
3. Rule out the notion that foods are off-limits. All foods can be good foods, some foods should just be eaten more in moderation than others.
4. Create a plan to make small adjustments to your daily diet as you’re comfortable with them. Week by week, set a new intention where you’d like your focus to be.
Maybe the goal for your first few weeks of changes is “getting more water each day.” Once you feel you’ve conquered this adjustment in your daily lifestyle, add the next change to your plan that you feel comfortable with, which could be “replace my current snack options with healthier ones that nourish my body.”
Build a plan around small changes you can make starting with where you are now and where you want to be.
5. Put your plan into action and each week grow a little more into the person you want to be. Each week be mindful of the ways that you are changing your daily diet for the better and how your body is responding as your mindset for how you interact with food changes.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you are craving something that doesn’t fit into your plan. Give in to your urges, with moderation of course, and use this as an opportunity to look forward to the next time you eat as a challenge to get back on track.
Always consider your next meal to be a reset button for making changes, so if you eat a donut and later regret it, feel okay with that choice, and move forward knowing that at the next meal you’ll get back to where you feel comfortable with yourself and your body.
Learning to reset your brain to think about how you eat each day to work toward your physical goals can be tough, especially with the number of fad diets that are floating around out there.
Once you can transform your mindset to considering the positive healthy changes you can make with “I will” statements, you probably won’t even remember the foods that you’re leaving behind and trying to move away from.
Make your changes in a positive way, without restrictions and guilt, and getting to your goals will be a much more enjoyable and long-lasting experience.
Rachael is the blogger behind KitchenCourses.com and is the author of How to Cook For Yourself: A Complete Beginner’s Guide. She writes about her passion for food, eating well while saving money, and inspires people to get familiar with their kitchens and cook for themselves.