Ditching the Diet Mentality

At the end of February I decided I was done with the diet mentality for good. I'd been dieting non-stop since I was twenty and on the run up to my birthday I decided that sixteen years was enough. I cannot face going towards forty still feeling like an uncomfortable teenager; pulling at my clothes and hiding my features. No more. It's ridiculous, I'm a grown woman and I will no longer take part in this ridiculous mindset. We're done, diets. You hear me? It's over.

The break up letter, with a little help from Taylor Swift

As I said, I'm seven months in and this is not what I thought it would be. I knew it would be hard, I didn't anticipate how hard it would be, but when you've had these habits and mindsets in you for a decade and a half, they don't vanish overnight. Some of them don't vanish at all, some of them fade in time and some of them I still have to talk myself out of on a daily basis. It's hard work, it's challenging but it feels great when you have moments of total food normality (as I like to call it). You just have to commit to the level of self-care as you would a diet and exercise program. All those times I'd wake up on a morning and fill in a food diary I now dedicate to an affirmation and a kind thought for myself - it's a much nicer morning ritual!

Psychiatrists say there's similar brain patterns between those with addictions and those with disordered eating and I fully agree; on the days when all I want to do is go on 'one last diet' I feel like I've got poison in me. I feel like it's a parasite clinging on for dear life trying one last thing before it's killed off for good. Sigh. It's maddening. It's frustrating and even while I'm getting to grips with this thing it's still driving me up the wall when it decides to weasel into my mind and play silly buggers. 

Everyone approaches this type of thing differently, as well everyone should, no two people are the same and nothing involving an individual's body, food, exercise and sleep can be dictated to by someone else. Well, it can, but the chances are it won't work, it'll make you feel out of control and could even damage your body. It's not easy learning to listen to your body, but it can be done. Here's some of the things I've done over the last half-year to help me on my way.

Mind Your Language
Laura shared this link in the summer and I reshared it on my Facebook because it's bang on. Language and the way we talk to and about ourselves is so powerful. We need to stay positive and boot out as much negative language as possible. Especially first thing in the morning, everyone needs to start their day with kindness and love. I like a weekly affirmation to start my week, it helps me get a perspective for the week and something to focus on. I still have my happy jar too (which I mentioned in this post). I don't engage in the negging bants (as played out here wonderfully by Amy Schumer) and if someone does that I remove myself from the conversation (more on that below).

Change Your Thoughts
Do something that challenges your old beliefs. This can be something simple like not reading calories on food menus before you've made your choice (I used to love that restaurants put calories on menus, now I hate them!), or eating carbs for breakfast, or having some chocolate even when you haven't been to the gym to 'earn it'.  

Find What Motivates You
When it's a diet, it's all scales, dress sizes and measurements. When it's non-dieting you have to get creative. It can be challenging yourself to workout for fun (as in leave your Fitbit at home), going through a whole day without mentally totting up your calorie total, it could be saying lovely things to yourself every time you see your reflection,  it can be putting yourself out there and trying something completely new. All these things are great motivators to escape the old mentality and help to focus your thoughts elsewhere. I love sticking myself as far out of my comfort zone as possible and challenging myself; I find those things the most rewarding and it's empowering to discover new things about yourself. 

Find What Demotivates You and Bin It Off!
For me, this was social media. Predominantly anyone who constantly posted about weight, weight loss diets, clean eating, fitspo (you can't fool me; it's just thinspo with abs, you guys) and I avoid those who are negative about their appearance, overly critical of their own body and ones who celebrate restriction. I recognise it's everyone to their own, it's their personal social media accounts and they can do whatever they wish on them but I can choose not to read them, engage with them or praise them for their behaviours. I just quietly go away. They don't know I find it toxic and triggering, but it is, some days more than others, and I have to look after myself. If you're wondering why I've unfollowed you on any social media account in the last six months, this is why. To quote Amy Poehler once again; ' good for her, not for me'. 

I've also unfollowed food blogs, weight loss blogs, I've put all my diet books in the bin and stopped watching the Food Channel. Don't get me started on the Great British Bake Off, that show makes me so hungry. I watch with caution.

I can highly recommend getting inspired with the words of others who are on this journey and to whom you can relate. When I started doing this I searched high and low for some people who had done this, were into their discovery and had words of wisdom to help me along the way. Turns out, there's loads of podcasts, blogs and books out there who talk about diets but how many talk about self-love and self-worth away from what you put in your mouth, how many calories you burn and what dress size you wear? Not many, but when you find one, you tap into a rich vein which helps you find another. Finding one for me was the start of a huge domino effect. Here's some of my favourites:

Mindful Eating 
The Perfection Myth
How to Ditch the Bitch
Everyday Sexism - it's alarming how much of the diet mentality is ingrained into us 'because we're women', this is some good extra reading to open your eyes to the sexism within the diet and health industry.
Body of Truth - this one is a mind blower. Every perception you've been given about health and weight? It's wrong and here's the proof to back it up. This book is incredible and I've made it my mission to tell everyone to read it.

Life is Too Short to Diet
Stop Reading the Nutrition Facts

Other resources: 
Search the Health At Every Size (HAES) and Body Positive (BOPO) hashtags on Instagram and Pinterest to get some other shaped bodies on your feeds and look at them. Look at all these amazing people who look beautiful, happy, and healthy, and their size, weight and body shape has nothing to do with it at all. Look at other bodies that aren't photoshopped in magazines or tagged with critical journalism. Become comfortable challenging the 'normal' views of what people have to look like to be accepted by society. The best thing? The more you look at bodies like this the better you get at accepting yourself (there's science behind this, you can do an internet search and find it).

One of my favourite podcasters has started a Body Positive Community on Facebook, which I joined immediately! It's a weight-loss and body-shaming free environment, Summer will kick you off (and probably your ass) if you mention those things on there; it's basically a place for people to be excellent to each other. I think the more we engage with each other without mention of diets, sizes and other emotional beatings, then the better our lives will become. If you're ready for that, please come and join.

I also recommend using any of the EasyLoss apps such as Little Black Dress. They're hypnosis tracks which I find useful for quiet time, focus and helping reduce any bad habits that you might have knocking around in your head. The apps from this company really kick-started my mindfulness practice and allowed me to get into the right headspace to do it. It allowed me to release some of my control issues around food, as it encourages you to eat mindfully and thoughtfully. And the sleep, my gosh, the sleep you get from listening to this at bedtime is amazing, it's worth buying it for that alone!

Cards on the table; weight has neither fallen off me nor piled on. I've stayed pretty much the same. This has tickled me senseless as at this time last year I was almost the exact same weight (save for a couple of pounds). I was restricting my calories, smashing in 2 or 3 gym visits per week and feeling thoroughly wrung out by all of it. Now I just stick to my daily activity of walking, I do a lot of stretching, I eat what I want when I'm hungry and have a bugger load more free headspace, less anxiety and guilt. Remind me again why I used to put myself through all that crap?

My guess is that my body is resetting after a decade and a half of dieting. 15 years of this nonsense will have no doubt done some damage physically, metabolically and, this I am certain of, emotionally. It's going to take time for me to reverse all that. It could take 5 more months, it could take 5 more years, I am prepared for this and determined to stick with it for the long haul.  Besides, no one is shoving me on a weighing scale and gazing at my numbers, so what's the big deal? I'm young, healthy, happy and I think I look great. Why should a number make me think any different of myself?


One thing I have to talk about is what I briefly mentioned above - the lack of guilt and anxiety and the abundance of headspace - and it is an abundance. No longer having to plan my food and exercise too strictly, total my calories obsessively, worrying about weigh in days and constantly pratting about on food diary forums or reading food blogs means I've got a lot of free time. An alarming amount. Seriously, I am scared for how much of my life I wasted on this. I have more time to read, more time to sleep, more time to socialise, more time to make plans, more time to relax, meditate and be mindful, I even had so much time that I was able to commit to 6 months of voluntary work - something I never thought I'd have time to do. I've cancelled my gym membership as I'd much rather spend my free time running around the Science Museum talking about Space as opposed to pounding a treadmill anyway.

You'll notice I've barely mentioned eating food in this post. This has been the most interesting thing I've realised throughout this whole year - none of this has been about food - it's all been about my thought processes. There's no such thing as 'normal' eating, what I put in mouth has not changed, but 'normal' (for want of a better word, don't jump on me for that, you know what I mean) thinking is what I needed to do in regards to my relationship with food. Turns out it was never about the food, it was always about me. Sigh. Silly Lexi.

It's been a tough year for me and I'm not done yet, I have dreams of being forced onto weighing scales, so I know my brain is still fighting with my subconscious but the clarity and self-worth I have now has been worth every moment. Wobbles will come and they will go, they are only fleeting and the prospect of spending the rest of my life without feeling neurotic about this stuff is definitely making it all worthwhile. 
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  1. I love this, I'm immensely envious too, I'm not in a position where I can let go of it yet, I don't know especially why, maybe because I know I'm vastly overweight still and not dieting has made that situation worse, probably dieting did too. It's a difficult thing. Reading this makes me feel that there is a way forward though.

    1. If it's something you'd like to think more about, jump into some of the resources I've mentioned in the post. Isabel Foxen Duke has a great video series (free!) which is a great starting point. Worth a look, even just for the curious.

      There is a way forward. I promise!

  2. I'm on this journey with you, it just took me a lot longer to get there ..... enjoy the headspace. Great article.

    1. Thank you!

      It's ongoing, to every great few weeks there's a tough day, but I can at the very least work with those ratios.

  3. Hey Sis. Great article.

    It's a constant source of fascination to me and I note your advice on mind-set changes. I like to physically re-build my environ to support that type of work. I can't think new in an old room.

    Like you, I have paid close attention to this subject and as I read, four things spring to mind which I hope may inform the debate you host;

    You hint at diets as addiction-based. We are no doubt all hooked on sugar. The FDA in the US is soon to register sugar as an addictive drug. Until we stop seeing ourselves as greedy and lazy, but rather hooked, like smokers and drinkers, we will not solve the problem.

    Calorie counting never worked simply because all calories are not equal. 100 calories of almonds is all converted to energy burn (leptin) and muscle build (amino acids). 100 calories of fruit yoghurt or chocolate is all converted to energy storage (fat cells - via insulin). Counting things that don't compare can never add up.

    There is no help from the food industry. We are alone. You can add a sprinkle of sugar to your bowl of cornflakes or a sprinkle of cornflakes to your bowl of sugar. Below the neck there is no difference.

    Exercise cannot be used for weight loss. It never was. It is a myth. Thin people run because they are thin. They don't run themselves thin. Fat people who run, other things equal, stay fat. Watch us all go by. The equation "weight = calories in less calories out" is a grave misunderstanding of the first law of thermodynamics. If it were true, thin people couldn't run marathons or they would shrink to unsustainable lightness and vanish.

    I wrote a linked-in post on Human Energy on this theme. My recommended book is Fat Chance by Dr. Robert Lustig. Which I'm half way through again right now. Because it's like you say. Mindsets don't vanish. We have to learn and re-learn.

    1. I'm currently listening to a really interesting podcast on the subject of food addiction, you might want to give it a listen, I'm yet to completely form an opinion: http://rebootedbody.com/119/

      You're right about un-equal calories and exercise for weight loss, I've always said that it's not possible to outrun your mouth!

      I've read the Fat Chance book (you actually bought it for me!) which I liked for the most part but thought some were a bit sensational. I'm not sure if we're addicted to certain foods or just the thought of foods - which harks back to my original comment about the psychology of addictions and whether it's the drug or the person that holds the key.

      Lots to think about. Lots to challenge the diet industry with, which is a dialogue that has needed to be opened up for a long time.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, bro x