It’s the weekend, you’ve just woken up and you feel good about staying in bed a little longer. You pick up the book you’ve been reading and finish another chapter. You make plans to go to the local pool with your child, meet a friend for coffee, get a take away meal in the evening and watch good film.
You feel at ease, relaxed and you look forward to the day. You give your body a good stretch, and then get out of bed to go take a shower. When you’re in the bathroom, you step on the scale. You look at the number. Suddenly, all those good vibes you were feeling – gone.
The number isn’t what you expected. It’s several pounds higher. You don’t understand. You’ve been eating as usual.
You start to feel anxiety. Even panic. Where will this lead? Your jeans are tight already. It’s summer soon, beach and pool time. Those extra pounds are going to be noticed by everyone you know.
Next up, you feel shame. Maybe you shouldn’t have eaten dessert yesterday. After all, you didn’t need it. What about the chocolate squares you allow yourself every night after dinner. Gotta stop that. You vow to skip dessert for a month half your portion sizes and no longer keep any chocolate in the house.
This time, you say to yourself, you really will keep that promise. You won’t fall off the wagon, you will stick to it. But both you and I know, this new plan isn’t going to last.
Eventually, you’ll feel deprived and find yourself in a pile of chocolate and sweet wrappers or finishing the frozen dessert you kept in the freezer for a special occasion.
Stop weighing yourself. Below are three reasons why.
1. By weighing yourself, you are essentially saying that you don’t trust your body or your appetite.
You need an external ‘checking system’ to make sure you ‘stay in line’ with your eating.
Next time you’re hungry, with the number on the scale in mind, you might not eat at all, you might eat something different from what would truly satisfy you, (e.g. swapping out a sandwich for a salad), you won’t trust your body to know what it needs.
Instead, you’ll be giving that power to the scale. As if the scale knew what nourishment you need. Forget that. The scale has absolutely no idea. Restricting what you need to eat to feel truly nourished always leads to overeating or binge eating in the long run.
2. If you let the number on the scale determine how you feel about yourself, you’re basing your self-worth (or parts of it) on your weight and appearance.
It’s a slippery slope. You know as well as I do that as we get older, we will meet the unrealistic beauty ideals of our society of ‘thin’, ‘lean’ and ‘youthful’ less and less.
Chasing after these ideals will become more effortful, more expensive, and less fruitful as the years go by.
How much more money and mental energy do you want to spend on chasing these ideals so you can feel good about yourself?
3. Recall the above scenario. You were feeling relaxed and happy both in your body and mind to start with. Enter the scale, and now you’re beating yourself up. You no longer want to take your child to the pool, the take-away meal is no longer on the cards, and your mood is a mix of anxiety and self-loathing. All because of the number on the scale.
How much longer do you want to give the scale that power over how you feel? To cheat you out of joy, fun and sharing good times with friends and family?
You’re more than a body. You’re more than a number on the scale. You’re already good, worthy and whole.
Now go throw out that scale (or hide it in the basement).
Feeling fat? Try this.
Do you have moments when you ‘feel fat’? And when you do, you resolve to go on a diet or paradoxically, eat a bunch of food to feel better in the moment?
Fat is not a feeling.
Fat is a substance, either in your body, or in food.
When you experience ‘feeling fat’, you are probably experiencing another emotion underneath.
‘Feeling fat’ often means you feel:
Anxious about being judged.
Disappointed about how you performed.
Rejected by someone whose opinion you value.
Ashamed because you think you’re not good enough.
Sad because you suffered a loss.
These emotions can be very uncomfortable, so you don’t want to feel them.
One way you may have learnt to deal with these emotions is to cover them up with what you call ‘feeling fat.’
Because you think you can ‘fix fat.’
By going on a diet or eating differently, you believe you can get rid of ‘feeling fat’. But really, going on a diet is often an attempt to avoid feeling anxious, disappointed, rejected or sad, or any other uncomfortable feelings.
Wanting to avoid these feelings is futile.
Uncomfortable, difficult feelings are part of life.
When you lose fat, you will still feel anxiety, disappointment and sadness.
There will always be people who don’t like you. You will have bad days. You will make mistakes.
Losing weight won’t protect you from any of that. Instead, it will likely lead to yo-yo dieting, poor body image, and obsession with food and the scale.
Instead of running head on into the next weight loss program or cutting carbs, fat and sugar;
You can learn to manage your feelings without the need for dieting.
The first step is to discover what’s underneath the ‘fat feeling.’
Next time you ‘feel fat’, you can ask yourself: What am I really feeling? Anxious? Sad? Disappointed? Rejected? Notice the sensations in your body. Stay with them, even just for a few seconds. Do you feel something else besides fat?
Understanding what you are really feeling is important because it often points to an unmet need or desire. And that need will never be met by another weight loss program.
Awareness of what you are feeling is one of the tools that I teach you in my coaching package.
Along with a range of other tools, it will help set you free from the diet-binge cycle and hating your body.
If you have a history of yo-yo dieting and/or binge eating, if you go from being ‘supergood’ with your eating to finishing the entire cake really fast, standing by the fridge when no one is looking;
You likely tell yourself:
I can’t trust myself around food!
You think that because you can’t trust yourself to only eat a certain amount of certain foods (cake, biscuits, chocolate), your only option is to stay away from them. Keep them out of the house. Don’t even have a bite.
You monitor and control your access to these foods like you are the food police.
But policing your food in this way isn’t building real trust.
It’s saying – I’ll only be OK with myself as long as I eat a particular way.
This puts a lot of pressure on yourself – and this pressure ironically often leads to out-of-control eating.
Real trust is to decide that no matter what you eat, you’re not going to beat yourself up, shame yourself, be mean to yourself.
That kind of self-trust will serve you, now, and for the rest of your life.
You will begin to relax around food.
Eating will become easy. As it should be.
Trust me on this one. ;-)
My best diet tip for 2023
As a family of five, we drive an eight-seater van. The three children fit, the grandparents fit, and all our kit (bikes, beach toys, camping gear) fits. We bought it because we wanted something that would enable our active lifestyle and delivered on its promise: Safe, comfortable, reliable transportation.
Several months into driving our new van, we noticed a strange noise every time we drove downhill. Concerned about our safety, we took the van to the garage. We were told a few days later that there was a fault caused by a manufacturing error. Immediately our van was sent for repair, of course at no cost to us. In the mean time, we were given a replacement car. A few days after the fixed car was returned to us, we received a letter of apology, and we’ve been driving it without problems since.
We weren’t blamed for the car not working. It wasn’t our lack of willpower that caused the problem, or not driving correctly, or that we didn’t manage our emotions while driving … The manufacturer took responsibility and fixed the fault with their product, at no cost to us so that it would deliver on its promise once repaired.
Now let me tell you a different story. The one about the diet industry.
There is now abundant research evidence that diets don’t work in the long run.
Dieters may lose weight initially and keep it off for weeks, months, some even a couple of years.
But five years in, and in 95% of cases, dieters end up weighing more than when they started.
Weight cycling (i.e. losing weight, putting it back on, losing it again, frequently described as yo-yo dieting) is likely to be worse for your health than staying at the same weight consistently over time.
The diet industry sells the same product, - a diet – over and over, without people getting long-lasting results. A faulty product is re-packaged and re-sold with a different fancy name, year after year.
Unlike any other industry however , when diets fail to deliver on their promise - permanent weight loss - the fault is not with their product.
It’s with us. It’s our fault. We’re not disciplined enough. We lack willpower. We aren’t willing enough to ‘feel our feelings’ and gasp (!) we eat when we are stressed.
If the reason diets don’t work lies with us, then the diet industry can keep selling us their product, in whatever new version or twist they can think of each year (think Paleo, Keto, Whole30, The Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers, Slimming World, 5:2 or Intermittent Fasting, South Beach Diet, Noom).
No wonder the US diet and weight loss industry made $65 billion in 2018 and is growing and thriving.
What other industry blames the consumer for the fact that their product doesn’t work? None I can think of. Usually, a product is recalled, fixed, or taken off the market altogether.
But I don’t see any diet being ‘recalled.’ Dieters will never get reimbursed for their money, time, emotional and mental energy they invested in a product that doesn’t deliver on its promise.
Remember feeling so hopeful and excited at the start of a new diet… tracking all your food, calories and exercise in a journal or an app… and then feeling guilty, disappointed and full of self-loathing when you eventually go off plan and fail… every dieter knows the cycle.
There is no reimbursement for the missed meals out with friends, not having birthday cake, not baking with our kids, not having ice cream on the beach… You are never getting those moments back.
There is no acknowledgement of the negative consequences and damage that can result from dieting:Weight cycling, weight gain in the long run, disordered eating (think restriction followed by binge eating), guilt over food choices, constantly thinking about what to eat, what not to eat, obsession over the number on the scale or jeans size.
The diet industry’s message is: If you don’t successfully lose weight, it’s your fault, not the diet’s fault.
And we keep buying a product that fails, and blaming ourselves for not trying harder or doing better.
This is simply wrong.
My best diet tip for 2023? Don't.