Are you on a diet? While scores and scores of people passionately insist that they don’t diet anymore, I will tell you that even though they may not be on a specific diet per say, they are still entrenched in what’s called “diet mentality”.
What is diet mentality? Diet mentality happens after you have physically given up dieting but the dieting thoughts remain. Even the most well-intentioned ex-dieters who had a hard time letting go of the actual diet often still engage in diet-like behaviors. Oftentimes these diet-like behaviors quickly become pseudo-dieting or unconscious dieting. Pseudo-dieting behaviors are not obvious to the person engaged in them. In fact, ex-dieters would likely vehemently deny that they are pseudo-dieters.
What I hope you take away from this article is that many of us are still insidiously entrenched in the diet mentality. You may be asking yourself, “What’s wrong with dieting?” Chronic dieting makes you more preoccupied with food, slows your metabolism, eventually leads to bingeing, and fosters guilt and negative feelings toward yourself. So the next time you vow that you’re not on a diet, think about these examples and see if your behavior resembles any of them.
1 Meticulously counting carbohydrate grams is the newly accepted behavior that is no different from counting calories. Being conscious of what you eat is admirable, but counting carbohydrate grams to control your weight is no different from counting calories to control your weight…which is dieting.
2 Eating only “safe” foods. Only allowing yourself to eat foods that are low in fat and carbs. You know the routine. Politely asking what a particular food or entrée contains before eating it to be sure it doesn’t have too much butter or too many carbs, then refusing to order it because it will make you fat. Remember that one food, one entrée, one meal or one day will not make you fat or affect your health. It’s what we eat consistently that makes the difference in our overall health.
3 Eating at specific times of the day, whether or not you are actually hungry is a common pseudo-dieting behavior. Not eating after a certain time at night, only eating lunch after 12 pm, or not eating between meals, even if you’re physically hungry, are all examples of this type of behavior.
4 Punishing yourself for eating “bad” foods such as cookies, bagels or ice cream. If you allow yourself to eat these foods, do you later skip a meal, eat less, and vow to eat “good” tomorrow? Or do you double your exercise routine to burn off the extra calories you consumed?
5 Cutting back on food especially when you’re feeling fat or have a special occasion coming up where you want to look your best. While many would argue that there is nothing wrong with this behavior, in the end, it’s still a form of deprivation that will eventually trigger overeating.
6 Pacifying hunger by drinking coffee or diet soda. This is a very common strategy to overcome hunger pangs without eating or calories. Once again, it’s a form of deprivation that will eventually lead to overeating or even bingeing.
7 Limiting carbohydrates. So many people severely limit the amount of carbohydrates they consume because they fear they will make them fat. What people don’t realize is that carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel and are used by the body for energy.If you’re wondering why your energy is lagging, lack of carbohydrates may be the answer.
8 Putting on your “healthy eater face” in public. You know the routine…you only eat “healthy” foods when you’re in public because you want to always be seen as the healthy/weight conscious eater. In reality, what you’re really doing is denying your body what it really wants. Caving in to this type of social pressure often back fires because you will often eat more of the food you turned down in private later when no one is watching (a.k.a closet eating).
9 Competing with someone else who is dieting…feeling obligated to follow a diet or act like you’re following a diet in public because someone else you are dining with is dieting and you want to receive those same admiring looks for being so health conscious and virtuous too.
10 Second guessing or judging what you deserve to eat based on what you’ve already eaten that day, even when you’re physically hungry. Some days our bodies are just hungrier than other days and that’s expected. Our hunger levels vary based on several different factors like the amount of physical activity we’ve done that day, our stress levels, our hormones (menstrual cycles, etc), and how much sleep we had the night before, just to name a few.
11 Becoming a vegetarian, vegan or going gluten free for the sole purpose of losing weight. Adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet is a great way to reduce your ecological footprint and spare animals of unnecessary suffering, but if it’s not done with those reasons in mind, it’s just another form of dieting.The same applies adopting a gluten free diet. If you have a gluten sensitivity or have been diagnosed with celiac disease, gluten is clearly not your ally, and not eating gluten is wise. However, if you’re not eating gluten because you purposely wish to avoid foods like pizza, bagels, sandwich bread, etc, then once again, that’s restricting which is unmistakably dieting behavior.
How’d you do? Did you see any of your eating behaviors described in these 11 examples? If you did, it’s great that you’re aware now. That awareness will lead to positive changes.