If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, one of the first things you’ve probably done is change your eating.
But if you’re reading this blog, chances are that these approaches didn’t work for you.
Let us tell you a secret. These approaches don’t work for anyone!
When it comes to weight loss, restricting your food, and following food rules — which are often in the form of diets — are the worst things you can do.
Creates a cycle of starving and bingeing
One of the major reasons restricting food and following diets doesn’t work is that they cause you to binge.
Eating is like a clock pendulum that swings from side to side. Typical dieting behaviour is to restrict your food in an attempt to control your calorie intake and lose weight. This causes the pendulum to swing hard to one side — restriction, starvation, rules. But a pendulum can’t swing one way without coming back to the other side. When this happens, you overeat, binge and toss out the rules. You constantly swing from ‘control’ to chaos. Restricting, bingeing, restricting and bingeing. This vicious circle not only plays with your emotions, but you end up consuming way more calories than you would if you didn’t restrict your food. This behaviour also leads to an incredible amount of stress.
Increases your stress levels
Stress is a disaster if you’re trying to lose weight. That’s because when the body is in a stressed state it releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol increases your appetite, increases your cravings for junk food and makes it easier for your body to accumulate belly fat. It can also cause you to burn less calories, interfere with your sleep (which is also important for weight loss), and lead you to drink alcohol (another disaster for weight loss), in order to cope.
Following food rules and restrictive behaviours puts a lot of stress on your body as well as your mind. The desire to be perfect and get it ‘right’ will cause even more stress than the bingeing, restricting pendulum. Believing that you’re a failure if you’re not perfect, that you won’t lose weight unless you follow the diet to the letter, and the need to be in control not only messes with your weight loss, but with your head.
Following rules messes with your head
Dieting behaviour and restricting food promotes negative self-esteem, lack of confidence and low self-worth. Because it’s virtually impossible to be perfect, you’ll eventually end up eating something ‘off plan’ or falling off the wagon, so to speak. This will cause you to judge yourself harshly and beat yourself up for not being able to follow your calorie-restricted eating program. This can lead to being obsessed with food, counting calories and dieting even harder. This approach not only perpetuates the cycle of low self-worth, but is the path towards full-blown eating disorders.
Doesn’t address your habits
Focusing purely on food does not help you lose weight. That’s because eating and exercise make up only 3% of the weight loss equation. The remaining 97% comes down to your habits and your mindset, which has led you to become overweight in the first place. Your habits are the thoughts and behaviours you engage in without even realising. They drive every action you take, despite your best intentions to do something different. All of us have different habits that affect us in different ways. Common habits that will hold you back from losing weight include perfectionist behaviours, having a diet mindset, putting other people before yourself and people-pleasing.
The good news about habits is that once you overcome one of them — often referred to as a keystone habit — you’ll inadvertently change a whole lot of other behaviours that stem from that one. But while you’re busy focusing on food rules and calorie restriction, you can’t address your habits.
Focuses on the things you need to stop
Following food rules, restricting calories and doing diets causes you to focus on what you need to eliminate.
Don’t eat carbs
Don’t eat fat
Don’t eat after 7pm
Don’t eat sugar
Don’t drink alcohol
Don’t eat processed food
When you focus on the things you can’t do, you’ll feel as if there is nothing you can do other than keep tight control over your eating, in order to lose weight. Instead you need to flip it around and focus on the things you can do.
At Imani Tribe, we don’t advocate giving up your favourite foods or even quitting alcohol. Instead, we take a balanced approach that allows you to enjoy food — whatever it is — without the guilt that usually goes hand-in-hand with restricted eating. We also help our clients focus on what they can do, to keep progressing, even during times of injury or illness. When you focus on what you can do, you’ll be surprised at how much power you have when it comes to losing weight.
When it comes to eating there is no one-size-fits-all. However, food plans, diets and rules take a one-size-fits-all approach which doesn’t work. For example, everyone has different metabolic needs, food preferences, food intolerances, and lifestyles. The life of a busy parent raising kids is totally different to the life of a couple whose children have grown and left home.
By following rules and regulations that don’t take your personal needs into consideration, you run the risk of under-nourishing your body, which can leave your immune system compromised and your health at risk. You’re also not likely to be feeding your body the fuel it needs to function at optimal levels. And not feeding your body enough food, has been shown to contribute to weight gain!
Dieting impacts your training
The other concerning factor is that calorie restriction through diets and food rules impacts your training. In order to exercise effectively your body needs to be fuelled appropriately. Otherwise, it’s like trying to drive a car with no fuel — you won’t get very far. If you don’t feed your body the correct nutrients (especially with pre- and post-workout meals), you won’t be able to train well. If you can’t train well, you won’t be able to build your muscle (which has a huge impact on your metabolism). If you can’t build muscle, you’ll have a hard time losing weight. In addition, if you don’t eat enough nutritious food, you won’t be able to recover sufficiently from one training session, in order to train effectively at your next one.
What should you do?
The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to drop the dieting behaviour and focus on foods that will nourish your body. However, this is often easier said than done, especially for chronic dieters who have spent their life following diets and meal plans, trying to lose weight.
That’s why we encourage you to work with a coach who can help you identify and become aware of your thoughts, beliefs and behaviours around food. When you’re aware of your approach to food, you can begin working towards overcoming these thoughts and habits. This will involve recording and tracking data in order to increase your awareness. Your coach can also implement a plan specifically for you, to help you confront your fears around food and eating, so you can break free from the constant dieting roundabout.
When you make yourself accountable to your coaches, you’ll be able to work through your plan to change your relationship with food. Eventually, you’ll be able to lose weight and keep it off, without the constant worry and stress of dieting.
Ready to stop restricting food?
If you want help getting over your fears around food, and would like to learn to eat good, nourishing food, including your favourite foods, without the guilt we can help.