How Not to Diet – Five hacks for creating the body that you love with minimal pain and suffering
By Rosie Bank
2019 © Rosie Bank
There were two times in my life when I was able to eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight. The first was in my 20’s and 30’s. I thought I found the key to the kingdom of bliss when I learned how to gorge myself with food, then puke my guts out. How not to diet was far from my radar as I used self-destructive techniques to control the size of my body.
Bulimia is a devastating condition. I wanted to learn how not to diet, but my operating system was broken. Not gaining weight was a booby prize for becoming addicted to poisoning my body with copious amounts of processed food, and then the devastation of purging it.
When my clients share their own challenges with cravings and weight, to say I am compassionate and empathetic for their struggle is an understatement.
The second time when I was able to eat freely without any concerns for my weight is, well, now. What happened for me over the last thirty years forms the foundation of Health Matters Coaching. I was an overnight success, that took me several decades to achieve.
Falling in love with food that is good for you and loving your body so that your body loves you back are powerful themes as you get your health/food/weight act together. Learning how to eat food confidently so that you are happy with how you look and feel is nothing short of personally transformational.
Here are five hacks for creating the body that you love with minimal pain and suffering:
- Have a compelling WHY, personal reasons for wanting to be a new size and shape. It’s not enough to have a passing desire to have a more slender body. A weak desire will not get you to a whole new level of awesomeness in your life. You need reasons that are compelling, deeply personal, unique to you, that touch you emotionally, and that involve people other than yourself.
What is it that you cannot live without, and that compels you to adopt new habits for an indefinite period of time? For me, it was finding my soul mate and doing transformational work for others that was authentic and did not carry the burden of shame. Might this be a good chunk of introspective personal work for you? You bet, and this is as it should be.
- Turn your focus away from what you cannot eat, and focus on food that is nourishing, beautiful, and delicious. Practice conditioning your mind to think about and plan for shopping, preparing, serving, and eating food that you know is “pro-health” and that supports your weight goals. If your approach focuses on all of the things you cannot eat and is essentially about depriving yourself, this will not be an enjoyable or sustainable ride.
Remind yourself that you can eat anything you want to. And now, as you practice this, you learn to choose not to eat certain foods.
To experience more joy and far less suffering, focus on foods that heal your body. Depending on your dietary preference, these might include whole foods, fruits and veggies, unprocessed foods, and foods naturally high in nutrients and relatively low in calories. Take responsibility for learning about foods like this. Searching the Internet is a good place to start.
Incidentally, it has been shown clinically that moving away from something that you desperately want to avoid as opposed to moving toward something that is enjoyable and rewarding stirs up a different response in your whole being. If you run away from trigger foods, you might not be as successful (and feel as calm and in control) than if you moved toward the enjoyment of pure nourishment that you can achieve with your new choices. The former is more difficult than the latter, which ought to inspire you to develop this new point of focus.
Like all of these distinctions, it’s really reasonable that you will work on this over and over. If you experience the unpleasant sensation of a crushing craving, observe this for what it is. You can’t not feel something that you are feeling. You can, however, gently allow your mind to lovingly turn to what you want to accomplish and how you would like to feel. It’s a process and, like all of these suggestions, you can and will get better and better at this. Jon Kabat-Zinn, my favorite teacher on mindfulness, suggests that we notice these areas of aversion with our full awareness. This becomes the moment when we can also allow ourselves to begin to pivot.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
- Change what you want to eat. There is no getting around this. The more you cultivate a preference for whole food that is loaded with nutrition and that definitely helps you feel better, the more empowered you will be. I served my meat-loving veggie-avoiding father-in-law a veggie burger with all of the fixings on a multi-grain bun. He said, “This is quite delicious, actually.”
Anything you are telling yourself about “never being able to kick the cravings” or “always going to struggle with my weight” might be erroneous. No offense, but you may discover that you have been telling yourself a lie. Your ability to break free lies within migrating your tastes and preferences toward new, fresh, beautiful, and wholesome food.
There is a reason why super healthy people love salads, fresh blueberries, savory herbs, and steamed Swiss chard. This can become the new you.
In the same way that you change what you want to eat, you can also work on the part of you that you are feeding. Hunger is your friend. Being in tune to cues of hunger and near-fullness are essential parts of your knowing how not to diet, and to have a new relationship with food and your body.
- Raise your standards. A client told me recently that when he is with his family, he wants to cut himself slack because of how stressful the situation is. His point was that he did not want to beat himself up or create an unreasonable goal of perfection around his food choices. Okay. I get that. Perfectionism is an unkind goal and is also not compassionate. With all of that being true, I insist that there are some foods that have no place on your plate, or in your mouth or stomach when you are really committed to your health.
Sure, you can justify a dinner of greasy nachos, fries, and a milkshake by saying that you aren’t going to beat yourself up. And it was just this once. But let’s be honest. Would you cheat on your spouse just a little bit? I know that is an outrageous comparison, but I offered it because it can shock you to learn how not to diet and to learn to give some foods up.
This is not because you are denying yourself greasy nachos, fries, and a milkshake. Or because you are a bad person for having eaten them. It’s because, like cheating on your spouse, foods like this have no place in your commitment to make your health and weight a priority.
- Make this a journey of personal transformation. This one is worth contemplating. Your relationship with food will always be the backdrop to how sane, happy, peaceful, and healthy you are. Learning how not to diet and never ever stuff your stomach to the point of making you feel crummy is a lifestyle adjustment. You learn to live with this awareness as it becomes part of your new operating system.
Discovering how to work with your hunger rather than eating your emotions is not a thing you do in a weekend workshop. This is the new, evolved you and this becomes installed in your new operating system. Becoming someone who eats a big salad instead of a huge calorie-and-fat-dense-heart-damaging-steak when you are very hungry is not a gimmick. It’s an extension of your ever-evolving values.
Now, instead of a booby prize, you are eligible for the grand prize. One day you wake up and you realize that you are evolving. That you are more confident to make pro-health choices today than you were, say, last week.
You notice that you feel calmer around food. You notice that that old, familiar grip of anxiety about and around food has somewhere along the line receded in the past, and you feel lighter and more optimistic. You observe that you are breathing and relaxing, living an embodied life, and you discover joyfully that you are no longer at risk.
A huge grand prize and the one I saved for last on purpose is that you like this new you – albeit beautifully imperfect and still work-in-progress – so much better than you are now anticipating new and unfolding layers yet to be explored. Oh my gosh, you are excited about this whole journey and what you see in your future has morphed into a healthy, wholesome, fun-loving, active, confident version of yourself. Diet schmiet, right?
I practice and preach three fundamental principles:
- Going sane around food
- Falling in love with food that is good for you
- Loving your body and getting your body to love you back
It’s worth it. You are worth it. Wherever you are on this ever-evolving journey, I heartily congratulate you. You are a hero. I’m touched by your courage and your commitment. I am excited about what’s next for you. I know I bring positivism and enthusiasm to a process that is not always easy and can even be painful at times. Please accept that as my gift to you, as you learn to embrace this new way of being for an indefinite period of time.
Rosie Bank is Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and the founder of Health Matters Coaching. She is the author of the book, Health Matters. Rosie is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is certified by The Center for Nutrition Studies (e-Cornell) in Plant Based Nutrition. Rosie is an international speaker, blogger, and the founder of Health Matters podcast. She is certified as a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant through the American Fitness Professional Association and as a Nutrition Advisor through Sanoviv Medical Institute. Rosie founded The Vitality Club in Brentwood, CA in 2018.
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