How to break free of yoyo diets

Going into January, you might have been caught up in the rush of New Year’s resolutions to go on another diet to lose weight. After a month of following your diet, are you finding it harder and harder to keep up with it? Are you finding yourself regaining the weight lost? Do you keep on saying to yourself: “On Monday, I’ll restart the diet!”?

It might also not have been your first time trying a diet and not being able to stick to it. In other words, you might have been yoyo-dieting for a while now.

However, I want to reassure you. It’s not your fault that you “failed” the diet. It’s not due to a lack of willpower, motivation or self-control. Diet culture is so prevalent and it is so easy to fall back into the vicious cycle of the pursuit of thinness, restriction and binging over and over again. However, there are ways to break free of this cycle and still be able to achieve your natural weight and lead a healthy lifestyle.

Why fad diets are bound to fail?

All fad diets work on the principle of calorie deprivation by eliminating a complete food group, limiting certain foods, encouraging fasting, etc. With diets, food becomes the enemy!

At the beginning of the diet, all those food rules seem feasible and you see initial results of weight loss. However, as time passes by, following those rules become increasingly difficult and you start having more cravings. This is normal; the more a food becomes forbidden, the more it becomes appealing.

The fact that you have cravings and want to eat more than what’s prescribed by the diet is actually your body trying to survive deprivation. Usually, diets rely on a low food intake and on you ignoring your hunger cues. However, there’s only so long you can ignore your hunger signals before your body starts to protect itself from starvation by increasing your hunger hormones.

How to get out of the vicious cycle?

First and foremost, it is important to reject the diet mentality. They are not only inefficient but are also damaging to your physical and mental health. Here are some examples of the detrimental effects of dieting:

–          A slowdown of the metabolism as the body goes into starvation mode, therefore leading to weight gain

–          Decreased self-esteem as weight lost is regained

–          A disconnection from the hunger and fullness cues

–          Worrying about food all the time

–          Cancelling social events because of a fear of not having control over the food served

–          Binge-eating episodes

And those are just a few of examples among many others!

Feeding your body with enough food and honoring your hunger cues is crucial in undoing all the years of restriction dictated by diet culture. Giving yourself permission to eat all the foods you enjoy without guilt is also key in getting out of the cycle of restriction and over-eating. After years of dieting, those behaviors could be difficult to implement on your own. Therefore, feel free to seek the help of an anti-diet nutritionist to accompany you in this process.

Setting attainable goals

The foundation of fad diets lies in setting unrealistic goals such as losing 30lbs in two months. To achieve those unsustainable goals, a diet will often rely on unrealistic measures. For example, a host of rigid rules around food and physical activity could be imposed; such as eliminating carbs, not eating past 7pm even if you’re hungry, exercising everyday for 60 minutes, etc.

However, to set yourself up for success, it is important to set realistic goals. Exercising daily for 60 minutes each time when you have not exercised in a long time is not realistic. But a more feasible goal could be to start with a walk or a low to medium intensity workout of 15-20 minutes three times a week. By setting the bar lower, you will make those goals more attainable, therefore keeping you motivated. You will see that it will become easier to gradually work your way up and maintain those lifestyle changes.

Also, as you implement those lifestyle changes, validate your wins and give yourself a big pat on the back for those wins. All those small wins eventually add up to help achieve your health goals and break the all or nothing mentality.

Focus on healthy habits instead of weight loss

While diet mentality solely focuses on weight loss, shifting your mindset from weight loss to wellbeing and health can also help you maintain lifestyle changes instead of doing the yoyo diet. This is because dieting always involves deprivation, restriction and exercising to burn calories. Therefore, all these changes become more of a punishment.

However, focusing on well-being and health comes more from a place of self-care. For example, if you notice that including more vegetables and fruits in your diet helps you with your digestion and energy level, you might be more naturally inclined to eat them instead of imposing yourself to eat them only to minimize calories and lose weight. The same goes with physical activity.

This will also help to change the inner negative self-talk to a more positive self-talk. Diets are telling you that something is wrong with your body and that you need to fix it. Instead if you make peace with food and your body, you will want to treat the latter with compassion and respect. You will want to nourish yourself with nutritious food and do more activity because you feel good doing so.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against weight loss. However, I do believe that focusing on healthy behaviors and a healthy relationship with your food and body can be a more sustainable way to get back to your natural weight and maintain it in the long term. After all, If diets worked, there wouldn’t be a new one on the market each year!