I had to find moderation and happy eating first (trust, confidence, joy), regardless of what it did to my weight. Then I kept expanding on that, pursuing even more trust, confidence, and joy. Really great things happened as a result!
For me, any deliberate effort to create a deficit for the purpose of weight loss was like bashing my face into a brick wall. It only produced more of what I didn't want: obsession, anxiety, a scarcity mindset, and feelings of helplessness, none of which is actually conducive to weight loss. So, instead of coming at it from the old ineffective deficit angle, I focused on making life better in the present moment. What will help me to feel proud before, during, and after I eat? How can I enjoy my food more? What makes me feel strong? What makes me laugh? What do I really need right now? What am I grateful for today? What did I learn?
By emphasizing quality of life, my eating improved along with everything else. I don't mean "improved" as in suddenly developing a love for low-calorie, kale-based meals. I mean that I was better able to recognize hunger and fullness. I learned to sleep when I was tired and cry when I was sad (not eat or restrict). I ate food that truly satisfied me, so I found it a lot easier to stop eating. I became more consistent about eating meals, and being hungry for those meals.
It came together in such a way that I wasn't deliberately trying to eat less, so I wasn't experiencing any of the fallout. That made all the difference in terms of ease and sustainability.
The alternative to deliberately trying to eat less is to focus on maximum satisfaction. When your meals are mentally and physically satisfying, all of the diet craziness falls away. The constant food thoughts, cravings, debate, willpower struggles, and general anxiety are all symptoms of dieting. Without them, it's easier to eat according to your needs and to land at a healthy and sustainable weight.
The first time I heard a registered dietitian say that offering weight loss counseling is unethical, I thought they were crazy. Then I heard another one say it, and another, and another. It took me some time, but I have come around to that way of thinking. Teach people to recognize and trust their own hunger and fullness signals. Teach them about self-care, putting together satisfying meals, improving their health, fueling a sport, managing a chronic disease. Great! But giving someone a low-calorie meal plan and weighing them every week seems super shady now. It would be one thing if it worked, but it doesn't work. Diets have a dismal failure rate, which is why everyone is always looking for the next one.
It took me a long time to untangle exercise from weight, so that I was just exercising for the joy of it, and for health and wellbeing, not calorie burn. Untangling FOOD from weight is even more of a process. For decades, every single food choice was guided by "what will this do to my weight?" If I'm honest with myself, thinking that way didn't do anything good!! It's crazy-making. Thinking about food in terms of my own values, my overall health and wellbeing, how I want to feel, how I want to live life, THAT gets me somewhere.
" I think this is precisely why Lean Habits and Naturally Thin made everything worse for me. Claiming not to be diet books while simultaneously offering strategies for creating a deliberate deficit really messed with my head. " So much of this!!! I wanted to like Lean Habits soo much but it was just a diet book in disguise.
I think this is precisely why Lean Habits and Naturally Thin made everything worse for me. Claiming not to be diet books while simultaneously offering strategies for creating a deliberate deficit really messed with my head.
Your last sentence is key. I think I am still trying to deliberately eat less, and so I am still experiencing fallout...