Let’s talk pseudo-dieting or unconscious dieting. Even after I decided that dieting doesn’t work and I wasn’t going to do it anymore, so much diet mentality lingered! It can be hard to recognize. Here are some examples from the book and my own experience.
- Counting grams of anything. I wasn’t dieting but I had a protein minimum and a carb maximum. Oh, wait, that’s dieting!
- Eating only (or mostly) safe foods. This came up in many tricky ways. Only foods in my flexible template. Only whole foods. No starch / gobs of veggies. Ice cream fine / pasta dangerous. Fat good / carbs shady.
- Eating only at certain times of day. I’m looking at you intermittent fasting. No snacking. No food after 7pm.
- Paying penance for eating “bad” food. This is the thing where I would skip two meals to justify donuts. Or not let myself eat dinner after a restaurant lunch. Or vow to “be good” tomorrow if I indulged today. It’s extra activity to compensate for a big meal.
- Cutting back on food. Oh, how innocent it seems. Feel fat, deliberately put less on my plate because logic. Never mind that I’m really hungry or not going to be satisfied by those choices. Cue the temporary amnesia about all the times this tactic has resulted in eating even more later.
- Pacifying hunger by drinking coffee or diet soda or chewing sugar-free gum. Oh, hello 2 liters plus 4 cans of diet soda a day.
- Limiting carbohydrates. Ah, that Primal Blueprint carbohydrate death zone chart or whatever it was called. I practically needed a lobotomy to get that out of my head, and just as I did, the whole world went keto. Carbs are still the food I’m most likely to sneakily question.
- Putting on a “false food face” in public. Oh, geez. This. My reputation as a healthy eater and fitness wacko died hard. I wanted to be the one who ordered a salad, skipped dessert, and made everyone around me feel guilty and inferior. What IS that?! Then I’d go home and eat a pint of ice cream alone in my pajamas. There used to be a real difference between the way I ate in front of others and the way I ate when alone. I didn’t know how to question the thoughts driving it. My story about “what others think” is ALWAYS “what I think.” This was serious breaking news.
- Competing with someone else who is dieting. This was so tough to stop. I’d be a happy non-dieter until family, friends, or random internet strangers talked about restricting their food. Then this crazy jack-in-the-box thing would spring out of my chest and shout, “I’ll show you!!!! I can out restrict all of you!!! BLEEAAAHH!!!”
- Second guessing or judging what you deserve to eat based on what you ate earlier or how much you’ve exercised. Oh, yeah. Earning my food. Balancing my bank account. Using diet logic instead of my stomach. Just because a meal or snack doesn’t fit the “standard” portion size you ate while dieting doesn’t mean you’re overeating or need to take corrective action.
- Becoming a vegetarian or going gluten-free only for the purpose of losing weight. How I swung between “happy” vegan and “happy” paleo before I identified this as lunacy. I thought that as a non-dieter I’d be safer from weight gain if my “lifestyle” automatically limited my food choices. The only problem is that life without cheese isn’t worth living. LOL I desperately craved whatever wasn’t allowed, so this approach turned out to be very ineffective.
Do you recognize or still struggle with any of these pseudo-dieting behaviors? It was baffling to me how I could still be eating reactively or feeling out of control around food when I wasn’t dieting, but there were still plenty of restrictive shenanigans going on. Some were just below the surface of conscious awareness and some actually seemed healthy or prudent. It’s amazing how much better off I am without them. They weren’t keeping me safe, they were mucking things up.