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.
I hear you, snail. I would probably find Naturally Thin unbearable now, but it was a huge step toward freedom for me at the time I found it. I couldn’t have gone from decades of rigid dieting right to non-dieting or intuitive eating. I used pseudo-dieting as a sort of stepping stone, I now realize. For the first time in years, I could eat anything, I could go to restaurants, I could share food, or leave some. It was incredibly freeing compared to the all-or-nothing place I was coming from. That’s more an indication of how messed up I was than any kind of suggestion that pseudo-dieting is a great idea or a necessary step. It’s not.
"Naturally Thin" was a terrible book that gave me a bunch of pseudo-dieting tricks, ones that I didn't even already have! I have a lot of anger about that book's title. There is NOTHING natural about the way she eats in the book.
Guilty of...... I still have a protein minimum which is actually quite "high" for a minimum. I feel antsy when I don't hit it. I''m trying to ignore the crazy mind talk that happens when I'm not hitting it by reminding myself that nothing bad can happen if I don't hit precisely Xg of protein.
I relate to the ice cream good, pasta bad. What is that?! It's so messed up! I'm pretty much over it. I say pretty much because there are occasions where I'll hold back on my pasta/rice/starch at supper to "make room" for ice cream later. But I'll do the same thing to make room for apples too sooo....
That also makes me guilty of cutting back on food. Not just because I'm feeling fat, but also to "save room" or "balance my bank account". I will/do drink water, coffee or diet pop to "fill my gut" instead of actually eating. This happens just about every day between lunch and dinner. Lunch is at 1130, dinner is at 530 and I workout for 40-60min in between there. I've tried adding a snack after my workout but get frustrated with the snack being too filling and then not feeling hungry for supper. But then without a snack I am so hungry and quiet that hunger with water/coffee/diet pop.
Limiting carbs. Yup. I do that too. *sigh*
I agree with Skwigg and Mott that it goes away IF you resist and refute the thoughts as they come down the conveyor belt. If you let them do their thing unchecked, that parade can last a lifetime. I agree that having maxes and minimums is most often problematic, but it can be adaptive. For example if it you know you need 8 hours of sleep or you're a monster the next day, you can figure when it's time to leave the pub. Numbers can be used to make sure you get ENOUGH nutrients too. (of course for that helpful function they should be reasonable, not some live-on-steak amount of protein grams etc.)
Lovely new site, skwigg! I still find myself having a thought such as 'shouldn't drink so much water this late, the scale will be high tomorrow' then I remember I am no longer weighing myself every day and yes, liquids weigh something and so what that is crazy obsessive diet thinking and change the thought to 'will I be up peeing all night long?' that makes so much more sense!
Oh, i still occasionally count grams, and will cut back on food when I think I’ve overindulged. That happened a bit when I was on vacation a few weeks ago (got to visit Ireland and Scotland!!), so I felt like I had to curtail things here and there to make up for the deep fried Mars bars, scones, toasties, and beer. Obviously, I still need to work to do, but it will take active letting go on my part, and I’m not ready for that.
I second what Mott says, it does go away once you start thinking in terms of satisfaction and not restriction.
It goes away! I used to do every single one of those things like it was my job. Now I do none of them! When I read this post last time, I remember thinking, I do still do a little bit of balancing the bank account. But then looking back, starting last weekend I have had about 6 or 7 consecutive meals of fried food, fried food, pizza, French fries, birthday cake, noodles, and more fried food. I’m not balancing anything, lol. Not consciously, anyway! But it all works out in the end. Thoughts of doing those behaviors really don’t even occur to me anymore...or if they do, I guess I ignore them pretty quickly.
I still find myself restricting food in one or the other of these ways. Still! I don't notice it when I'm doing it, oddly, but when it accumulates into not feeling good, then I sure take notice!
It still happens and it still flabbergasts me when it does. I'm of the opinion (or at least it's been true for me) that diet brain never really leaves you (me). I just learned to manage it.
Does it go away?