The most important step to healing your relationship with food… STOP DIETING!
This is the least-popular part, but unfortunately, you can’t skip it. No matter how “advanced” you feel, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can apply all the other advice I give about intuitive eating and making food choices from a place of love instead of restriction but skip the not-dieting part because it won’t work.
Giving up dieting is a requirement because it’s impossible to establish a normal relationship with food when you’re still restricting certain foods like sugar, dairy, carbs, or whatever. Unless it’s a medically-required food restriction (and “feeling better” when you don’t eat gluten doesn’t count), you need to allow yourself to have it. This is essential and cannot be skipped.
Choosing to stop dieting can be a terrifying and vulnerable decision. But Trust me, I understand how unattractive this part may seem. This section will guide you through some steps that will make the process easier to navigate. Nothing will make the process feel completely safe, but hopefully, this section will take out some of the risks.
Here are 5 steps that will help you stop dieting and feel normal around food:
Step 1: Remove 100% of the Rules and Restrictions Around Food.
To remove the feeling of obsession and compulsion around food, you need to get rid of all the rules and restrictions (aside from allergies and medical restrictions, of course).
Lifting the dietary restrictions acts like a powerful form of reverse psychology. When you give yourself 100% unconditional permission to have anything you want, it actually helps you NOT want it.
This means no more calorie counting. No more bans on particular foods.
Instead, all foods are allowed and all foods are equal. The idea is to neutralize food so that you can listen to your body and achieve your natural weight.
You cannot create any loopholes! You can’t lift all food rules except [insert your scariest food, like chocolate, here]. It has to be the whole shebang.
If you keep one foot out the door, it will ruin the reverse psychology and put you right back a square one — with some extra binges, and you don’t want that. So, it’s critical to allow all foods.
At this point, many people ask me if they can continue to restrict sugar or dairy if they’re not allergic to them but feel better without them. My answer is always no. All foods must be allowed.
I know that many people feel worse when they eat these things (myself included). But feeling awful is part of the process! Because after you get through the Rebellion Binges (stage 2 of giving up dieting), you start to get in sync with what your body wants. And if you feel awful after eating sugar, your body probably won’t ask for it, and you’ll naturally stop wanting it.
But in the beginning, 100% of permission is critical. If the lack of control freaks you out, that’s totally normal. Hopefully, you find a little saving grace in the next step.
Step 2: Follow My Intuitive Eating Guidelines
Focusing on my eating guidelines after you decide to give up dieting will provide some much-needed structure. Giving up the food rules can result in a vulnerable loss of control, and the eating guidelines give you a tiny bit of that control back.
Speaking of feeling out of control, the last step in my eating guidelines (feeling your feelings) deserves a deeper look.
Step 3: Develop Emotional Tolerance – the Most Important Skill
Most compulsive eaters are out of touch with their emotions — so much that they don’t even know what they’re feeling. This drives the compulsion behind compulsive eating.
Therefore, by generating awareness around the feelings that drive you to overeat, and then allowing yourself to feel those feelings, the desire to overeat will go away.
This is where it’s helpful to check in with yourself and be like, “Hey baby girl, WhatsUp…?” “What are you feeling?” What do you really need right now?”
Check-in with yourself any time you want to eat when you’re not hungry to build the skill of emotional tolerance. Also, you can use this tool when you’re not hungry to develop emotional awareness.
If you struggle with doing this when you’re about to binge, then it’s a good idea to step back and use it when you’re not feeling triggered around food.
It’s like a simple emotional check-in.
As you build your emotional awareness, you will find that the stopping mid binge and checking with yourself becomes more accessible during real binge-y moments.
And remember, ALWAYS promise yourself that you can continue your binge after you have checked in if you want to, this is crucial. The aim of this is to get better at checking in with your emotions and feeling them and journaling about them instead of eating them… NOT to restrict and call your binges bad… because they aren’t bad.
Binging is simply a reaction to some form of restriction or deprivation, whether that be emotional, physical, mental or spiritual.
Step 4: Be Prepared to Take One Step Backwards and Two Steps Forward
The second stage of giving up dieting (which you will learn about next week) can be scary because most people binge on their previously restricted foods. If this happens to you, know that it’s temporary. Please don’t let this stop you from staying fully committed.
When I first gave up dieting, I was triggered by the lack of control and messiness of the process. I was so uncomfortable that I wanted to go back to counting calories, even though I knew it didn’t work. (My thought was: at least dieting is straight-forward!)
Luckily I stuck to the process and gave it my best shot, and the binges stopped. Eventually, I reached my natural weight because I broke the restrict-binge pattern.
The key to getting through the rough, initial phase is to stay committed to allowing all foods. Do not revert back to dieting.
If you revert back to restriction, you will stay stuck in the restrict-binge pattern. But if you binge and don’t restrict after, the pattern will slowly end and you’ll get closer to feeling normal around food.
Step 5: Know When You’re Doing It Right
When I first gave up dieting and focused on “feeling my feelings” instead of overeating… life got worse. At least, it seemed to get worse. But after a few months, I realized that I was just feeling the emotions that have been here the entire time. It wasn’t that life got worse; it was that I finally opened my eyes.
So, if you start to feel worse when you give up dieting and practice feeling your feelings, it means you’re doing it right. This might seem undesirable, which is why it is so important to get support through this process from someone who ‘gets it’
For now, just know that when life seems to get worse, it’s actually just getting real.
And when you keep it real, you develop the emotional tolerance necessary to achieve your goals and feel normal around food – which is the ultimate goal.
You’ll be able to have one cookie and stop, and that cookie packet won’t beckon and call your name either.
I can’t emphasise how important it is to get support through this process because you WILL think you are going crazy at some points! But the only way to the other side (food freedom) is THROUGH…
I have created a 5-month online program with the EXACT steps I took to transform my relationship with food and my body. There is an option to upgrade to private coaching with me (which I thoroughly recommend for ultimate accountability and support). Click here to schedule a free coaching call to see if this is right for you.