Dieting seems to have become an intrinsic part of modern society. Half of my Facebook feed seems to be on one, about to go on one, or berating themselves about falling off of one. There’s probably not a lot I couldn’t tell you about diets, and there’s very few I haven’t tried in my adult life. Counting, weighing, carbs, no carbs, shakes, you know the drill. Everywhere you look nowadays we are bombarded by images of perfect bodies and advertisements promising to give us the best body, from diets to exercise regimes, pills and miracle teas. But what if there was another way?
I think in the interests of honesty, as I write this I should tell you that at present at a size 18, my BMI is not in the healthy range. But, back in September 2016, I decided that after 20 years of being on and off a diet, I could diet no longer. It was time to change my relationship with food, but also to find some acceptance with my own body.
Do diets work? On the surface of things yes. Restrict your food and calorie intake, increase your activity and you’ll lose weight. I’ve probably lost in excess of twenty stone in my life time. The problem is, I have always, always put it back on again.
For me dieting leads to a cycle, I restrict, I ban foods, I lose weight, I buy clothes that don’t
fit me and plan on wearing them to events in the future. I rarely get into them. I eat well for a while, then all of my plans start to crumble. It starts with the odd thing here and there, until my food becomes just a big mess. I got the point that I actually began to wonder if I had an eating disorder, it was just that out of control.
The cycle of dieting was impacting my mental health and I decided enough was enough. I haven’t given up in the least of getting into a healthy weight range, but I had to realise dieting was not the way to go about this. I had to make small changes, small real-life changes for all time. But I also had to find acceptance that this process was going to be slow, it may even take years, but it’s about committing to change things forever, not quick fix shot in the pan solutions.
Here are my tips for how I have changed my relationship with food and ditched the diet from my life.
Start with Maintaining your Weight
When I first decided to ‘ditch the diet’ the first goal I set myself was to maintain my current weight. It’s something I have never really honestly done in my adult life. I always lost a bit, gained a bit but never remained consistent. I set about learning what was a healthy amount of food to eat a day. It wasn’t perfect at first, but for a year now until I found out I was pregnant in October I managed to maintain my weight. My current target is not to gain too much during my pregnancy and once I have recovered I will look at tweaking my food portions slowly.
No Food is Taboo, but Treat Treats like Treats
Remember, you’re not on a diet. No food is taboo, the amount of times I went out to dinner or for a picnic with my children and refused to eat proper food with them. Then I would end up going home and eating something I shouldn’t anyway. So now I allow myself treats, to have dessert when we eat out, but at the same time I remember that treats are treats. Some foods are not meant to be eaten every day and there is a reason for that. If you need to set some rules, do, but at the same time remove the shame around eating certain foods.
Exercise Does Not Need to be Punishment
You do not need to fork out for an expensive gym membership or drag yourself to a fitness class that makes you feel utterly miserable. This is about making changes for life and finding something that you enjoy.
For me, it’s been all about the walking, I have a target of steps I like to reach a day, I also never allow myself to drive the school run and have stuck to it. Youtube is also great for free fitness tutorials you can do at home too.
Moderate Portion Sizes and Reduce Sugar
A really simple thing I started with here was breakfast cereal. I used to eat a bowl heaped with breakfast cereal. I never looked at the sugar content of this cereal and the first time I did I was shocked. The healthy granola I thought I was eating actually contained 14.5g of sugar per 40g bowlful. Adults are only meant to have 25g of sugar per day, so in reality as I was definitely having more than a 40g bowlful I was having my entire RDA of sugar at breakfast time. So I researched different types of muesli and granola and found a low sugar alternative and started reducing my portion a spoonful at a time until I got to a healthier bowl size.
Create a Meal Plan that Works For you
I find that a food plan helps me. I’ve had to adapt this since I have become pregnant especially around morning sickness, but my general rule of thumb is three meals and one snack per day. Knowing when I eat and that I can have a snack in the afternoon when I get hungry just helps me to regulate my eating and reduce snacking which can get out of control.
Accept You for You and Take out the Shame
No one is perfect and even the models you see in magazines aren’t. In fact, they’re not even real they are so airbrushed most of their appearances are not even physically possible. Stop feeling ashamed of yourself, looking in the mirror and pointing out all of the parts of you you hate, and hiding away from that camera. Live in the moment, enjoy life and work slowly and surely towards a healthy life.
Laura’s Lovely Blog is a parenting, lifestyle and book blog. Run by Bracknell based Laura, a Mum of two, currently expecting baby number 3 in June 2018. She writes honestly about parenting and education and is very passionate about books and reading. A lover of lovely things, she also firmly believes in making time for yourself as a parent and the power of gratitude.
See Laura in our spring issue