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Diets don’t work – why you need to stop dieting for good.

Okay, so here goes – I want to make a difference to YOU! I want to be different to all of the other health and fitness coaches that you will come across, I truly care, more than anything about your mental wellbeing so as promised, I’m here, over the coming blogs to chat about a healthy mindset around food and exercise habits. I’m NOT here to drill you into the ground both physically and mentally with another diet so that your results look great on my social media page.


If you are wondering why this might be so important to me and to your health then it is worth taking a look back at our latest menstrual health blog where I included a personal story alongside the hormonal (and other) implications of an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.


So, are you obsessed with controlling your weight? Are you beating yourself up if you aren’t hitting certain numbers on the scales? Does it affect your mood if what you see on the scales doesn’t quite line up with your expectations for the day? Does that then effect your behaviour around food and exercise for the remainder of the day? Then we need to talk.


Perhaps an unhealthy mindset around your health comes with the physical activity side of things by way of compensatory behaviour if you eat more than you feel that you ‘should’? Or you beat yourself up if you miss a workout or don’t hit that elusive step target? Again, this unhealthy mindset will, I promise, cause you more harm than good, long and short term.


Unfortunately, cultural messages that we, as women, have been fed for so many years are to thank for this. In fact, many women that I speak to feel that they should be on a constant ‘diet’ – what could possibly be sadder and more miserable than that? What if we could get you to a position whereby you never have to ‘diet’ again? What if we find a way of life that means that you can enjoy everything that you like in moderation at whatever time or day of the week you like and know how to build that healthily into a lifestyle that doesn’t feel restrictive but fun?


We spoke in the last blog about attaching morality to foods – namely referring to specific foods as ‘bad’ and telling yourself the foods that are off limits or the foods that we should or shouldn’t eat. I wish that we could remove that notion from the world forever. Let me tell you now, there are no quick fixes, there are no miracle foods or superfoods that are going to be the answer to all of our health or weight loss goals. If there were, do you think we’d be living in the health epidemic that we are? There are only healthy habits, healthy behaviours and healthy mindsets around food that are going to keep us both physically and mentally satisfied for the remainder of our years and I want to help you to achieve that above all else, because I know, that with that comes a far superior quality of life.


What happens when we severely restrict our nutrition and tell ourselves that we ‘shouldn’t’ eat something in particular is that the want and need for that food in our minds builds and builds until a time comes (usually the weekend) where our willpower, which is a finite resource, like a muscle, ‘gives in’ and we eat way above and beyond what we might have if we had just allowed ourselves some of that food when the initial craving came about. Because we then feel that we overate, those compensatory behaviours and the restriction starts again creating the same cycle over and over again. Now at some point we need to break that cycle and I know you want to break that cycle AFTER the restriction and before the ‘binge’ but that doesn’t work. Next time the overeating happens, because I know most of you struggle, I want you to get right back to normal eating habits, no compensatory behaviour and no restriction. If you fancy something you feel is ‘bad’, I want you to practice allowing yourself a small amount. Sometimes this will work, sometimes it won’t and you’ll feel that you overate again, but that doesn’t make you a bad person. These things take practice, they take time and as with anything, progress isn’t linear. Keep trying for me, I promise in time, if we break that ‘binge and restrict’ cycle, you will be a healthier person in body and in mind for it.


It's worth me saying here that I use the word ‘binge’ because I know that’s what most of you refer to that kind of behaviour as – a binge in its truest sense is a very serious eating disorder characterised by a number of diagnosable things. If you feel out of control around food, couldn’t stop even if you wanted to and felt ill at any time then it is worth chatting to an eating disorder specialist. The purpose of these blogs is not to discuss eating disorders themselves; they need specialist professional help.


Next up, we NEVER have to earn food or ‘burn’ what we ate!! Our bodies need food simply to live, we fuel our activity beyond that in a healthy way. Using exercise as a way to burn calories is so dangerous to our mindsets. I wish that one day we can think about our nutrition as something fun to supplement our social lives and mental health and functional to fuel our lifestyles.


Let’s bust some myths that you might believe around diet and nutrition which might help us along our journey towards healthy food and training mindsets.


You might look healthy but that does not mean that the behaviours that you are exercising are healthy. Unfortunately, I was the slimmest I have been, the most ‘toned’ I have been, people might have thought I looked great, but I look back at that point in my life and physically and mentally I was at my lowest point in so many ways. I had no menstrual cycle, I had ruined my hormones for a very, very long time and my mental health was just about as low as it could go. Conversely, you might perhaps look overweight but that doesn’t also mean you are immune to the mindset struggles that we are discussing here. These behaviours don’t discriminate and a ‘look’ does not denote health.


Unfortunately, we have spent so long listening to these media driven beauty standards and feeling pressured to conform to what society sees as attractive. The behaviours that are holding us back are totally normalised by these media outlets and many of us don’t even realise that we are struggling, that is until it becomes out of control and our mental and physical health are on the floor. So, let’s get to grips with it now. Chronic or restrictive diets are NOT normal or healthy behaviour and don’t let friends, family or even any other ‘health’ professional, including your personal trainer, encourage otherwise.


This stuff takes time and effort, it is extremely damaging and isn’t a choice that we can switch on and off in our heads but practicing, reminding ourselves that we are doing it for food freedom and basing our changes on small habit formation over time and being kind to ourselves along the way is the most optimal path to success. In the coming blogs we are going to talk about some more tactics to help us along the way to habit change for good.


Peace and love for now, A x

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