Dieting

I advocate a healthy, balanced eating and exercise plan. A healthy eating pattern should suit your particular lifestyle and which is not extreme in any form. Moderation is the key word and a reputable dietitian will design an eating plan to fit your needs (see our treatment options). This is an important point. Design your eating plan with your dietitian and ask her/him to include you favourite foods (i.e. those which you would usually exclude when you go on diet).   Individuals, who suffer from medical problems such as high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, diabetes, liver or kidney malfunction, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and so on, must follow the eating plan devised by their dietitian, even if this means cutting out chocolates, biscuits and the like.  My appeal here is anyone who has repeatedly tried to lose, but without success. I am talking to the person who cannot lose weight because s/he has dieted forever (or it feels like forever)!

 
I write die-t with a hypen. This is not a typing mistake. I believe that every time you go on a die-t a little something in you dies! My definition of a die-t is any regime that stipulates food choices, (that is, you have no say in the food choices and you eventually end up feeling deprived). Die-ts stipulate what you can or cannot eat, as well as when you may or may not eat certain foods. Every time you go on a die-t, you start the “die-t cycle”. (You may even have been on this cycle your entire life!)
 
You decide to go on die-t, usually on Monday. You make this resolution with some enthusiasm because this time you are going to crack the problem and lose the weight. It usually does not last, does it! There is a reason for this! Die-ts leave you feeling deprived (usually emotionally and sometimes physically).  As a result, very soon into the “die-t” (usually three or four days), you will “break” the die-t, binge for a few days, maybe weeks and then decide to go on die-t (on Monday of course).  Usually, the night before you go on your new die-t (typically Sunday night) you go into what I call “squirrel mode”. That is, you start eating everything in your kitchen because on Monday you are starting a new diet. On Monday you start your new diet and three days later you are feeling deprived and…… the cycle starts all over again. Sound familiar! 
 
Eventually you will end up with a “die-t mind-set” and you will categorise your behaviour around food into “good or bad”. When you are “good” it means you have stuck to your diet. When you are “bad” you have broken your diet. Eventually you start to feel either good or bad in relation to food and because food dominates your every thought, you start to think about yourself in these terms. Every time you fail at dieting, you become no good, lack discipline, etc. Diets do work. If you cut down your calories you will lose weight. Sometimes you have to be mean to yourself to stick to them. Dieters never ascribe failure to the diet: they only blame themselves for lacking discipline or control. Everyday foods are often imbued with negative feelings. Ask any person who has dieted to name a few “die-t foods”. I have often heard that apples and cottage cheese will hit the list. The “bad” foods that are usually excluded are sweets, chocolates, cakes and biscuits. What a pity! Life is too short to deprive oneself of niceties (in moderation of course).
 
This is why die-ts do not work! They offer false control and magical cures. They usually require strict adherence and do not allow you to make your own food choices. If you have always been on diet, you will never have learnt how to make food choices. You will only have learnt how to go on a new die-t and how to deprive yourself. If you have been on diets for a long time, you probably will not even get past the first morning.   You might have the breakfast (or typically skip breakfast), feel in control, and then your work colleagues bring cake for tea! You have the cake and decide to start the diet again the next day. Sometimes you do not only have one piece of cake, you have two. (Remember, you are now off the diet and have gone into “squirrel mode” because you will start again tomorrow). 
 
The answer is to stop dieting right now. Get off the “die-t cycle” and stop depriving yourself. Remember that 100% compliance is impossible. If you eat healthily 75% of the time and follow an appropriate exercise routine you will be well on you way to wellness. Lapses, (i.e. having dessert after your meal) are not the start of a crisis (or a relapse)! Work on normalising your relationship with food.   If you find that you cannot stick to a regular healthy eating plan, deeper issues may be at stake and you should speak to a psychologist or psychotherapist who specialises in disordered eating to find out what these are (see our treatment options). In my video on the psychology of weight loss, I extend the above ideas. I also tell you how to go about understanding your relationship with food, how to identify the trigger factors that set off your eating pattern, the concept of lapses and many other ideas. 
 

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