Roughly 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. Unfortunately, restrictive diets are typically unsustainable; they can be socially isolating; and they often fail to provide healthy weight management, adequate nutrition, sustained energy or good digestive health. Dieting can also lead to disordered eating like orthorexia, anorexia, binge eating, and bulimia. Fortunately, it’s possible to break away from the diet mentality, find a way of eating you enjoy, and create a healthy relationship with food.
Stop “off limit” thinking
First, work on changing your mindset around food. Most importantly: stop labeling certain foods as “bad” or “off limits.” When you consider a certain food to be off limits and restrict it, you’re more likely to think about it more often, which ultimately results in eventual binging or overeating. Once you give in to your craving, subsequent overeating or binging is a natural response to perceived deprivation. For example, think how many times you’ve overindulged the day before you plan to start a new diet because that means you’ll soon no longer be able to enjoy your favorite snacks and meals. If you have a particularly unhealthy relationship with food, you may find it useful to consult a dietician or counselor to help change your mindset and work on your issues.
Add healthy foods to your diet
As you let go of dietary restrictions, focus on filling your diet with nutritious foods that make you feel good. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean proteins and water are staples in a balanced diet. But, there’s also room for healthy treats. For example, dark chocolate is good for heart health when consumed in moderation. It’s also lower in sugar than milk chocolate, and contains up to six times more of the antioxidant catechins. When you have access to a wide choice of delicious, healthy foods, you’ll start to crave them, and any cravings for junk will subside. You’ll also find you feel more satisfied and have more energy, as you’re fueling your body with optimal foods.
Listen to your cravings
While you’re probably not used to having permission to indulge your cravings, it naturally comes with the removal of dietary restrictions. When you’re free to eat what you want when you want, you’re less likely to overeat, as you know you can eat any food at any time. You’ll also find your body naturally craves mostly healthy foods. When you have permission to enjoy foods previously considered off limits, the novelty soon wears off, and they’ll no longer have the same power over you. If you do indulge in an “unhealthy” craving, that’s okay. Remember you don’t just eat for fuel or nutrition, but also because certain foods make you happy. There’s no need to punish yourself for eating foods you love.
Letting go of the diet mindset is essential if you want to develop a healthy and enjoyable relationship with food. Stopping “off limit” thinking, adding healthy foods to your diet, and listening to your cravings will help you find a healthy way of eating that serves you well in the long term.