Yesterday I started with a new coaching client who had for some time tried to be ‘body positive’ and celebrate her ‘curves’ and enjoy all foods freely, even the unhealthy ones she binges on. In the past she felt guilty for not being able to lose weight and control her eating; now she feels guilty for not being able to accept her body as it is and let go of her desire to lose weight!
This is not an uncommon situation, I’ve heard about this new kind of guilt many times. When I tell these women it’s okay to want to lose weight, their relief is always visible. Whatever you want to do with your body is ok. Skinny, strong, curvy, plus sized… go for it. Your body your choice.
With my clients, we still start by trying to accept our bodies as they are – this is not always easy so we’re also honest about the fact that it’s hard and we accept that, too. This acceptance is a key to success because when you accept your body, you want to treat it with respect and hence eating healthy becomes easier (more on how exactly acceptance works another time!)
My thoughts on dieting and weight loss
Dieting is defined as restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.
The most problematic part of dieting is not the desire to lose weight but the mindset that goes with it and how it makes us feel – this is diet mentality. It starts with the reasons why we want to lose weight – because we don’t feel good enough, we can’t accept our bodies as they are and so on, they all come from a place of self-hatred and we think losing weight is going to make us happy. This is actually the main reason why we fail!
Another complicating factor is our conflicted relationship with food thanks to the messages we get from various sources such as the processed food industry, diet industry, nutritionists and various healthy living ‘experts’ and influencers and so on. It’s no wonder most people are totally confused about diets, health and weight loss.
Contrary to what many anti-diet culture advocates tell you, there is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight (just like there is nothing wrong with not wanting to lose weight). Your body, your choice! You can also reject toxic diet culture and diet mentality and still want to lose weight. Losing weight doesn’t necessarily mean you need to diet – it is totally possible to do it without dieting it’s just not something the diet industry tells you about because then we would no longer buy diets!
The problem is diet culture & mentality – not weight loss as such.
It’s the way weight loss is done in diet culture (restrictive crazy diets that aren’t healthy, where food is just a weight management tool); it’s the mindset and the belief that our happiness depends on being thin. It’s also our relationship with food and the processed food industry brainwashing which is just as strong as the diet industry brainwashing – hence the conflict! One says eating junk food will make you happy, the other says being thin will make you happy. Both industries benefit from your confusion!
In fact, in many situations losing weight can be a very positive thing.
E.g. I have worked with people who wanted to avoid knee replacement surgery; some who wanted to be able to do activities with their kids that they were currently unable to do due to their weight or some who just wanted to feel more comfortable physically or be able to buy whatever clothes they wanted to.
Maybe you think you’ll look better when you’re slimmer and that’s ok too, just like it’s ok to dye your hair, put on fake tan or make-up to look better!
Again, your body, your choice! With all my clients I always start by asking them to make a choice and to understand that, for example, they could just have the knee replacement or make peace with the fact that they can’t go kayaking with their kid or cannot buy certain clothes. It’s important to realise that you always have a choice, even if it’s a bad choice. This takes the pressure of having to lose weight and it becomes a choice you make, something you want to do.
What needs to change to make weight loss a positive & successful experience is:
- Mindset – from being obsessed with how you look (diet mindset) to making choices that feel good (feel good mindset)
- Relationship with food – from weight management tool to nourishing; also let go of emotional attachments to food
- Knowledge of food/nutrition – understand the processed food industry, what is healthy and what isn’t (let go of diet industry brainwashing)
So that’s my thoughts, I’d be interested to hear what you think about this subject? Where are you in terms of weight/body acceptance? Is it confusing or have you found a way to make peace? If you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll answer them in a future email or blog. And if you’re interested in coaching, email me to arrange a 20-minute free chat!