When I was in college, I signed up for Nutrisystem. If you don’t remember, that was the program that delivered prepackaged meals that you ate for a few weeks to lose weight. Each meal came in a microwaveable plastic container that was about the size of an iPad. There was no preparation — you just heated it up, ripped off the cellophane, and ate.
There was no enjoyment in eating these meals. I was completely and totally disconnected from the food I was eating. The food was actually an afterthought. My only motivation for doing the program was to prevent myself from overeating so I could lose weight. (Unfortunately, this doesn’t work very well when you come home wasted and eat three of them. Needless to say, Nutrisystem didn’t work for me.)
This is an extreme example to illustrate how dieting disconnects you from the food you eat — even if you are eating real food. That’s because dieting sets up a fear-based relationship with food, which then prevents you from enjoying the eating experience.
In our culture, we tend to separate things into categories rather than integrate them as a whole: body parts, nutrients, food groups. Thinking of food in categories and as being either good or bad takes all the joy out of eating, which makes you more likely to binge.
Why? Because when you really enjoy what you’re eating, you are relaxed and engaged with the whole process: preparing your food, cooking it, sharing it, eating it. When you make eating an experience, you appreciate the food you’re eating, which makes you eat slowly. If you eat slowly, you are more aware of feeling full, and you stop when you are.
When you set up a fear-based, adversarial relationship with food, it makes you feel resistant. Feeling resistant makes it more likely that you will binge. If you’re trying not to eat, you’ll shove food down when you finally do. And feeling disconnected prevents you from being fully present when you eat, so you’re more likely to eat past the point of fullness.
By the way, dieting also disconnects us from our bodies. It focuses you on parts of your body rather than seeing yourself as whole. (I wrote about this in another post if you want to read more.) Then the media reinforces this. And in case you think you’re immune, my 10-year-old daughter has already started asking me about teeth-whitening treatments.
Ok, now I’m going to get a little deep here. Think of how you feel when you garden, walk on the beach, or watch the rain fall. You feel peaceful and relaxed because you’re immersing yourself in nature, which you are part of. Food is part of this energy, just like you are. So when you set up a fear-based relationship with food and you try not to eat — which is what you do when you diet — you literally disconnect from yourself. And if you disconnect from yourself, you will never be able to change the body you live in.
Being aware of how dieting creates such a powerful disconnection is critically important. If you don’t ever see this, you will remain forever stuck in the dieting loop.
So how do you escape?
- Stop dieting. Nothing more to say on that.
- Cook more. Make preparing your food a process. Cooking helps you really enjoy the food you eat, and it prevents you from grabbing whatever you see when you’re hungry — which is usually something out of a package. Cooking also means you’re going to eat more healthy, because you’re going to incorporate more foods into your diet.
- Spend more time at the grocery store. Don’t blaze in and out, buying the same stuff over and over again. Browse the aisles and find foods and ingredients you don’t usually use. When you get creative and get out of your rut, you’ll feel inspired to make more positive changes.
- Eat outside. Being surrounded by nature makes you feel relaxed. It keeps you present when you eat and helps you focus on what you’re actually eating. It makes eating an experience rather than a mindless check out where you unconsciously shove your food down.
Food is meant to be enjoyed — not avoided. You should never be afraid to eat or resist eating. Dieting keeps you doing both.
Stop dieting, and make eating an experience. It’s such a relief to make peace with eating and with your body. And when you do, you will naturally lose weight.