Are you tired of the yo-yo diet cycle? Is there constantly a voice in your head telling you what you “should” or “shouldn’t” be eating? If this sounds like you, you’re in the right place! In this post, we cover how to ditch diet mentality so that you can make peace with food and honor your health without dieting.
What is Diet Mentality?
Diet mentality is a way of thinking about food through a lens of deprivation, scarcity, or punishment. It includes all of the messaging you’ve picked up from diet culture, your dieting history, and other dieter tools.
Factors that inform diet mentality:
- Diet history. Consider your history with dieting. How many diets have you tried? For how long? Your unique dieting history has contributed to the diet mentality that might still be lingering in your head today.
- Diet rules. It’s likely that you picked up various rules from these past diets– rules telling you what, when, and how much to eat. These rules are rigid and difficult to maintain.
- Diet culture. Diet culture is a system of beliefs that praises thinness and values weight, shape, and size over health and well-being. It includes photos of thin models on magazine covers and headlines such as “How This Celebrity Lost 50 Pounds.”
- Diet tools. These are the external tools that help you count, measure, or weigh in order to “keep your eating in check”. This includes but is not limited to the scale, tape measures, portion control plates, and food scales.
- Diet language. This is the language that says you’re “good” for eating a salad or “bad” for eating pizza. Think of this as the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” that control your self-talk around food.
As you can see, diet mentality is complex! However, we know that it IS possible to untangle it piece by piece.
How to Ditch Diet Mentality
From my personal and professional experience in helping women make peace with food, there are essentially 2 steps to ditching the diet mentality.
- Identify it. This involves noticing when your food decisions are driven by diet mentality.
- Reframe it. This is where you start to adopt an intuitive eating approach to food!
Let’s look at these steps in greater detail.
Identifying diet mentality is NOT about placing blame or feeling guilty for the way you think about food. It IS about noticing, with compassion, your current food-related thoughts that are running on autopilot.
With diet mentality, your inner monologue around food choices may sound like this:
- I can’t have _____. It’s not healthy!
- I should limit carbs for weight loss.
- It was a “good” day because I stuck within my calorie range.
- It was a “bad” day because I ate sweets.
- If I order takeout, I think…I blew it, then eat whatever I want.
- I can’t eat after 7 pm, even though I’m hungry.
- If I don’t exercise today, I should cut back on my portions.
- I need to lose weight to get healthy this year.
- If my friend orders a salad at lunch, I should, too.
- I feel guilty if I don’t exercise because I need to burn off what I eat.
Does any of the above sound like you?
You’re not alone. I remember when my self-talk sounded like this 24/7!
Simply start “calling out” diet talk when you notice it. Remember, there is no need to place blame or judgment at this step. Just notice how it’s impacting your mood, decision-making, and food choices.
To reframe diet mentality means to put a new spin on it– one that is more compassionate, and less criticizing.
Here are 3 shifts that you can practice to start to reframing diet talk:
- Focus on long-term health vs. short-term fixes. Diet mentality is set on “quick” fixes, whereas intuitive eating is a mind-body approach to honor your long-term health. Get curious about eating in a way that feels sustainable.
- Invite flexibility with food vs. rigid food rules. There is no “right” or “wrong” way of eating. Food isn’t meant to be a pass/fail. Allow yourself wiggle room with your food choices.
- View food as nourishment, not punishment. When you notice thoughts of “making up for” or “burning off” food, remember that food is meant to be nourishment. Food is fuel for your body and brain. Adopt a mindset of nourishment > punishment.
Which shift 1-3 would serve you right now?
What You Gain When You Ditch Diets
There is SO much to gain when you ditch the diet mentality.
You’ll be more in touch with your hunger and fullness cues. Trusting your body will become second nature to you.
Your food cravings won’t be as intense. Did you know that dieting actually increases food cravings? When you stop dieting for good, you’ll stop messing with the hormones that trigger cravings.
You’ll have freed up mental headspace. Imagine what you will have more brainpower for when you stop thinking about food 24/7. More time for your relationships, hobbies, work, etc.
Instead of signing up for another diet plan at the turn of every new year, what if you called a truce with your body?
What if you turned down the volume of external diet rules and started listening to your internal body cues?
For additional support in getting started, grab your free 5-Step Guide to Eating Intuitively. I’ll introduce you to intuitive eating and tangible action steps you can take to make peace with food.