Letting Go of the Weight Loss Fantasy
Anyone who has been on a diet before or has tried to pursue weight loss can probably relate to the fantasy that the thought of weight loss brings. Achieving a “new you” or a “better body” and receiving validation from others is incredibly alluring. I’ve personally fallen into this trap for most of my life, so I understand the struggle.
However, letting go of the weight loss fantasy is incredibly important to healing your relationship with your body image and food. I KNOW IT’S HARD! Especially when you’ve been a chronic dieter and have been cycling on and off diets for most of your existence, this can be one of the most challenging aspects of pursuing Intuitive Eating. The thought of no longer receiving validation when you go on a diet and drop a few lbs, never noticing you went down a size, and never posting “before and after” pictures is scary when you’re used to it.
Here’s the thing. It doesn’t work. It never truly “worked.” Maybe for a moment in time it made you feel better about yourself, but we all know it’s fleeting…or else you probably wouldn’t be here.
Finally admitting that what you’ve been doing has never and will never work can be a hard pill to swallow, but this is where the magic happens. This is where you disarm. This is where you come to terms with reality. This is where you surrender.
I can admit to still having issues with the fantasy from time to time, but I’m only one year into Intuitive Eating. It’s important to remember that we must take healing one day at a time and that healing is a spiral that’s never perfect. Even when you’re not engaging in disordered eating anymore, the weight loss fantasy can still be embedded into the back of your thoughts. It can still follow you around like a child wanting your attention. It’s always an option for you--a coping mechanism--which is what makes this difficult.
So, what do you do when you want to let go of this fantasy and get out of the diet mentality? What helped me the most at first was to think about my health and my body. If you’re at a point in your journey where you’re finally in the stages of feeling neutral or love toward your body, picturing the damages that weight cycling can cause can be a crucial turning point. I’m at a point where I’m learning to trust my body. I know that it’s doing its best to keep my alive.
In fact, its only job is to keep me alive. That’s a powerful thought. Just sit and marinate on that for a second. While you’re trying to shrink it and change it through forced restriction, it’s trying to keep you free of illness, keep you breathing, stop cuts from bleeding, keep you from overheating or freezing, fix broken bones, and adapt to whatever your environment is. So why should we want to put it at risk? It’s got plenty to deal with already.
In all reality, the sad truth is that going from diet to diet results in weight fluctuations or “weight cycling,” as researchers would say. Weight cycling is defined as when an individual intentionally loses weight through some sort of behavioral change intervention, including energy restriction, which then results in gaining the weight back over time. Weight cycling is dangerous for your physical AND mental health.
Aside from mental hazards like anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, and preoccupation with weight loss, there are plenty of physical concerns. Studies have shown that women who weight cycle end up losing more muscle over time when compared to women who don’t. Tendencies to binge eat increase exponentially, which I can anecdotally attest to. The risk of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, gallstones, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation and even some forms of cancer have also been linked to weight cycling.
Okay, so you’re on board now. You’re ready to let go of the fantasy but…WHAT DO YOU DO? Step one is to review where all of this stems from and to take inventory from your past. I’m going to pull an exercise out of the Intuitive Eating Workbook (I highly recommend it) that’s really helped me get to the bottom of my history with dieting and uncovering why I held on to the fantasy so tightly.
Answer these questions in a journal:
1. What are your beliefs about weight loss, in general?
2. What are your beliefs about your own weight loss?
3. Where did these beliefs come from?
4. How do you fantasize life changing for you if you pursued weight loss?
5. How have your beliefs about weight loss affected you? Have you put some aspects of your life on hold until you lose weight (relationships, jobs, activities)
6. What would you need in order to explore your desired pursuits in your “here-and-now body” ?
Once you’ve answered these questions, come up with ONE solution that will help you move through letting go of this fantasy. Or as I’ve approached it… One FUCK YOU to diet culture.
The first fuck you I did was to order what I actually felt like eating at restaurants. This felt soo freeing and scary at the same time. My disordered eating brain would try to talk me out of it and I’d put up a fight every time. Instead of salads or the lowest calories option that would ultimately leave me unsatisfied, I started ordering things like sandwiches, pasta, and burgers. Things I had written off in the past because my diet mentality had deemed them unhealthy. At first, I would eat passed fullness most of the time when I started reintroducing these foods. Now, my restriction mentality is gone and I eat until I’m satisfied. If I feel like salad or something light, I’ll have it and genuinely enjoy it. If I feel like mac n’ cheese, I order it without an emotional reaction. It’s just food. The disordered eating thoughts are quiet whispers instead of loud screams.
What’s going to be your first step and Fuck You to diet culture ?? Comment below or DM me and let me know! 😊 #LionSkillz if you want to post about it!
“Principle One: Reject the Diet Mentality.” The Intuitive Eating Workbook: Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2017, pp. 22–27.
Dulloo, A., Jacquet, and J. Montani. 2012. “How Dieting Makes Some Fatter: From a Perspective of Human Body Composition Autoregulation.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 71: 379-89.
De Witt Huberts, J., C. Evers, and D. de Ridder. 2013. “Double Trouble: Restrained Eaters Do Not Eat Less and Feel Worse.” Psychology and Health 28 (6): 686-700.