Diet culture tools including measuring tape and food diary

Dieting is a False Sense of Control

Dieting gave me a false sense of control. Every time my life felt chaotic, I would recommit. The food planning and tracking felt purposeful. Even empowering. Being told exactly what to do is grounding when you feel like you’re flailing in life.

Is it the goal to lose weight or the sense of control for you?

We talk about the fatphobic ideas that diet culture perpetuates a lot but is our desire to lose weight really as simple and hateful as that? I don’t think so.

I think diets/lifestyles and the desire to lose weight is more about something to control in an otherwise uncontrollable life. There IS comfort in planning your meals, shopping for clean ingredients, and tracking every bite in MyFitnessPal. There IS structure to following rules, designating carb cycling days, planning specific workouts and eating off someone else’s meal plan.

Having control over something in an otherwise out-of-our-control life feels good. At any season in our life.

Examples of times when when dieting can give us a (false) sense of control:

  • Teen who has little control of her freedom.
  • New graduate who is learning what 9-5 office life is really like and what responsible adulting really entails.
  • Postpartum mom whose life jumps from extreme-to-extreme of deep newfound love to panic you have no idea what the hell you’re doing.
  • Parenting in the thick of sass-talking, not-listening, testing-boundaries kids.
  • Empty-nesters whose kids are grown and you’re having to reevaluate your purpose and routine without kids to cater to.

Dieting can feel purposeful & empowering.

When we’re going through these chaotic seasons, it can feel calming to be intentional about what we eat. It creates a (false) sense of comfort that you’re improving yourself. I know this feeling well.

But what if we acknowledged the chaos of life and resulting turmoil inside of us. The not-knowing. The feelings of ‘never-enough’ that plague us with each life stage.

What if we instead recommitted to our mental health during these times and as a result improved our actual health?

Prioritize mental health over weight loss.

If we looked to therapy, intuitive eating counseling, developing healthy coping tools, and joining activities that actually bring us joy instead of looking to micromanage our food.

Because the ironic reality is that dieting makes life’s chaos worse. Dieting prevents us from living our true purpose. It takes away our self-empowerment and leaves us feeling never good enough. It distracts us from life and robs us of true health

Friend, today I encourage you to consider other outlets for empowerment and purpose. There’s so much more out there for you than finding control in a diet/lifestyle program.

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Meridith Oram is an anti-diet nutritionist at Love Yourself Towards Healthy where she helps chronic dieters heal their relationship with food, fitness and body image by ditching diet culture and finding freedom in their God-given intuition. Focusing on behavioral change and Intuitive Eating, Meridith helps her clients unlearn diet culture, stop negative self-talk and set wellness goals---not appearance goals. Follow Meridith at @loveyourself2healthy on all social channels.

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