Tag Archives for " diet mentality "

Perfectionism is a Roadblock

Perfectionism Strikes Again!

I’ve been thinking about perfectionism a lot lately. It’s a trait that I’ve let run much of my life. Mainly because I wasn’t aware of what it was doing. Becoming aware of our thoughts, behavior, patterns, and more is an important first step in making peace with food and overcoming emotional overeating. It’s also the first step in overcoming many other obstacles in life, including being a perfectionist.

The reason I’ve been thinking about perfectionism is despite the work I’ve done to release my inner perfectionist, there’s another layer that has recently shown up. I need to uncover what it’s about in order to achieve a couple of goals that currently seem unattainable. But now it’s clear that wanting to achieve these goals “perfectly” is the block, I just need to figure out how to release it – and soon, hopefully!

Back when I was working through my issues with dieting and overeating, and learning intuitive eating, I discovered how much perfectionism kept me from finding peace with food and my body. Wanting to be perfect kept me dieting. Not being perfect led to frustration and overeating. Guilt and shame from overeating and not yet achieving perfection led back to another diet.

Perfectionism got in the way unexpectedly when I was working on awareness with my eating. I had those moments where I just wanted to numb-out with one or two of my favorite binge foods. My goal was to stay aware and make a decision when I would feel one of these urges to overeat. I was tired of sleeping off binge eating sessions, wasting hours at a time.

There were three choices. I could choose to eat (this must be an option, otherwise you’ll stay stuck in the diet-binge cycle). I could choose to identify the emotion (if I knew it was an emotion causing the urge). The third choice was to find something to divert my focus from the overwhelming urge to eat. I wanted to practice this diversion, or distraction, option because it was often easier to do and took less time than dealing with my emotions in that moment (and I could come back to my feelings when I had more time).

The concept of distraction was new to me. In my mind, I had two choices – the first to overeat. Taking the time to identify and process my emotions (a.k.a. feeling your feelings) was the other option I knew about. This one was scary since it was easy enough to overeat, but it felt difficult and time consuming to deal with emotions. However, if I chose to feel my feelings, according to Diet Mentality, I was GOOD and I was making a GOOD choice. The distraction option actually felt like I was “cheating”, because I was doing something other than being GOOD.

Looking back, it’s very clear this was simply another version of my old standby, perfectionism. It said I needed to make the perfect choice, which was the GOOD choice – to feel my feeling. The truth, however, was simply that I had three equally valid options: to eat, to distract or to feel my feelings. In reality, none of these choices made me a better or worse person. It makes sense now, but at the time I couldn’t understand why I kept overeating and never choosing to feel my emotions. Clearly I was stuck in perfectionism and deeply attached to the Diet Mentality. The guilt and shame and relentless noise in my head would never allow the easier, and valid option of distraction.

Perfectionism is actually a part of the Diet Mentality. In Intuitive Eating, we learn that the Diet Mentality is made up of three main components: failure, willpower, and all-or-nothing thinking (a.k.a. black and white thinking). The need to be perfect fits into all-or-nothing thinking. A food is either good or bad. You are either on a diet or binging. Something is either right or wrong. There is no room for the middle of the road, or any grey areas. You are either perfect, or a complete screw-up.

This thinking is so common, you can find it everywhere, not just diets or “eating plans”. And everywhere it exists, it causes problems. In my case, it would not allow me to try distraction, which is a very effective and valid option to help an urge to overeat pass. I eventually learned I could choose distraction, and if the urge came back later on, I could then decide to look at what emotions may be coming up.

Allowing myself to choose distraction (and reject perfectionism) also made the times I chose to overeat not as intense as they were in the past. Because all three options were now equal, I didn’t have that “little voice” telling me to eat as much as possible since this would be the last time I ever ate _________ (fill in the blank).

The next time you have that urge to overeat hit you, consider distraction. Call a friend, turn on some awesome music, go play with the dog, find something enjoyable to do for whatever length of time you need (it’s often not nearly as long as you think). Keep an eye out for perfectionism if you’re feeling stuck – you’ll be surprised how much easier life can be once you’ve moved past it. Just keep an eye out for it – it does have a funny way of showing up when you don’t expect it!

Need help moving past perfectionism? Want to figure out if it is causing your inability to overcome overeating, and even losing weight? Let’s talk about it and get rid of perfection so you can move forward! I invite you to schedule a time to talk about this…just go to www.TalkWithGillian.com to fill out a quick form and pick a date and time on my calendar.

When we get on the phone, we’ll talk about what’s going on and look for the reasons why the perfectionism is hanging on. I really look forward to speaking with you – I’d love to help you find the freedom that I and countless others have found by giving up the need to be perfect and being able to make peace with food and your body!

3 woman surrounded by junk food

The 8 Major Obstacles to Overcoming Overeating

Several years ago I was trying to answer the question, “How do I do what I do?” It’s not easy to explain the making peace with food process (especially to those entrenched in the diet mentality), and it’s even more of a challenge to explain coaching in general.

There are several areas that I work with my clients on. And our work focuses on solving issues in these areas. These issues are in fact, obstacles that block people from making peace with food. So while this process is very different for each person, as is coaching, obstacles seemed to be a good way to describe the process and make it relatable to those struggling with food and body issues.

Here are the 8 major obstacles to overcoming overeating and making peace with food:

1. Lack of Foundation (Knowing Your ‘Why’): If you don’t know the real reason you want to achieve something, you will lose your motivation quickly. Building a foundation requires knowing your personal values and what you really want at a much deeper level than just, “I want to lose weight,” which only gets in the way and keeps you from making peace with food.

2. Diet Mentality: This is a huge obstacle. From a very young age, most of us have been taught how we should look and what we should and shouldn’t eat. At the same time, we are also taught that food is love, food will make us feel better, and we are a very food-centric society, with every celebration centered around the food. These conflicting rules and ingrained habits are what lead us to dieting, followed by overeating, followed by guilt, taking us back to dieting.

3. Learning and Applying the Basics of Mindful/Intuitive Eating: Many people start the process of intuitive eating only to find they have turned it into a diet full of rules and restrictions. It takes time to learn these principles and really apply them. Most of us, including myself, went back and forth between intuitive eating and dieting before it finally clicked and felt right. (But it’s worth it for a lifetime of peace with food!)

4. Negative Self-Talk: I think it’s safe to say that this is one issue that almost everyone wants or needs to overcome. The first step is being aware of it. Some people have those negative tapes playing all day long and they don’t even hear them, but the subconscious does. After being aware of it, the next step is to learn how to handle the talk. It’s my experience that ignoring the “voices” or telling them to go away won’t do it. Those voices are a part of you, so rejecting them, yelling at them to go away, or other similar strategies don’t work very well. Neither do affirmations where you say things to yourself that you don’t even believe. There are better ways of dealing with the voices and changing the self-talk to take a more positive tone.

5. Avoiding or Reacting to Difficult Emotions: Classic “emotional eating” is basically eating in response to strong feelings that you do not want to feel (conscious or otherwise). By “pushing the feelings down,” you get to temporarily avoid those feelings or the situations that are causing the feelings. Food can be used as a numbing agent, and when you overeat to the point of feeling sick or guilty, you can now focus on beating yourself up and planning your next diet, instead of dealing with what is really going on. The problem is if you don’t eventually allow yourself to feel your feelings and process them, they will always come back, often stronger than when they initially showed up.

6. Not Getting Your Needs Met: When you don’t feel your feelings, you are not going to be aware of what you are actually feeling (sad, angry, lonely, bored, etc). Therefore, you can’t identify what you might actually need (talking to someone, taking a walk, asking for help, etc.). In turn, when your needs are not met (and again, you may not even be aware of this), it is very easy to subconsciously turn to food because it temporarily fills the emptiness and creates a distraction. This is a vicious cycle that cannot be escaped without discovering your feelings, determining your needs, and getting them met.

7. Lack of Self-Compassion: Self-Compassion is an extremely important skill to learn. If we can’t be compassionate towards ourselves when we make mistakes or in times of difficulty, we end up in a place of judgment, “shoulding” on ourselves, and engaging in all kinds of negative self-talk. Using self-compassion allows for honoring our feelings, soothing ourselves, acknowledging we aren’t alone in these experiences and it brings us back to the moment and being mindful. This is a much better place than the past and regrets, or the future that we often put our lives on hold for, waiting for everything to be perfect. Research on happiness shows humans are happier when they stay in the present, regardless of their circumstances or emotions at the time.

8. Lack of Self-Care: Self-care is much more than lighting candles and soaking in the bathtub. It’s about taking care of your needs in several areas, including physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health and wellness. It’s about creating a “balance” in your life – but balance doesn’t necessarily mean splitting your time and attention evenly among all four areas. It is about dividing your time and attention in a way that meets your true needs and desires and fits into your values (as determined when working on obstacle #1).

So there you have it – 8 major obstacles to overcome to stop overeating and make peace with food. You may already have some handled, and others may need more focus. This is normal. Take it at your own pace, learn along the way from your setbacks, and get ready to see not only your relationship with food improve, but other areas of your life as well!

2 woman exercising

Can Exercise be Intuitive?

Intuitive Eating is a wonderful way to overcome the obsessive diet mentality that can occupy every waking moment. It puts an end to endless thinking about what you should and shouldn’t eat, counting calories, how good or bad you are based on what you’re eating, and many other thoughts and beliefs that take the pleasure out of eating and feeding your body.

You may have noticed that this pattern repeats itself in many other areas. It’s been said that how you do food is how you do life. I completely believe this. I’ve seen people who have overcome using food to cope switch to using shopping, for example. They buy things instead of feeling their feelings and then restrict money and deprive themselves things as a way of controlling some emotion they are trying to avoid dealing with.

Another place I see the same pattern is with exercise. Nowhere else is the mentality associated with dieting more common than in fitness and exercise. With exercise, especially when used as a means to lose or control weight, you can see so many similarities to dieting. There’s the guilt of not doing it or not doing enough. There are tons of “shoulds” that just make exercise feel like a chore. Exercise is often used as punishment when you’re making negative judgments about yourself, such as thinking you’re “lazy” or eating “too much.” There’s also a compulsion, much like dieting, to exercise when you’re having a bad body moment (or day, week, etc.)

I was working with a client that was just burned out on exercise and she wasn’t sure why because she used to love it. Part of the problem was she was overexercising and anxious when she missed a workout because she was obsessing over her weight. Many of her workouts were also too intense and she wound up getting sick as a result. We were brainstorming around this and realized we could apply intuitive eating principles to exercise. We (being very original!) called it, “Intuitive Fitness.”

Certainly, we aren’t the only people to make the connection or come up with this idea. In fact, since this a-ha moment with my coaching client, I’ve seen this concept discussed around the blog-o-sphere and it often comes up in the Intuitive Eating Yahoo Group.

I suggested to her that she was approaching exercise with a “diet mentality,” as many do with food. It was all or nothing – either she worked out really hard, beating her body into submission and doing extra exercise as punishment for overeating, or she would do no exercise at all.

So we talked about applying intuitive eating principles to exercise. Before exercising, she would ask herself how she felt and what her body wanted to do that day. This included the type of exercise and intensity. Some days she worked out hard, and it felt great, and others she took it easy, just walking or doing yoga. This really worked for her and she began to like exercise again and was much more consistent.

Here are a few “principles” I’ve come up with based on approaching fitness from an intuitive perspective:

1. Focus on “activity” and being active. The word “exercise” often feels negative because of its association with dieting and punishment for overeating. Activity can be fun, it can feel good, and it can be of any intensity, not just “hard” as exercise is usually perceived.

2. Honor your body. Ask yourself how you feel in the moment. Do you want to push yourself today? How is your energy level? Any kind of activity is going to improve your energy. Check in and see if your body wants a challenge, to relieve stress or tension, or something in between. Just like your hunger varies from day to day, so will your body’s energy and ability to be active.

3. Respect rest. Overexercise is a big problem when using activity as a way to burn calories or lose weight. Rest and breaks from exercise are just as important as activity. It’s during rest that your body recovers and rebuilds itself stronger so you can continue to be active and reap all the benefits of regular activity.

4. Make activity part of self-care. When activity is about self-care instead of punishment or control, your attitude towards it will become more positive and you will embrace it more easily. It will also be easier to honor needed downtime, such as when you are sick. When exercise is about control, unnecessary guilt shows up and interferes with self-care.

5. Determine your own “guidelines” about activity. There are a lot of rules out there about exercise. These include what kind of exercise you should do, how much, how hard, how often, etc. These rules are about as helpful as all the rules about dieting. Let them go – how can you possibly expect yourself to exercise for 30-60 minutes at a moderate intensity for however many days a week the “rules” say if you can’t walk down the block right now? Decide for yourself what is enough and trust that your body will adapt and you will be able to do more over time.

The above are my ideas so far. What ideas can you share? What is working for you? How are you approaching fitness “intuitively”? Let me know and we can develop this idea further together!

reject diet mentality

Reject Diet Mentality: Kick Willpower & Failure To The Curb

“Realize that failing at a diet is not about lacking willpower, diets are set up that they fail people.”

How many times have you “failed” at dieting? It’s probably safe to assume you’d say, “As many times as I’ve been on a diet.”

Maybe you consider one or more of the diets you’ve done as successful. If so, what’s your definition of a “successful diet”?

Many people have told me that some of the diets or programs they’ve done have “worked.” They usually say, “The [name of diet] worked for me – I lost X pounds – but I blew it as usual, and the weight came back, plus more.”

Do you see the problem with this thinking? How can a diet be “successfulif the weight comes back? I understand and have engaged in this way of thinking in the past. The problem is this is what the diet industry wants us to believe… The diet “worked” and then we “failed.”

Reject Diet Mentality

Our belief in this deeply flawed garbage, which will continue until we reject diet mentality, is perpetuated by diet companies worldwide. Keeping this way of thinking alive is how the diet industry continues to bring in over $60 billion every single year.

(Update: according to MarketResearch.com, the weight loss industry continues to grow, a 4.1% increase in 2018 alone, to annual revenue of $72.7 billion.) That doesn’t include money pouring into industries like fitness, beauty, prescription drugs and more in the pursuit of our culture’s impossible thin ideal.

Diet mentality is comprised of several ways of thinking (like black and white thinking) and beliefs (including rules and ‘shoulds’ about food and eating).

One major component of the diet mentality is the belief that you need willpower to “control” your eating or to eat less. Another is the idea that you “fail” at a diet. The truth is that any failing from a diet (which happens at least 95% of the time), is NOT your fault!

But you hear it all the time, “I really blew it on my diet, I need to have more willpower!”

But willpower doesn’t work because it just adds to the restriction and suffering that diets already provide. The human body is not designed to quiet down when it’s hungry. It works very hard to get you to eat because it doesn’t know you’re intentionally starving it. So the harder you work at not eating, the harder your body will work at gaining body fat. It’s doing its job, which is to keep you alive.

Failure is a Diet Industry Tool…

The idea of failure, especially that YOU have failed, is how the diet industry keeps you coming back, diet after diet after diet. The truth is that all diets, every last one, have failed you!

Blaming consumers for the failure of diets is manipulation and it’s done deliberately. Diet companies use guilt and shame as marketing tactics, preying on vulnerability to ensure their customers return.

They tell you you just need more willpower and you’ll lose all the weight you want and live happily ever after.  Another way they entice customers back is with their “new and improved” programs – usually around the New Year. Have you been intrigued when they claim to have found the “missing link” or when they parade a handful of women across your TV, having lost a lot of weight?

Have you ever noticed you never see the same women on parade in successive commercials? (Except maybe Marie Osmand) It’s because 95-97% of the time they have gained the weight back. In fact, there are no studies showing any diet that enables maintenance of lost weight any longer than two years. Are you hoping to just keep off the weight for two years?

You Deserve Better

Diet companies know their programs don’t work. They also know in business it’s easier (and cheaper!) to keep a customer than to obtain a new customer. Keep those customers coming back, they make more money while the customer regains the weight, along with more guilt, shame, and feeling like a “failure.”

It’s disgusting the diet industry continues to get away with all these lies. What other industry would survive with a consistent 95-97% failure rate? If 95% of all iPhones didn’t work, could Apple convince you it’s your fault your phone doesn’t work?

Remember, if you haven’t been able to lose or maintain weight loss from dieting, it isn’t your fault. However, if you continue to believe it’s your fault, the diet industry will continue to flourish and profit – and you’ll remain in diet prison. Instead, I invite you to reject dieting in all its forms.

Quitting the diet roller coaster is a courageous and important step towards making peace with food and your body. You’ll have so much more time, energy (and money!) when you stop fighting your body and let go of diet mentality. Dieting only supports the diet industry and allows it to continue to control your thoughts and how you feel about yourself!

The best part of rejecting diets for good? You can stop putting your life on hold and finally live your life now!