Why Quitting Is Bad For Your Health

22/04/2014 13:07 BST | Updated 17/06/2014 10:59 BST

A while ago one Sunday, I was sitting in my favourite café, drinking coffee while waiting for a friend.

At the table next to me were a mother and her young slim son of about 7 years old, clad in his soccer outfit and tucking into a plate of toast.

Dad came to join them in the café, took one look at what his son was eating and said, "are you eating carbs for breakfast?" The boy looked down at his plate and mumbled, "yes" into what remained of his buttered toast. "Well", Dad said gruffly, "you'd better run fast at soccer this morning, to burn that off."

It seems we live in a 'no carbs' crazy world. Or is it a 'no sugar', 'no fats', 'no dairy' or 'no gluten' world? As long as you're quitting something nowadays, you can feel good that you're taking your health seriously. After all, these things are BAD for your health and we all know that the secret to being slim and healthy is to quit something. Quitting one thing is good; quitting many things is better.

There's a growing group of people embracing the quitting lifestyle. These are the determined, disciplined ones who eat willpower for breakfast and don't even know what the word "temptation" means.

And then there's the rest of us, watching from the sidelines as the Quitters smugly tell us how much better they feel for quitting, and we beat ourselves up - yet again - for being a health failure.

You may be thinking that this is a case of sour grapes, and I'm defending my position as a Non-Quitter because I don't have the staying power.

Truth is, it's the opposite. I'm actually an Expert Quitter. I had the discipline and determination to drop to less than 6 stone / 81lbs in weight by quitting as many foods as possible. Along the way, I developed an eating disorder, Anorexia Nervosa.

To start with, just like many people who quit, I felt invincible and self-righteous. Anyone who has dieted or deprived themselves of food may admit to feeling superior over others because you can say "no" to the office cupcakes while everyone else is reaching for a second helping.

I admit that I arrogantly felt like a better person than my friends and family because I had the willpower to leave things on my plate, turn my nose up at chocolate and not be tempted by anything that would ruin my perfect diet.

I'm not sure of the exact moment when it all changed, but here's what happened. Almost overnight, I went from someone who was supremely in control of their eating to becoming obsessed and consumed by thoughts of food. I woke up thinking about food and I went to bed thinking about food. Food was my obsession 24 hours a day.

The journey back to health was a long and slow one for me: about 18 months to return to a healthy weight, but another 10 years to overcome my disordered eating and not feel guilty when I ate previously forbidden food.

So when I see books and TV programmes and courses teaching you how to "quit", I get a little scared. Not just because of my personal experience, but also because I know from years of working with clients that their attempts to quit carbs or fat or sugar has left them with extreme feelings of guilt, failure and unworthiness that, I believe, is far more unhealthy than eating cupcakes.

So what is the healthy alternative? If you want to be full of vitality, have radiant health and control your weight, how do you do it without quitting?

Step 1: You go for the moderate approach: you upgrade. You start where you are, and slowly but surely you replace foods that you feel don't support your health with better quality alternatives.

Step 2: You take the word "quitting" out of your vocabulary. Quitting equates to "never again". And that's just a pre-cursor to feeling like a health failure.

Step 3: You accept that quitting may sound cool and stylish, but there's also a dark side. I now teach the same friends and family, who once admired my ability to quit, how to be healthy without quitting.

If I could go back to that café and see that young boy again, I would say, "eat your toast with confidence, young man, and enjoy every mouthful."

For a free guide on getting healthy and hot (without quitting), go to www.donnaandtora.com