I'm an ex-serial dieter. I tried all the different popular diets, and even some of the less popular and more extreme detox diets in search of weight loss and better health. I usually accompanied them with a new fitness plan, often the latest trend or fad. Time and time again I would get hugely frustrated as after a few weeks of 'being good' I would slip up with a slice of cake, or go completely off the rails with an almighty binge. It was not a very fun cycle to get stuck in!
But why wasn't it working? I was following what all the books and health gurus were telling me I should be doing. I was eating clean, reducing my sugar intake and exercising, quite frankly, like a mad woman.
So why did I keep slipping up? It really didn't feel fair when I was putting in so much effort and sticking to the rules.
Eventually I got fed up of being stuck in a vicious circle. I threw out diet 'rules' and started to do what felt good in terms of moving my body rather than sticking to a set exercise routine. But I was still over eating on an evening, bingeing when I felt stressed or snacking to distract myself from other things. That was when I had my light bulb moment and realised what my meticulously planned diet and exercise plan had been missing.
I was paying no attention whatsoever to my emotional health.
How many diet books have you read that talk about mental wellbeing and emotional eating in detail? Not a great deal I'm guessing!
I believe that is the missing ingredient the battle to reach improved health and weight loss. If you aren't dealing with those habits that are tied to being emotional, bored or distracted then whatever diet or exercise plan you commit to, the danger is that you'll slip up when something triggers an old habit.
Food is way more than just food, and as much as people declare that 'food is fuel' for most of us it's a lot more than that. It can be comfort, pleasure, punishment and a whole host of other things. Taking some time to unpack and understand your emotional connections with food is vital to making healthy habits stick over the long haul and ultimately, to be able to reach a happy balance with food.
It might take some time, but it's a journey that's well worth it. Believe me it will keep cropping up until you deal with it once and for all. Practising mindfulness techniques, tuning into to your levels of hunger and fullness and dealing with any things in your life that might be making you unhappy (or changing the way you think about them) will help. If you find that you are getting stressed, then making some adjustments in your life could reduce stress eating. If boredom eating crops up, then try thinking of things that you can do instead of snacking. Cross stitch and knitting was a favourite of mine! I know some of that is easier said than done, but think of the effort you put in when you start that new health kick. If you can make that effort there, then use that same motivation and approach to dealing with this side of your health and wellbeing, it will be well worth it.