Done with Diets?

I’m sorry to say it, but I don’t have another out-of-this-world recipe to share with you today.

Austin had to work late last night, so instead of creating an elaborate meal for the two of us, I had a simple dinner of roasted veggies and finished reading a book that I’ve been working on for the past week. It was a doozy.

Portia de Rossi’s memoir, Unbearable Lightness.

I was a bit torn about reading this book– as I wasn’t sure how reading a detailed account of anorexia and bulimia might affect me. I have heard that reading accounts of disordered eating can be a trigger for people who have suffered from disordered eating themselves. However, I figured this was a drastic case and didn’t think I would really be able to relate to Portia’s previous behavior at all. And once I picked this book up, I could hardly put it down! Portia is impressively honest and open, and watching her progression from a “healthy dieter” to a “disordered eater” is incredibly realistic.

In fact, a few passages in her book really hit home for me.

“I finally understood that by being on a perpetual diet, I had practiced a “disordered” form of eating my whole life. I restricted when I was hungry and in need of nutrition and binged when I was so grotesquely full I couldn’t be comfortable in any position buy lying down. Diets that tell people what to eat or when to eat are the practices in between. And dieting, I discovered, was another form of disordered eating, just as anorexia and bulimia similarly disrupt the natural order of eating. “Ordered” eating is the practice of eating when you are hungry and ceasing to eat when your brain sends the signal that your stomach is full. “Ordered” eating is about eating for enjoyment, for health, and to sustain life. “Ordered” eating is about not restricting certain kinds of foods because they are “bad.” Obsessing about what and when to eat is not normal, natural, and orderly. Thinking about food to the point of obsession, and ignoring your body’s signals is a disorder.” -Unbearable Lightness, pg. 295

I don’t know about you, but I find it incredibly frustrating that dieting has become such a regular practice in our society.

It seems that being on a diet, and feeling dis-satisfied with your figure, is becoming “the norm.”  Just think about how many diet books are released every year! (I certainly have collected quite the diet library, myself!) And don’t get me started on all the health and fitness articles published each month–> all filled with “get slim quick” plans, guaranteed to finally give you the body of your dreams. But do any of these diets really work in the long run?

All I had done throughout my life was diet and gain the weight back. Therefore, the only conclusion I could make was that diets don’t work… I decided that I would never diet again.

The fact that I stopped labeling food as “good” and “bad” made me just see it all as food. There was no bad food. There were just bad eating practices. I began eating every single thing I wanted when I wanted it, without guilt, without remorse, without feeling anything other than happy about the taste of the food I had chosen to eat. Initially, I gained a little weight. But over time, I found that I didn’t want ice cream every day. Not because of fear of gaining weight, but because it was too cold, or too sweet for my taste buds after a salty pasta. I stopped overeating. I stopped thinking about food. I ate exactly what I wanted, when I wanted it, without any feelings of guilt or being “good” or bad.”

Within two months, I was maintaining my weight easily… I was one of those “lucky” people who could eat whatever they wanted and never gain weight. I stopped weighing myself. I simply didn’t care about weight anymore because it was always the same, always a comfortable, good weight for my body, and I stopped thinking about food because every single food item was available to me at any moment of the day. There was nothing left to think about.” -Unbearable Lightness pg. 296-297

To me, Portia’s new mentality still seems like a Utopian dream. The idea that I could really eat whatever I want, whenever I want– and not blow up to the size of a balloon? Craziness!

But it might just be crazy enough to work.

“To say that you can stay at your natural body weight and be healthy by eating what you want and not working out sounds extremely controversial, and yet people have lived this way for hundreds of years. It seems to me that it’s only since 1970 that the concept of diet and exercise has existed in the way it does now, which is based on exertion and restriction being the key to weight loss, and yet since then, we have seen an increase in obesity in countries that have adopted it. (These are also the countries where the fast-food industry boomed during that time.) The diet industry is making a lot of money selling us fad diets, nonfat foods full of chemicals, gym memberships, and pills while we lose a little of our self-esteem every time we fail another diet or neglect to use the gym membership we could barely afford. Restriction generates yearning. You want what you can’t have. There are many ways to explain why the pendulum swing occurs and why restriction almost always leads to binging… All people who live their lives on a diet are suffering.” -Unbearable Lightness, pg. 302

That’s not to say that if you’ve successfully lost weight on a diet, or are currently enjoying a “lifestyle change” that you’ve made, that you are necessarily suffering. I definitely don’t mean to offend anyone with this post! I’ve had successful, happy bouts of enjoying a healthy, fulfilling diet– without feeling restricted– myself. But I do think it’s more of a rarity. And I can speak from experience that the second I start thinking of losing weight, be it for an upcoming event, or just to fit into a smaller pair of jeans, thoughts of binging are soon to follow. And restriction, followed by binging, is probably the reason why only 5% of people who lose weight can actually keep it off!

Food for thought, eh?

Reader Feedback: What do you think about NOT dieting? Are you able to let yourself eat whatever you want with no guilt? If not, are you willing to try? 

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Comments

Linda

I love your article! It is so true that our society has become obsessed with dieting. However, I also think our food choices have become so incredibly perverse in the last 40+ years. Yes, I agree with eating whatever you want, when you want – if was 40 years ago when there were few processed foods laden with chemical preservatives and additives. Now, that is all we can get. It is actually more difficult to get real food than chemical food which is just CRAZY!!

I follow Natalia Rose’s principles, specifically Detox 4 Women (I am actually going to her practitioner training!) and it really solidified my freedom from yo-yo approaches to food and dieting. I do eat whatever I want, when I want it but my idea and knowledge of what I actually want and desire has changed so drastically. Detox 4 Women is a lifestyle, not a diet. Once you get the principles down it becomes second nature.

Stick with it girl. You’re already well on your way 🙂

Also wondering if I can use your Albert Einstein quote for my website? I just love it!!

    Megan

    I totally agree about the quality of our food choices– finding “real” food is definitely more challenging than it used to be!

    I’ve also read about how some processed food and flavor combinations can be literally addicting, which may end up overriding the natural signals from our bodies. So it’s definitely debatable on whether or not we can truly eat ANYTHING we want, since not everything is fit for human consumption!

    I also love Natalia’s principles, but I was much more successful with her first book, The Raw Food Detox Diet. When I started following Detox 4 Women, I actually found it to be too restrictive and fell into the cycle of yo-yo dieting again! Just goes to show it’s different for everyone. I’m hoping my body will naturally go there when I’m ready, but for now I’m sticking to the principles that work for me, including food combining and avoiding processed foods.

    And of course you can use the quote– as long as you give credit to Mr. Einstein, I think you’re good. 😉

Erin @ The Grass Skirt

I finished reading Portia’s book last week, and I thought it was very moving. She seems to be at a very healthy place now (and it is so awesome that she found Ellen!). I used to struggle with dieting, but now I eat whatever I want in moderation. Because I don’t have limits on what I can eat, I find that I crave the “bad” stuff a lot less. I truly believe it is all about balance.

Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table

Great post! I hadn’t bothered even looking into her book thinking it just another celeb memoir, but I’ll definitely look at it now!

Interesting concept of eating what you want, when you want it. I think people need to be sure they know what they need too… sometimes we get in cycles of eating poorly (in terms of not enough nutrients or processed foods) and aren’t in touch with what our bodies really want. Like those kids and their families on Jamie Oliver’s school lunch show who grow up eating poorly and need to learn different behaviors.

That being said, I’m all about not being on a diet! In fact, I think I would like an afternoon milk and cookie snack… 😉

    Megan

    Yes, I do believe we don’t necessarily know what our bodies “need” right off the bat! (um, I’m pretty sure my body doesn’t need coffee OR sugar as much as it says it does!) 😉

    Ideally, I guess we should re-teach ourselves what we need, THEN learn to listen to our bodies!

Kate

Awesome post!!
I totally think it’s worth noting that the whole dieting culture brought on issues of obesity, poor body confidence, eating disorders etc. Ugh. I hate dieting culture! Once upon a time, food was just ‘food’. It wasn’t ‘good’ or ‘bad’, a ‘guilty’ pleasure. People just ate! There was no food philosophy. (However at this point most food was REAL food if you know what I mean, no processed junk! I think that with labels on our foods came labels on the way we eat, ie ‘low-carb’, ‘low-fat’, ‘vegan’, ‘flexitarian’…). If only we could go back to those days!
PS I tagged you for a stylish blogger award, make sure you check it out 🙂 http://greenandjuicy.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/im-back-time-to-share/

    Megan

    Aw, thanks for the award! 😀

    I wish we could go back to pre-dieting days, too– when our only options were REAL food!

Pure2raw twins

Great post!! I am really doing some “self-searching” right now, because I have been thinking about “my food plan” and what I want to try next. Like you I feel I need a plan, especially with my food. Usually because I am not feeling well from what I ate, so having to figure out again what is going on. Also, Lori and I’s post tomorrow is a little more about our eating disorder. You got me thinking now…:)

    Megan

    I feel like a lot of my “planning” comes from trying to figure out what makes me feel best, too. (Also, I just feel better with some sort of plan!) I’m excited to hear your thoughts, too! I know I can relate a lot to you ladies. 😉

Tanya

Great post! And lots of “food” for thought (pun intended!). My only issue with this is that I have no problem maintaining my happy weight by following this intuitive eating. But I can’t lose weight that way. To be honest, it’s been hard to lose weight with dieats as well. I realize that this is my happy comfortable weight, but it feels too high for me, so my goal is to loose 10-15 lbs… although it’s been my goal for the last 7-8 years! Very frustrating. I suppose I can try accepting that this is my weight and “give up”? But it feels … wrong?

    Megan

    I can totally relate, Tanya!

    I wish I had some “brilliant” advice for you– but I’m in a similar situation! I have no intention of “giving up” on my goals, either, but perhaps re-analyzing my relationship with diets in order to get to a happier, healthier place. Definitely still a work-in-progress over here! 😉

katecooks

i’m definitely going to check out this book! it sounds like she has the exact philosophy that i’ve been trying to implement. i think it’s much easier to “eat what you want” when your body is already at its ideal weight. i think if we could set a clean slate, then this mandate would be easy! i grew up eating tons of fruits and veggies and good foods and still i find that this balance can be hard at times, even though i learned the balance from a young age. honestly, at this point, i am trying my best to eat what i want, and include fruits and veggies and wholesome ingredients into my food habits every day. it’s when i stop thinking about it so much that everything falls into place!

kris | iheartwellness.com

Beautiful post doll!! I really admire Portia and think this book would be a good read. I seem to follow just a “healthy” way of eating, full of veggies. It hasn’t been until I have gotten “older” that I actually care about the 2-3 cookies I ate 😉

I have never really followed a diet, but a vegan lifestyle which now I am even questioning. EEEeeekkk I feel the stress of planning taking over now!

xxoo

Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn

Thank you for this post girl! I’m reading this book too, and I was scared it might be a trigger but it is so beautiful. It would be hard for me to eat *anything*, for sure – I’m a type A also! But power to us:)

Amber Shea @Almost Vegan

I think I may need to read this book. I am admittedly terrible at intuitive eating, and I too always feel the need to have a “plan” in place. Sometimes I do better than other times, but there’s never a day where it’s not a bit of a struggle. I’m still seeking that sweet spot where I feel balanced, nourished, AND happy.

Laura

I wasn’t worried about that book triggering anything for me until I was about 1/4 way through it… I found myself thinking “oh my god I do/did that” more than once… which is one time too many, I know!

Having struggled with disordered eating and being too Type A for my own good, I doubt I’ll ever be able to dissociate food and guilt. But I’m okay with that. I lean on vegetarian and vegan diets because they mean crummy food is no longer an option… and the better I eat the better I feel physically, but especially mentally.

I posted/discussed excerpts from the book 4 or 5 different times on my blog too… and probably could have done more. It really got me thinking! And so have you! Thanks for a great post.

lynn @ the actors diet

the second i stopped restricting i gained 30 lbs. but in 2 years i became the size i had always wanted to be, and that was b/vc i didn’t care anymore.

jen @ taste life

This is a great post. I saw Portia on Ellen and thought the book sounded interesting, but didn’t read it.

Years ago I read “Intuitive Eating” and I’ve also read “Women, Food and God”, and both of them say something similar – STOP DIETING. I know I’ll often think I’m not dieting, just eating healthy, but when I’m honest with myself I’m just letting someone else dictate what I eat (vegan, vegetarian, high protein, blah blah blah.)

Now I’m actually taking an Intuitive Eating class with one of the authors of the book Intuitive Eating. It’s a class for health professionals who want to help people with intuitive eating (I’m a wellness coach), but I’m finding the class is way eye-opening for me, because I was still practicing things that are NOT intuitive.

Right now I’m at a place where I see that if I’m making a food decision based on something external, such as I saw a thin actress and I think I need to eat less, or I want cheese but this doctor said I shouldn’t have it, or I want oatmeal, but everyone in the world says veggies are best, I realize I’m not listening to the internal – my body. My body knows what it needs, how do you think we’ve survived and thrived as a species? It’s our minds that get in the way.

Phew, interesting stuff, I could talk about it forever!

    Megan @ Healthy Hoggin'

    That’s so interesting! I know I’ve been in a similar place– thinking that I’m not dieting, but still letting someone else’s principles dictate my food choices. It’s a hard cycle to break!

    Now I’m interested in reading more about “Intuitive Eating,” though! Previously, I didn’t think it was something I’d ever be able to do… but who knows!

Karen

This is a great post! So much good “food’ for thought! I think this is such an important and serious topic, and I am so glad you have brought it up here! Thank you!

Salah (My Healthiest LIfestyle)

what a great post girl!!! I need to check out this book!

Alex

I think we people in western world have lost balance about food.
Look at the centenarians(the only examples of what is actually right) around the world. None of them is following a specific or restrictive diet. They just have a healthy attitude towards food. Which means eat when you are hungry, never get full and fill your everyday with things that make you happy.

Baking 'n' Books

This is a great post. I wanted to read that book but was unsure as I’ve read my fair share of that stuff in the past.

But girl – you are too smart and too beautiful to be dieting! Just eat! Eat food! Love food! Enjoy food!

Everybody does something different! Heck – Alicia Silverstone eats grains, competitive athletes eat sweet potatoes, Kim Kardashian eats a hot dog ;)…were only human! I think that we all just take ourselves too seriously sometimes. All that energy you are putting into what you eat or what is “right” – just think where that could take you!

There’s a book called “Live a Little!” – try that. Or Intuitive Eating maybe (although I find that’s like a diet in itself because really you shouldn’t have to think so hard…sometimes it’s okay just to eat the damn cookie whether you really want it or not).

Thanks for sharing!

Nicole @ Of Cookies & Carrots

I read hte book too and found it incredibly moving. I really LIKE the idea of intuitive eating and not being controlled but have had a very hard time putting it into practice.
I definitely think there’s room for just about anything in moderation, including probably some processed foods, though I do also think the body works better on unprocessed things and such, but I just think the following rules thing gets old!
I loved this post though! 🙂

Penny O

I’m a food obsessor and my disordered eating/dieting & overeating crappy food cycle was getting worse as my metabolism started slowing down. Luckily I happened upon the food combining method which doesn’t feel like a diet, although there are a few rules. These few small rules are leading me to healthier, more nourishing eating. I feel like I eat what I want now. I’m better able to listen to the inner cues and ignore the outer triggers. I’m overeating less!!

Megan, your blog is really helping me on my path. I’m so glad I found it. I love your recipes and your readers.

Have a great weekend all!

Sierra

I love these posts, they really ring true to my heart. About 10 years ago I struggled with bulimia and that vicious cycle of binging and then starving and then binging again. Well about 4 years ago I got really sick from an infected tooth and enough was enough! I wanted to change, but how? I was a diet coke drinker/sugar addict. Bit by bit, I finally got off soda, got rid of all the white flour/sugar in my home and started learning how to bake/cook and live without it. I feel BETTER now than I have ever felt in my life! And now its easy to understand my craving cues. When you are off all of the processed stuff, and your taste buds are functioning properly you can make better decisions of what it is your wanting. I say get rid of all the processed stuff and eat whole, then eat anything and everything from that! There is no way you can feel good eating processed food/soda/ candy even in moderation.

Jennifer Polle

Great post – thanks! Portia sounds very much like she’s been studying and incorporating the principles of intuitive eating, a concept made popular with the book Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch. I use the same principles with my students and clients. Well worth checking out!

Lydia

Thank you so much for sharing this post. This is all frigging awesome.

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