Dieting is nothing new to Americans. On average, 45 million Americans go on diets every year. Being constantly surrounded by messaging that says, “eat this, don’t eat that,” or “eat less, weigh less,” and social media filters that create unrealistic expectations of what bodies should look like can lead to long-term ramifications.
The average person sticks to a diet for 3–6 months. Because diets are unrealistic to sustain, an individual generally “falls off” and has feelings of guilt or failure. These feelings can lead a person to start another diet, hoping this time they will be consistent and stay on track. This leads to a continuous cycle of on-and-off dieting.
With every diet you start and stop, rules surrounding food and your body begin to accumulate. The keto diet, for example, calls for extremely minimal carbs. Even when “done” with this diet, a message is left behind that says, “Carbs are bad. Fewer carbs means less weight.” Imagine the mental space being taken up by multiple diets and the messages they leave behind. This leads to confusion, frustration, and ultimately to binge eating.
Binge eating involves eating unusually large amounts within a specific amount of time and eating uncontrollably. Stressful situations, such as relationship challenges or trauma, can trigger binge eating episodes, as can conversations around food, including “good” and “bad” foods and how they relate to weight and body image. Many of these concepts come through media messaging.
Pressure to stay “good” to be thin and weigh less can create a lifestyle of eating “good” all day and then binging at night or when alone because it feels safer. This creates distrust in ourselves and feelings of guilt for not complying with what we’re “supposed to” eat. This cycle is dangerous, lonely, and debilitating. Not only can it spiral into full-blown eating disorders, but it steals years from your health and touches every area of your life, slowly consuming each part of it.
Here are some tools to support your freedom from binge eating/restriction and support a healthy relationship with food and your body.
Release Food Rules/Expectations
Learning how you feel around foods and why they make you feel like you should or shouldn’t have them allows you to change that relationship. Maybe you don’t eat carbs because they were off-limits as a child. This food rule that “carbs are bad” has been ingrained in you for years, so you don’t eat them now, even though you enjoy them.
When you understand where those thoughts come from, you can rewrite them. Learning how carbs support the body and enjoying them when you want can prevent you from binging because there isn’t constant thought about restricting them.
Limit Social Media Time
Limiting time spent on social media and muting and unfollowing accounts that don’t support your healing process is also important. Mindless scrolling can lead you to think of how you “should” be doing things to align with others while constantly seeing other peoples’ progress pictures, dieting “wins,” and “clean eating” recipes continues this narrative about the rules surrounding food and your body. Put the phone down, stop scrolling, and focus on things you can enjoy in the moment.
Give yourself grace in this journey as you work against YEARS of diet culture and generational messages to step against the “norm” of how to think about food and your body. Breaking free of dieting, binge eating, and restriction will lead you to be able to trust yourself and feel more confident within your body and will pour into every area of your life. You are worth that.
Jennifer Braun, Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer, opened The Nourished Life to support clients in healing their relationships with food and their body and understanding their needs and desires. Her approach is to meet you where you are and support you in living life with purpose, energy, and happiness.