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Why do we cling to these Diet Head beliefs?

Geting away from diet head mentality - Group of women discussIn our last exciting episode, we talked about the dangers of a Diet Head mentality, these ideas that we stubbornly cling to even though giving food this kind of power is usually not in our best interest.

We are continuing the conversation by listening in on why the WISE Women are finding it difficult to let go of these long-held beliefs:

Jessica: I weigh myself often because I am convinced that it keeps me on track about what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong. The problem is that I use a higher number to beat myself up about my lack of willpower when it comes to exercise and eating and when it’s lower, it’s never low enough and I tell myself I should have tried harder. It’s totally nuts.

Courtney: For me, it’s comparing myself to others. Am I still the biggest in the room? When will I look like her? I do this because I think it motivates me. But usually, it just makes me feel bad about myself but I just can’t stop doing it.

Facilitator: Since you recognize that it’s not actually helping you, why do you think you are continuing to do so? What’s the payoff?

Courtney (after much thought): I know it’s crazy but feeling bad about myself gives me permission to not help myself. It’s almost like I get to wallow in that rather than do something constructive to help myself.

Mary: The habits have been with me so long (comparing myself to others and eating to make myself feel better) and change takes time. What is different now is that each time I do this, I stop and ask myself why? I am mindful and have a conversation with myself. Sometimes I can stop myself and sometimes not but at least I am aware of what I am doing. I have also started to focus on the aspects of my life that are working well and finding activities to replace food as a soother or way to make me feel (temporarily) better.

Maria: I can relate to that because I often eat and shop when I am depressed, anxious or angry, or as a way to make me feel better – it’s what I know best and I’m still not sure how to react differently to these times when I am bored, lonely or angry. I try to pause and take a few deep breaths and then ask myself if this momentary stroke of pleasure is worth how bad I know I am going to feel after.

Melanie: I do the same thing (eat when I’m depressed or anxious as a way to feel better) because sometimes I feel so lonely – there is no one there to look out for me, to truly comfort me or make me feel better and food still does the trick (in that moment).

Kim: My problem is that I feel guilty after I eat or for even being hungry in the first place. Specific portions have been drilled into my head to the point that if I’m hungry after eating the amount that is supposed to fulfill me, I tell myself I should not be hungry if I ate the proper portion. So when I eventually eat something, (because I’m starving) I think there is something wrong with me – why wasn’t I satisfied with what I ate?

Chloe: I compare myself to others and feel great when I lose 5 lbs because I think that I would really feel better if I was thinner – I could wear what I want, be more confident, successful, etc. Yet, when I have managed to get near my goal weight, I don’t feel better at all – I still feel like the same old messed-up, hot mess me and the pounds just creep back on. It’s wearing me down.

Christina: From an early age, I remember comments about my weight affecting me such as my grandmother telling me “You’re getting fat” each time we went to visit. I used to dread seeing her. My dad was obsessed with other people’s body size (and mine) but the kicker is he would make negative comments – and then lay out a spread of sweets. So food became my drug of choice and I used it as an escape from pain…I ate in a mindless state to detach myself from difficult situations…I didn’t know any better when I was a kid but even though I know better as an adult, I still use food in this way. I’m in denial about my situation – I really don’t value myself.

Maeve: Whether it was alone after school or alone at the farm or feeling alone in a group of so-called friends, food has always been my soother when I feel rejected. I don’t think I remember a parent saying “Eat this and you’ll feel better”, I just learned on my own that I could shovel in the food and I wouldn’t have to worry. I’m such a hypocrite - I’m addicted to this behaviour yet I won’t admit this feeling to my family. Everyone thinks I’m in control but they don’t know that I need these habits to console me. Well, a bubble bath won’t make it better and I can’t stop to write down my thoughts every time this feeling comes. I can’t exactly call 1-800- Call-A-Friend either. But at 44 years old, I am ready to give up my “pacifier” and face my fear of being alone, accept that I am wanted and loved (and lovable) and won’t be abandoned for any decisions I choose to make.

Victoria: I’ve learned that emotional eating is mindless behaviour and that I need to think about when and what I eat. The problem is that I don’t trust my judgment – eating what I truly want scares me because I am convinced that giving myself permission to eat “bad” foods will just make me fatter. I’m even more afraid of failure which is why I don’t even bother trying to lose weight anymore.

As you can see, although we are attached to these Diet Head beliefs in the mistaken belief that they are helping us cope, they really don’t – at least not more than a few moments. Ask yourself which ones you still buy into and then ask yourself why? If they aren’t really helping, what have you got to lose by letting some of them go? Let us know!

Next time: What is the source of the pain?

In this conversation as well as previous ones, our WISE Women don’t always understand the reasons behind their painful F.A.T. (feelings, actions and thoughts) or even where they come from. You won’t want to miss our first of several in-depth conversations in which the WISE Women connect to their painful pasts and reveal buried secrets.

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