Eliminating Dieter’s Mentality

Eliminating Dieter's Mentality

Many different diets can lead us to form rigid rules about what we should and should not eat. When we get stuck in a dieter’s mentality, we may deeply scrutinize our choices and feel angry or guilty when we eat something we believe to be bad.

Unfortunately, when we make eating choices based on inflexible rules and depriving ourselves of certain foods, it can make our desire to eat “bad” foods even stronger. Thinking about foods as all or none can lead us to have harsh expectations of ourselves. When we don’t meet these expectations, we can feel ashamed and guilty, and these emotions can make us more likely to eat the foods we feel we shouldn’t.

According to Dr. Lisa Galper, a clinical psychologist who teaches classes on weight loss, we need to eliminate this negative mindset to form a more peaceful and productive outlook on our eating habits.

“It’s not healthy to feel guilty and shameful after you eat,” Dr. Galper says. “It’s healthy to notice what you did that didn’t work so that you can learn something from it.”

The Problem with “Forbidden Foods”

When we forbid ourselves from eating certain things, we create a painful and unsatisfying relationship with food. As we deprive ourselves of these foods, we can actually intensify our drive to eat them. Our forbidden foods become overvalued, and we may develop obsessive thoughts and cravings about them.

Giving in to these cravings can make us feel like we’re spinning out of control. Eating forbidden foods causes us to experience feelings of guilt or failure, resulting in a drop in self-esteem that we may cope with by eating even more.

Do You Have a Dieter’s Mentality?

The dieter’s mentality can lead to a great deal of anxiety about food, turning us into restrained and fearful eaters. If you find that any of the following statements apply to you, it may be time to develop a healthier and more positive relationship with food:

  • You feel like a food addict
  • You tend to be punitive with yourself and fearful of food
  • You often get urges to eat when you are not physically hungry
  • When you get urges to eat, you have a difficult time managing them
  • You regularly skip at least one meal a day to keep calorie intake low
  • You sometimes feel afraid that you won’t be able to stop eating voluntarily
  • You attempt to manage anxiety and self-esteem issues by controlling food intake and weight
  • You fast, excessively exercise, vomit or use a laxative to get rid of extra calories when you feel that you’ve eaten too much

Becoming a Peaceful Eater

Instead of trying to conform to broad judgments about whether foods are good or bad, ask yourself this question:

What works for me?

As long as you take your personal needs and medical conditions into account, you can give yourself permission to eat all foods in a preplanned and effective manner. To avoid feelings of deprivation, we need to balance eating for pleasure with eating for health, and bring our bodies, minds and eating habits into harmony.

To help yourself develop a more peaceful relationship with food (and yourself), it will also help to:

  • Eat only when you’re hungry. Don’t lose contact with your body—listen to what it’s telling you. When you’re hungry, eat, and when you’re not hungry anymore, stop eating.
  • Eat mindfully. We usually overeat because of our minds, not because of our bodies. Try to stay mentally present whenever you eat, and take note of the ways that different foods affect you.

Instead of berating yourself for overeating or eating something you would prefer to avoid, ask yourself why this happened and use it as an experience to learn and grow.

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