Have you ever heard about someone being happy on the current diet they are on? Chances are slim that if you’ve ever been on a diet or restricting foods in some way that you felt happy doing so. I can remember back to my first diet at age 15, I felt miserable. I was restricting my calories to 1100-1200 a day, working out more and more and I was miserable. Being so miserable about my body and food made me miss out on life way to much. Plus it kept me stuck in the binge restrict cycle for years without even realizing it. Today I want to share with you how restriction and food deprivation makes you miserable and what to focus on instead, because there is so much more to focus on, trust me!
How Restriction Works + What it Looks Like:
Food restriction occurs anytime you restrict your caloric intake for the purpose of losing weight or to control your body. Let me just say this right away, I am not anti weight loss. However, I think that most of the time, we tie weight loss to health promotion and this is what I have a problem with. You can read more about how this happens and the issue with tying weight loss to health over here. If you are pursuing a healthier lifestyle for the purpose of feeling better and weight loss occurs, there is nothing wrong with that in my opinion. However, it is often times a slippery slope when we choose to lose weight from a place of body fear and shame due to diet culture, which is all around us. I would encourage you to read more about this in my blog post linked above as I delve much deeper into weight loss and how intuitive eating can help.
Food deprivation works in a way to make you feel that food is the enemy and thus so is your body. You may believe that your body has to change in some way because you are not worthy just as you are. It complicates your relationship to food and your body even more and makes you second guess everything you put on your plate. You can read more about self-love after weight gain right here.
Why the Binge Restrict Cycle Makes You Miserable:
Food deprivation makes you miserable because it keeps food and your body at war with each other, which later leads to the binge restrict cycle. When that happens, there is a high possibility that you will feel pretty miserable about not just your body but also your life. When you deprive yourself of food, you also choose to go out less and live more secluded. Going out and being with friends and/or family is a social experience that often times includes food. If you are hanging out with women, a lot of the times, it can also include diet talk as well. These two things can be a recipe for disaster. If you already feel that you need to restrict yourself around food, being out and surrounded by “temptation” can prove to be too much. So often times, you avoid going out altogether.
Have you been there before? I sure have. It’s no fun at all. I can remember purposely missing out on fun nights out because I was worried about how I would be able to ‘control’ myself around all the food. Not to mention if I did manage to go out and then binge on foods and the guilt that would occur after it. The binge restrict cycle makes you feel miserable and out of control which is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
If you want to learn more about the binge-restrict cycle, emotional eating and develop a healthier relationship to food, be sure to check out my free guide.
How Restriction Affects You On Various Levels:
On a purely scientific level, when it comes to hunger, our bodies actually cannot tell the difference between when we are starving ourselves because of actual famine or restricting. What happens is that our bodies will actually not only hold on to weight, but they will send signals to our brain to eat and eat quickly, i.e. a binge and the binge restrict cycle begins. Our bodies will want to end the hunger and restriction as quickly as possible and we will react by eating more foods than we need to and we won’t be reaching for a salad. Because when was the last time you binged on a spinach salad?!
It also affects our behaviour as well. Restriction makes us feel a lot more anxious, depressed and just plain crazy. We fantasize about food and feel anxious about every piece of food we eat in return. We don’t make great friends or can even carry much of a conversation, because we are literally consumed with thoughts of food. I can still remember going out to a friend’s party and all I did was talk about my plant-based diet, excessively. It was all I cared to talk about, it was all I thought about. I wanted people to bring it up or bring up how great I looked now, because I was smaller. You can read more about my journey with orthorexia over here.
The University of Minnesota conducted a widely publicized study on the affects of starvation on our mind and body. The results indicated that starvation drove men to the ‘threshold of insanity’.
On a physical level, it also affects our own energy level. If we aren’t adequately nourishing ourselves, how can we have energy to do the things we normally would do? We become irritable and unmotivated and as such feel worse about ourselves in the long run.
What to Focus on Instead:
How about instead of focusing all (or majority) of our thoughts on food and restriction, we focus on other things? Where focus goes, energy flows. When we are consumed with what we are eating, we don’t create enough space to focus on other (more important) things. And I guarantee you, there are so many other things that deserve your attention.
Rather than focusing on quantitative numbers such as calories, fat and other nutritional information, change that to simply enjoying the food you are eating. Yes, the quality of food is important and something that I think about, but it isn’t everything. And my life isn’t consumed with thoughts of food either. I found the joy in cooking again and love creating recipes in the kitchen, but not from a place of obsession anymore.
Once you are able to stop restricting, it can be hard to adjust and we don’t just go back to normal after. Our bodies and our minds are powerful entities and they can suffer long term consequences. If they are used to restriction, they will still want to binge later on because subconsciously they fear the food will be taken away again. It is of course possible to develop a healthier relationship to food again, but it will take time. And working with a professional to help you along the way is highly recommended so that you can develop healthier habits around food. The key is learning to rebuild that trust around food and with your body again.
How to Learn to Love Your Body, As Is + Gratitude:
Learning to love our bodies is something that takes A LOT of time and work. It is still something that I work on, but I am so much better at it now. But at age 35, I am just starting to appreciate my body more now than ever before.
I think it is a very individual thing to learn to love your body and also something that requires a lot of time and patience. Because self love and body acceptance aren’t always linear. You can think you are making great progress and then something happens to derail that. But knowing that bad days and good days are all a part of the process makes it a little easier.
If you want to learn more about self love, have a look at this post and be sure to sign up for the 21-Day Self Love Challenge. It’s a simple but effective 21-day challenge that sends an email to your inbox daily and gets you thinking about your body and your life in a different way.
If you have found yourself caught up in dieting for too long or just want to change your relationship to food and your body, share with me in the comments. Or if you have found yourself caught up in the binge restrict cycle, how did you deal with it?