Yesterday, Deb Burgard shared her eye-opening insight on dieting and the idea that ditching dieting leads to out-of-control eating. (It doesn’t.)
Often, the hardest part about giving up dieting is its allure (even though many of us realize that it’s a false and fake one). The allure of attractiveness, happiness, health, success. The allure of a better and more exciting life.
Today, Burgard talks about the cons of dieting (which are many and quite profound) and how to finally stop dieting. She shatters the allure, and shatters the myths that dieting is something you do because you truly care about yourself and want a healthier life — both pervasive ideas perpetuated by weight-loss commercials.
Her response is truly thought-provoking, and provides some great ideas, too.
Again, Burgard, PhD, is a psychologist specializing in eating and body image concerns across the weight spectrum, and one of the founders of the Health at Every Size(r) model.
Q: What are the consequences of dieting?
A: Most simply: weight cycling, mistrust of our bodies, and for a small percentage, an eating disorder.
Pursuing weight loss and weight loss itself are two different things: there are certainly people who end up at a stable lower weight than their highest weight; but that almost never happens through pursuing intentional weight loss.
Because most dieting results in weight cycling, most people feel psychologically worse, and confirmed in their worries that there is something out of control about their bodies or their personalities.
So, in summary: Lots of suffering.
Q: How can people finally stop dieting?
A: It takes courage. It means going against the cultural rituals, the media messaging, the stigma, maybe even your friends and family. But oh, is it ever worth it – because you can feel at peace in your own skin.
You can feel like a partner with your body. You can get on with your life. You can discover all the other ways to be powerful in the world than aiming for a target that almost no one is going to hit.
You can keep your money in your pockets to use for something else that is important to you. You can find other people to connect with who really see you and don’t waste time on this stuff. You can trust yourself.
In the beginning, though, it is more about figuring out what else to do when you would have started a diet – what else to do when your friend is dieting and losing weight and you start to have competitive or envious or shameful feelings; or what else to do when you think about people seeing you at a wedding and commenting on your weight, or what else to do when you feel like your life is stalled.
People get taught to try weight loss in these situations, even though going through another round of weight cycling is not going to be useful for any of these situations.
So what is the “what else” you can do?
I think it is as simple and as hard as trying to address the real problem, rather than getting distracted by the weight cycling drama.
Pursuing weight loss is a lot like gambling. It’s seductive, because you think, if I do this, maybe I’ll be a winner!
But what if you asked yourself, how do I want to live so that I can feel proud of myself today? What does this day look like if I act according to my values? What is a way of solving my problem that I haven’t tried yet?
Do I really want my greatest accomplishment to be something about depriving myself of food? What is most important to me?
I think it is really important that people find the other folks who are trying to live this way and stick together to support and encourage each other. The powers that be do not want you to get off the weight cycling merry-go-round and think for yourself, so there will be challenges when you choose this path.
But every group who has been stigmatized and oppressed has found power and comfort in each other, and things really do change when people are determined and connected.
Thanks so much, Deb, for sharing your wisdom with Weightless readers and for doing the amazing work that you do!
This post currently has
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.
Last reviewed: 3 May 2012