“The dieting lifestyle is akin to taking a knife and cutting the connection that is your body’s only line of communication with your head,” writes clinical psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD, in her book Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating & Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food.
In other words, “Diets can inhibit your ability to accurately decode your body’s messages and feedback,” she says. (Like your hunger and satiety signals.) Diets are also detrimental to our emotional, mental and physical well-being, she says.
But even if you know that dieting is destructive, giving it up, especially in a culture that extols and advertises restriction, can be really hard.
As Albers says below, it can feel uncomfortable, scary and even wrong. (Again, especially, when you have the media screaming or whispering in your ear that dieting is oh-so right.)
But you can let go. Fortunately, there are many practical resources that help you dismantle the diet mentality, one damaging thought or action at a time.
In her book Albers features two powerful activities for ditching dieting. One is committing to a “mindful eating contract.” Here, she outlines the basic principles of mindful eating and helps you reject the diet mentality.
She suggests readers copy the contract and personalize it to your own struggles. Then sign the contract, and put it somewhere visible in your home.
Of course, the contract isn’t set in stone. Albers says that you can revise it at any time.
Either way, it’s so important to see these kinds of principles laid out. All of us can use this reminder on a regular basis — especially when the diet mentality sneaks in.
Mindful Eating Contract
I agree to eat mindfully. I will eat with diligent thought from this point forward.
I agree to change my attitude toward eating and completely, on a full-time basis. I understand that diets don’t work.
I agree to think about what I eat from moment to moment.
I agree to consider each bite on multiple levels by taking into account the taste, texture, quality, bodily reaction, and sensations I experience when I eat.
I agree to eliminate my diet mentality. I will do this by rejecting dieting advice and books, and by becoming nonjudgmental of myself.
I agree to be nonjudgmental of other people’s eating habits, weight and body shape.
I agree to have compassion for myself.
I agree to be mindful of my speech. I will eliminate terms like “restricted” or “forbidden” from my vocabulary…
I agree to accept myself and my body as they are.
I agree to be aware of the unique eating challenges I face.
I agree to accept how uncomfortable, scary and wrong it feels to let go of dieting.
Engaging in a Symbolic Act
In the second exercise Albers suggests letting go of dieting by participating in a symbolic act. (Feel free to get creative with this, too.)
For instance, she tells the story of a woman who composed a letter to herself about her destructive dieting thoughts and behaviors. Then she folded the letter into a boat and brought it to the lake, where she pushed it in the water. From then on any time she started leaning toward the diet mentality, she visualized her hand pushing the boat.
Albers concludes by saying, “Create your own symbolic act to recall during the moments that challenge your ability to let go of your desire to diet. Throw away your diet books, give away your diet food, put a piece of tape over the numbers on the scale — whatever it takes.”
What do you think about the mindful eating contract? What’s a symbolic action you can take to ditch dieting?