INDD, image

Instead of my usual body image booster, today, I’d like to talk bout dieting. That’s because, today, is International No Diet Day (INDD).

INDD was started by Mary Evans Young, the director of the British anti-diet campaign “Diet Breakers” and author of the best-selling book Diet Breaking: Having It All Without Having To Diet.

Today, it’s celebrated all over the world.

Dieting has many negative consequences, which we rarely hear about.

It has a failure rate of 95 to 98 percent. It’s a common cause of overeating. (That’s what naturally happens when you restrict your food intake.)

It encourages people to deeply distrust ourselves and our body’s natural signals. It makes us lose touch with our hunger and satiety cues.

Dieting narrows how we can respond to our needs. It encourages food obsession.

What “should” I eat? Can I eat that pasta or piece of cake? Nope, it’s too many calories or too many points. How many calories does that have? If it’s not non-fat, I can’t have it. When’s the next time I can actually eat again? I’m hungry, but that portion is all I can eat. I’ve had all my calories for the day already. OK, this is seriously my last bite. I want to eat that, but I can’t. I can’t have any chocolate. I can’t stop thinking about it, though. 

And we let the diet, instead of our bodies and personal needs, do the talking. The diet is in control, and we’re just strapped for the ride.

Dieting also creates conflict: It creates a conflicted relationship with food. Food becomes the enemy or the big obstacle in your way to weight loss. As I said in this post: “There’s always a struggle – you versus some food.”

Dieting is about manipulating your appetite. And it doesn’t just affect our eating.

As I said in this post, it affects our entire lives. It stops us “from being fully present, and keeps us preoccupied, ashamed and oppressed – among other things.”

So I believe that ditching dieting is a celebration. A big one.

It’s a celebration of choosing health. Choosing yourself. Choosing to listen to your body and care for your many important needs.

People often think that they have two options: diet or eat anything in sight.

Attuned eating (i.e., not dieting) isn’t about eating whatever you want when you want. It’s not about eating potato chips or fast food all day, every day.

According to Judith Matz, an author and therapist who specializes in eating issues, “What we’re saying is to eat what you’re hungry for when you’re hungry…[You] use your internal cues so you’re making decisions based on what’s best for you physically, emotionally and spiritually.”

“You’re deciding and coming from a place of nurturing and taking care of yourself,” Matz said. You’re thinking about what really nourishes you, and there are many different levels of nourishment, she said.

Ditching dieting isn’t easy, and sometimes the diet mentality still whispers in our minds. (What worthwhile thing is easy, anyway?)

But let’s try for the whisper to become meaningless chatter that doesn’t dictate our actions.

When I was dieting, I worried that two apples a day would make me gain weight. I allowed “health” magazines to rule my habits. I restricted and binged. I starved and felt sickeningly full. I was not healthy.

I felt like a failure. A glutton. And I never achieved the control I craved. Instead, I felt terribly out of touch with my body and myself. Food was the enemy. I was the enemy, because I couldn’t follow the rules, because I enjoyed eating.

What I didn’t know then is that releasing myself from the damaging clutches of dieting would seriously be – and I’m not exaggerating here – one of the best decisions of my life.

In honor of INDD, here are some ideas on how you might celebrate today:

  • Listen and attend to your body’s hunger and satiety cues. In other words, try to eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re feeling full.
  • List all the ways that ditching dieting has improved your life (or, if you haven’t given up dieting, how it might).
  • Explore why you’ve dieted.
  • Check out some great resources.
  • Learn why diets don’t work (you’ll find some info in the posts below, particularly in Golda’s “16 Things That Are Wrong with Dieting”).
  • Celebrate your body, and what it’s done for you.
  • Think about what you’re hungry for in your life.
  • Take the time to cook yourself a delicious, nourishing meal.
  • Slow down and savor your meal. Smell the aroma. Taste the flavors. Focus on the textures.
  • Avoid multi-tasking while you’re eating. When you’re eating, just eat.
  • Avoid fat talk.
  • Recycle all your diet magazines and books.
  • Participate in a physical activity that energizes or soothes you.
  • Spring-clean your self-care routine.
  • Take the INDD pledge!

Here are other posts you might find helpful:

Becoming a Diet Survivor

Body Image & The Diet Mentality: Letting Go of Shame

Are All Diets Unhealthy?

16 Things That Are Wrong with Dieting

Intuitive Eating: Q&A with Dietitian Evelyn Tribole

The Surprising Differences Between Dieting + Not Dieting

The Freedom of Not Dieting

How will you celebrate International No Diet Day?

* Some parts of this post were published in 2011, when I also celebrated INDD here on Weightless.