Are You a Pseudo-Dieter?

After years of jumping from one diet to the next and being a slave to the scale, Val hit rock-bottom.

Fed up with the weight-loss roller coaster and obsessing over every morsel she ate, she swore off dieting.

Yet, months after joining the "anti-diet" movement, she still shuns carbs, never eats after 7 p.m., and runs a few extra miles whenever she has dessert.

Val is a pseudo-dieter.

She genuinely believes she’s given up dieting, yet she continues to engage in dieting behaviors.

 As a result, she still experiences many of the side effects of dieting, including feeling anxious when eating in social situations, intense food cravings, feeling out of control with her “trigger foods” (ice cream and chips), and feeling guilt, shame and anger when she thinks she’s eaten badly.

Deeply Ingrained
As with Val, the diet mentality can be so deeply ingrained—or hidden under the guise of “health" or "wellness”—that many of us “non-dieters” don’t realize we’re actually pseudo-dieting and that our restrictive eating behaviors make us vulnerable to the physical and psychological damage dieting causes.

Here are some more examples of pseudo-dieting: 

  • Eating only “clean” or “whole” foods.

  • Limiting carb, protein or fat grams regardless of what your body desires or needs.

  • Compensating for eating “bad” foods by doing extra exercise, skipping your next meal, eating less tomorrow, or going on a detox.

  • Eating at only certain times of the day despite your hunger level.

  • Becoming vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. for the sole (and often secret) purpose of losing weight.

  • Putting on a “false food face” in public by eating what you think you should rather than what you really want (e.g., ordering the healthiest item on the menu, forgoing the bread basket, skipping dessert).

  • Determining what you deserve to eat based on what you ate earlier in the day or if you exercised, rather than your hunger level.

Releasing the Diet Mentality
Just like an official diet program, pseudo-dieting disconnects you from your body inhibiting your ability to hear and honor the messages it’s sending you.

 And, as I mentioned earlier, all restrictive eating, no matter how it’s labeled, leaves you vulnerable to the pitfalls of dieting, from binge eating and weight cycling to social withdrawal and a preoccupation with food.

If you want to heal your relationship with food and your body, you need to truly let go of the diet mentality and relearn how to nourish your body based on internal cues versus external rules.

As pseudo-dieting behaviors can be quite subtle and disentangling from diet culture can be very difficult (but not impossible!), it can be helpful to receive support and guidance. I’m here for you if you need me.

Source: Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.

Becoming a Food Anthropologist Helped End My Binge Eating

When I used to binge on peanut-butter chocolate-chunk cookies while hiding in my dark kitchen late at night, my internal dialogue afterward sounded something like this:

“I’m so disgusting. I have no self-control. My willpower sucks. I can’t be trusted to have cookies in the house. I should know better by now. Why can’t I eat like a normal person? Starting tomorrow, no more sugar; I'm addicted!”

These voices in my head were anything but helpful, especially since I would find myself back in the same place doing the same thing again just a few days later.

Unable to take this torturous binge-repent-repeat cycle anymore, I reached out for help. A very wise teacher taught me that I had a choice: I could either ban the cookies or ban the voices.

Since I loved the cookies and hated the voices, the decision was pretty easy—even though it seemed like an impossible feat considering how ingrained in my brain the voices were.

A Powerful Ally Voice
Making peace with food and your body requires silencing the voices in your head that are constantly critiquing, criticizing and condemning your eating.

Replacing these disempowering, unhelpful voices with empowering, supportive voices is key for reclaiming the Intuitive Eater within you.

One of the ally voices identified in Intuitive Eating that my clients and I really gravitate toward is the Food Anthropologist.

The Food Anthropologist is a neutral observer of your thoughts and actions.

It doesn’t make any judgments or emotionally react. Instead, it witnesses what’s going on from a place of pure objectivity.

Unlike your internal Food Police that dictate if you’re good or bad based on what or how you ate, the Food Anthropologist simply states the facts. It sounds like this:

  • I ate six cookies at 10:30 p.m. and experienced stomach pain and feelings of guilt, regret and shame.

  • I skipped lunch, which led to strong sugar cravings at 3 p.m.

  • My eating felt out of control with all the different food options at the party.

  • The uncomfortable pressure in my stomach indicated I was full, yet I continued eating. I was angry at myself for overeating.

  • When I felt anxious yesterday, I ate a pint of ice cream while watching TV.

Distant Perspective, Deeper Connection
The Food Anthropologist voice gives you much-needed distant perspective. Yet, it also helps you stay in touch with your physical and psychological cues by eliminating all the noise that typically disrupts this connection and clouds your thinking.

When coupled with curiosity, the Food Anthropologist helps you expand your self-awareness and empowers you to better understand and release beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving you.

Not a Lack of Willpower
When I became an objective observer of my binge-repent-repeat cycle, I was able to see clearly what was driving my cookie binges. It didn’t have anything to do with a lack of discipline or willpower, a character flaw or a sugar addiction.

Instead, I discovered my binge eating was driven by multiple factors including a restrictive diet, rigid food rules, a false persona, perfectionism and a pleasure deficiency. By addressing the root causes of my behavior and amplifying my ally voices, my binge eating eventually stopped.

If the loudest voice in your head is a critical one, it can take time to shift to a neutral, nonjudgmental voice like the Food Anthropologist. If you would like help identifying and strengthening your ally voices, give me a shout.

What's Your Eating Personality?

What’s your eating personality?

Are you a Careful Planner, Unconscious Eater or Professional Dieter?  

Perhaps you’ve been all of these at some point. This isn’t unusual as your eating patterns can shift depending upon what’s going on in your life.

If you’d like to return to the Intuitive Eater you came into this world as, it’s helpful to understand what your predominant eating style is.

The Unconscious Eater
Let’s take a look at the Unconscious Eater. This eating style is rooted in a lack of attention, awareness and attunement, and can take many different forms. Following are three ways it has shown up in my life. 

1/ Refuse-Not Unconscious Eater
When I worked in the corporate world, I’d mindlessly eat whatever food came into the office whether it was pizza a sales rep brought for a lunchtime presentation, mini-chocolate bars from the candy jar, leftover cookies from an afternoon meeting, or bagels that had been sitting in the kitchen for eight hours.

While there’s nothing wrong with eating any of these foods, I rarely ate them because I was hungry or truly wanted them. Instead, I was vulnerable to their mere presence, not attuned to my body’s needs, and unable to refuse free food.

This behavior showed up outside the office as well, whether it was with party fare, holiday food gifts or grocery store samples.

2/ Distracted Unconscious Eater
I used to be embarrassed if anyone used my computer because of the crumb-covered keyboard and sticky keys. If this sounds like your computer, it’s a sure sign you’re a distracted diner, too.

A Distracted Unconscious Eater typically eats while multitasking whether it’s responding to emails, scrolling through social media, driving to work or texting with friends.

Perhaps you feel there’s no time to stop and just eat, or that it’s more productive to be doing another activity while eating, or that just eating is boring.

I’m definitely not saying you should never enjoy a movie while eating popcorn or takeout! However, if you regularly eat while distracted, you’re likely to derive less pleasure and satisfaction from your food and more likely to overeat.

3/ Waste-Not Unconscious Eater
I grew up in a Clean Your Plate Club and continue to struggle sometimes with this hardwired habit.

The fact that someone would actually choose to leave food on his or her plate or throw away perfectly good food can still astound me today despite all the work I’ve done with identifying my attunement disruptors.

If you’re a Waste-Not Unconscious Eater, you believe it’s better to finish something even if you’re full rather than toss it or save the last few bites. If you’re a parent or partner, you likely clean the remaining food off your children’s or partner’s plates, too.

The challenge with this eating personality is that you prioritize the value of food over your body, which can lead to chronic overconsumption and subsequent discomfort.

Understanding Your Eating Personality
There are other types of Unconscious Eaters, such as the Chaotic Unconscious Eater and the Emotional Unconscious Eater, that you might relate to more strongly.

Having a better understanding of your eating personality, whether it's an Unconscious Eater or Professional Dieter, can be very insightful and helpful as you work toward shedding the beliefs and behaviors that disconnect you from your body’s wisdom, cues and needs.


Source: These eating personalities were created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, the originators of Intuitive Eating and authors of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.