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.
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.
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.