What Hitting Diet Bottom Looks Like

Josie has been dieting for more than 20 years.

At the age of 11, she went on her first diet. She’s been riding the dieting roller coaster ever since.

Over the years, she’s tried dozens of plans and programs, some of them multiple times.

She can easily rattle off the number of calories, points and carbs in hundreds of different foods.

Again and again, she’s felt the euphoria that comes with weight loss—and the shame that accompanies rebound weight gain.

When friends, co-workers and celebrities have raved about their new diet, she’s always jumped on board believing “This might finally be the one!”

Lately, however, she just can’t muster up her usual enthusiasm.

She’ll start a new diet then abandon it after a week or two.

Her decades of yo-yo dieting have left her feeling frustrated, exhausted, depressed and hopeless—and like a huge failure.

Josie's ready to throw her hands up in the air.

She's finally hit diet bottom.

Hitting Diet Bottom
Although she’s unhappy with her weight, Josie can’t stand the thought of going on another diet.

She can’t stomach one more Last Supper, one more Monday of starting over, one more list of good and bad foods.

She’s burned out on tracking, counting, measuring and weighing.

She’s sick of letting her bathroom scale dictate her mood, her behavior and how her day unfolds.

So much of her life, she feels, has been wasted obsessing over every bite, feeling guilty about her choices and strategizing how she can make up for her food sins.

Josie’s tired of packing her own food to take to social gatherings and being preoccupied at parties by all the food she’s not allowed to eat but really, really wants.

She’s sad about how many events she’s skipped because she feared falling off the wagon or didn’t like how she looked.

After decades of being told what to eat, Josie doesn’t even know what she likes anymore.

She eats what she thinks she should, which often leaves her feeling unsatisfied and, understandably, scrounging for more food.

Her long list of food rules has sucked all the joy and pleasure out of eating.

The more she deprives herself, the more she finds herself eating in secret and bingeing on all her forbidden foods.

Many foods are banned from her house because she simply doesn’t trust herself with them.

Josie’s tired of denying her cravings, sneaking food, swinging from restricting to bingeing, and feeling out of control and ashamed.

She’s flat out dieted-out.

No matter how tempting the latest new diet may sound, she now knows all too well that it will not improve her relationship with food and her body—it will only make it worse.

Yet, she doesn’t know what to do. For most of her life, all she’s known is dieting.

Sound Familiar?
If any of this sounds familiar, you’ve likely hit diet bottom, too.

Please know, you’re not alone.

I’ve heard hundreds of stories like Josie’s over the years.

And while you might feel like you’re stuck and at a dead end, you’re not.

Rejecting the diet mentality is the first step toward reclaiming your power from our toxic diet culture—an oppressive system that keeps you stuck in a vicious cycle and distracts you from more meaningful, fulfilling life pursuits.

The next step is learning how to listen to and trust your body again so you can eat intuitively—that is, according to your inner cues (e.g., hunger, fullness, pleasure, satisfaction) versus external rules.

By putting the same effort you put into dieting toward getting out of it, you can cultivate a more peaceful, trusting, intuitive and roller coaster-free relationship with food and your body.

As I’ve said before, I don't have any magical powers. Neither do my clients. If we can do it, so can you.

I Felt So Ashamed of My Weight Regain

I wiggled into my only pair of jeans that still fit, draped a shawl over my upper body, and anxiously headed out the door.

It was the best I could do to hide my larger size—besides not leaving my house at all, which was what I had been doing.

As I rode the train downtown to meet a few past coworkers for tea—friends I hadn’t seen in a year since I was laid off from the company we all worked for—I thought about all the ways I could justify my weight gain.

It felt important that I acknowledge it first before they had a chance to jump to any conclusions.

My life had changed drastically over the last year. There were so many things I could point to that would possibly explain my fuller face, bigger belly, heavier hips and thicker thighs.

Afraid of What They Might Think
Despite what may have sounded like valid reasons for my body changes, more than anything, I was afraid my friends would think what I was thinking about myself: That I was a failure. That I was weak. That I had lost control and let myself go.

I feared my reputation as a super-disciplined healthy eater and exerciser—who was applauded for losing a lot of weight a few years prior—was now tarnished.

I feared I would now be the topic of water-cooler gossip.

I felt so embarrassed and ashamed.

No Longer a Success Story
When I had shed all those pounds, I truly thought I had finally cracked the weight-loss code.

With arrogance that I now mightily cringe at and regret, I strutted around believing I had conquered the one thing so many people struggle with.

I had successfully lost weight.

And now I had regained it.

I was no longer a success story.

The Body Fights Back
Sadly, if I had known on that train what I know now, I could have saved myself from a lot of unnecessary pain, isolation and suffering.

Unlike what’s so commonly believed, rebound weight gain is not due to a lack of willpower or self-discipline. Nor is it from following the wrong plan or program.

When you deprive your body of food, it thinks it’s being subjected to a famine and will do everything it can to survive.

This means triggering numerous physiological and psychological changes, like increasing food thoughts, intensifying cravings, boosting appetite and decreasing metabolism.

When you understand the compensatory measures a body makes when it’s restricted of food, you can understand why an estimated 95 percent of dieters regain the weight they lose, and up to two-thirds gain more than they lost.

It's not because they fell off the wagon!

If I Only Knew Then
If I had understood that my body was simply trying to keep me alive, I might not have felt ashamed for not being able to maintain my weight loss.

I wouldn’t have blamed myself and viewed my weight gain as a personal failure and character flaw.

Nor would I have wasted so much time and energy strategizing about how I was going to fix my body and being stuck in a vicious restrict-binge cycle for the next few years.

I wouldn’t have avoided events, activities or friends who love me regardless of my size.

Instead of being mad at and mean to my body, I would have been grateful for how smart it is! 

Ideally, if I knew everything I know now about how damaging dieting and diet culture are on both an individual and collective level, I would have never attempted to achieve the impossible thin ideal in the first place.

I would have better understood my internalized weight stigma and respected my genetic blueprint instead of trying to force my body to be something it was never meant to be.

A New Success Story
Thanks to everything I’ve experienced and learned, I’ve redefined what a success story is when it comes to food and my body.

For me, it means having a peaceful, trusting, nourishing and intuitive relationship with both—one that’s completely shame-free.

What Food Freedom Tastes Like

With the Fourth of July upon us, I’ve been reflecting on what Independence Day was like for me as a kid.

Naturally, the fireworks were the highlight of the holiday. However, I also have very fond memories of the food.

I recall kicking off the festivities with a pancake breakfast at our local pool. I happily gobbled up syrup-soaked flapjacks topped with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream in honor of the occasion.

After hours of swimming and playing with my neighborhood friends, the day would end with a big block party. What a thrill it was to be able to ride my banana-seat bike down the middle of our street!

Picnic tables were hauled from backyards and covered with an array of homemade summer dishes, while a couple of grills smoked away on the sidelines.

Food-Fueled Fun
My nighttime fun was fueled by ketchup-covered hot dogs, honey baked beans, buttery corn-on-the-cob, crisp watermelon wedges, salty chips and dip, and very patriotic Jell-O salads. All of this was washed down with thirst-quenching cups of lemonade.

No matter what I ate, I always had room for a fudgy brownie or strawberry shortcake topped with rapidly melting vanilla ice cream.

I ate what looked good, sounded good and felt good in my body. Sometimes I ate it all, and sometimes I left some behind.

I ate freely and intuitively.

Not Yet Tainted
My young mind hadn’t been tainted yet by diet culture—an oppressive system full of food rules, eating restrictions, good/bad food lists, careful counting (e.g., calories, points, macros, etc.), weight stigma and false promises.

I hadn’t been taught yet that I should be hyper-vigilant with food and micro-manage every morsel.

No one had told me yet that my body couldn’t be trusted and that I needed to rely on a plan or program to tell me how to eat.

I hadn’t learned to abhor my belly, demonize certain foods, feel ashamed about my eating and compensate for my food “sins.”

I didn't worry about others judging my choices nor did I play Hide & Eat to keep myself safe from scrutiny.

Do I Want It?
While I loved all that food, I had more exciting and important things to focus on, like water-balloon tosses, sparklers and bottle rockets.

As an Intuitive Eater, I just ate and moved on.

Eating was simply a matter of: I can have it. Do I want it?

Diet Mentality Takes Over
Unfortunately, all of this changed as I entered my teenage years and began adopting the diet mentality powered by salads, rice cakes and diet sodas (hello, Tab!).

My desire to achieve the “thin ideal” led to decades of disordered eating.

Thankfully, with help from some very wise guides, I eventually broke free from diet culture and made peace with food and my body.

The healing process wasn’t easy or fast. Some days, I feel like I'm still a work-in-progress. But, it’s all been worth it.

Ending the war I was waging against myself enabled me to return to the food freedom and body liberation I experienced as a young girl.   

It’s Still Within You
I’m sharing this story as a reminder that we all came into this world as Intuitive Eaters—that is, we ate based on our instincts, inner cues and desires. We ate without worry, guilt, fear or shame.  

Sadly, we’re losing touch with our ability to eat intuitively at a younger and younger age. Shockingly, an estimated 80 percent of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet.

I’m also sharing my experience to assure you that if you’ve become disconnected from the Intuitive Eater within you, you can reconnect with it.

It hasn’t gone away. It’s just buried under layers of diet-culture gunk, which today, is often packaged under the guise of “wellness.”

Magical Powers Not Required
I don’t have any magical powers. My clients don’t either. If we can relearn how to listen to and trust our bodies, so can you.

“I’m no longer searching for the ‘answer’ to the perfect way to eat. I don’t stress about how I eat because it isn’t that big of a deal anymore. I no longer believe those food guilt thoughts and that is F-R-E-E-D-O-M!”
–Client Molly