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.

Does Your Diet Keep You Stuck at Home?

When I ask my clients how dieting negatively impacts them, they almost always talk about how it adversely affects their social life.

It sounds something like this:

  • I stay home a lot on the weekends because I’m afraid if I go to a party I’ll break down and eat a bunch of food I shouldn’t be eating.

  • Even though I’d like to, I don’t go out to lunch with my coworkers since the places they like don’t serve anything I can eat. Instead, I eat my packed lunch at my desk while scrolling through Instagram.

  • I skip a lot of family gatherings because there’s always so much food, including many of my childhood favorites. I don’t want to be tempted and fall off the wagon.

  • Rather than hang out with my friends on the weekends, I spend hours alone in my kitchen preparing my allowed foods for the upcoming week.

  • I’d really like to meet someone, but dating is hard since I don’t eat after 6:00 p.m.

  • I get anxious about consuming too many calories/points/carbs when eating out with my friends so I often make excuses about why I can’t join them.

  • I avoid taking trips if I won’t be able to control what food I’ll have access to. It’s just too stressful.

  • I skip my company’s happy hours because I don’t need all those cocktail calories.

  • I bring my own diet-friendly meal to dinner parties, but end up feeling left out when my friends rave about how good the food is they're sharing.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Social Life Suffers

When you place a lot of rules and restrictions on your eating, your social life can suffer tremendously.

Following a diet and/or living with a diet mentality makes it really hard to engage fully in your life. 

It's difficult to be flexible in different food situations and eating environments, to go with the flow and be open to new experiences.

Your life becomes very restricted, contracted and small.


If you’re afraid of eating the “wrong” things, losing control with food and blowing your diet, it’s completely understandable why you would want to isolate yourself. You’re simply trying to be good, to protect yourself, to keep yourself safe.

Harmful to Your Health

Yet, the social isolation dieting can cause not only sucks all the fun and joy out of your life, it can also be harmful to your health.

Research shows that a lack of social connections is a greater detriment to health than smoking and high blood pressure and contributes to loneliness, depression and anxiety.

Whereas, strong social connections lead to a 50 percent increased chance of longevity.

Drives Emotional Eating

Many of my clients share that the social isolation they experience when dieting leaves them feeling bored, lonely, anxious and sad.

As a result, they understandably turn to their forbidden foods, especially when alone, in an attempt to fulfill the innate human need for connection, companionship, comfort and pleasure.

Unfortunately, this often provides them with false evidence that they can’t be trusted with food and need to pull the restriction reins in tighter.

Not Inherently Dieters

Human beings are inherently social creatures. We are not inherently restrictive eaters.

We thrive when we regularly nourish ourselves with a wide variety of satisfying, pleasurable foods—as well as deep, fulfilling social connections.

If your diet keeps you stuck at home, afraid of socializing and losing control with food, I encourage you to truly consider if it's worth restricting your life for.

Do You Struggle with Nighttime Snacking?

Do you struggle with nighttime snacking?

If yes, you’re not alone. 

Many people find themselves rummaging through their fridge or cupboards an hour or two after dinner in search of something to nosh on.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating at any time of day or night, it’s helpful to pause and check your intentions so you can ensure your needs are truly being met.

What Are You Really Hungry For?
We rarely snack at night because we’re physically hungry. If you are, by all means, eat whatever your body needs!

There are always exquisitely good reasons for eating. Although it may not seem like it, nighttime snacking is a way of taking care of ourselves. More often than not, we’re trying to nourish a psychological or emotional hunger.

Rather than chocolate, ice cream, cookies or chips (let’s face it, very few of us snack on an apple or carrots at 9 p.m.), here are some things we might really be hungry for:

  • Pleasure: Food, especially sweets, provides a quick hit of pleasure, something we crave when we don’t experience enough pleasure during our daytime hours (e.g., unfulfilling work).

  • Relief: Most of us move through our days pretty wound up. Eating offers a temporary respite from the stressors of our daily lives. Creamy foods, in particular, ease anxiety, which is one reason why ice cream is such a popular nighttime treat.

  • Grounding: Our busy lives can leave us feeling overextended and overwhelmed. The act of eating is very grounding; it's a way to center ourselves when we feel scattered.

  • Companionship: Although we’re more connected than ever before thanks to technology, many of us feel quite lonely. When loneliness creeps in at night, we can always rely on food to hang out with us and distract us from our uncomfortable feelings.

  • Energy: Because we operate in overdrive throughout our day, most of us are completely wiped out and depleted come nightfall. Food, especially sugar, is a fast and easy way to boost our energy.

  • Satisfaction: When we don’t get much satisfaction from our meals, perhaps because we’ve eliminated foods we enjoy, eat while multitasking, or rush through a meal, we will naturally seek more food later in an attempt to satisfy our taste buds.  

  • Me Time: Whether at work or home, many of us spend our days taking care of other people’s needs. Enjoying a nighttime snack, once everyone else is tucked in or logged off, is something special we do just for ourselves.

What Will Truly Meet Your Needs?
If you want to bring more mindfulness to your late-night noshing habits, understanding why you do what you do is the first step.

With compassion and curiosity, ask yourself:

What need am I trying to meet with this food?

Will this food truly meet this need?

If not, how might I better fulfill this need?

For example, say you reach for chocolate throughout the night because you’re pleasure deficient. How can you bring more pleasure into your life? Is it as small as reading a good book or taking a post-dinner walk with a pal or as big as changing careers? 

Or, perhaps you dive into a bag of chips because you feel overtaxed and burned out. How can you simplify your life? Can you hire a housecleaner, set work boundaries like not checking email after 6 p.m., or say “no” to others and opportunities more often? (Remember, saying “no” often means saying “yes” to yourself.)

Maybe you’ve identified that you’re seeking an energy boost, something to alleviate your depleted state. If this is the case, you’ll likely benefit more from hitting the hay than raiding the cookie jar.

Deprivation Backlash
If your day includes depriving yourself of what you really want to eat (e.g., ordering a light salad instead of a hearty sandwich) and/or restricting the amount and type of food you eat (e.g., counting calories, cutting carbs), your urge to snack all night is not due to a lack of willpower or discipline.

It’s a compensatory reaction; your body’s natural response to physical and psychological deprivation. The more you ignore your body’s needs and desires, the bigger the backlash and binge.

When you allow yourself to eat what and however much you want throughout your day, you’ll likely feel less compelled to snack the night away.

Please Keep in Mind…
It’s perfectly okay to eat when you’re not hungry, including for emotional reasons. Sometimes, a bowl of ice cream is exactly what you need.