These days, there's a lot of talk on "getting to the root" of our health issues.
As a nutritional therapy practitioner, I believe in getting to the bottom of what's making us sick. We need to figure out why we're unhealthy before we can determine the best way to fix it.
At a superficial level, we know that excess weight occurs as a result of one or both of the following:
- Excess weight occurs as a result of consuming poor quality foods that lack nutrients
- Excess weight occurs because we consume more food energy than our body can use
Most people are aware of both of these factors -- and it's why they go diets, which help them commit to making better food and eating choices.
If our weight is merely a physical problem resulting from a misunderstanding of proper nutrition and energy balance as it relates to our food, a surface fix with a few diet/nutrition/activity tweaks will work for us.
Unfortunately, as many of us have personally found out...
DIETS WORK WELL FOR SOME... AND NOT OTHERS
I often hear people say "diets don't work." The truth is, many diets do work... at least for some period of time (usually as long as we can stand to comply with them!).
A diet -- by its very definition -- is "a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight."
Any diet/exercise program that creates a situation where energy intake falls below energy expenditure for a continued period of time will cause a reduction in body weight and size. It's an indisputable fact. An energy-deficit state makes the body use its own, stored energy as fuel.
The problem is, even if we can stick to a diet long enough to lose weight, there is a nasty, paradoxical side effect that accompanies many diets, aka, dieters can't keep weight off... long-term.
QUESTIONS ON DIETING THAT NEED (BETTER) ANSWERS
There are a number of question we're not asking (enough) if we truly want to get at the roots of our struggles with weight. For starters:
Why are we all "failing" our diets? Better yet, why are all the diets failing us?
To be able to even begin to answer this question, we must take a fearless, thorough and objective examination of our history as dieters..
While the following questions might seem personal, many of us have uncannily similar answers:
1. WHY HAVE WE ATTEMPTED DIETS IN THE PAST?
Why did we want to lose the weight?
Obviously, we dieted because wanted to lose weight. But why -- what was a lower weight going to do for us? Was the diet going to make us happier, more attractive, more successful, healthier, wealthier, better people, more respected, more loved, more able to get/achieve a certain goal? When we started the diet, where were we, emotionally? Did we engage in the diet from a place of self-loathing, disgust, shame, lack of appreciation for our body, as a challenge or resolution, to get ready for a future event, as a result of a medical diagnosis, etc?
2. HOW DID OUR PAST DIETS GO?
What measures, practices, and methods have we tried in our past diets. How did they go?
Many of us have been on/off (too) many diets. How many have we tried and which kinds? How long were we able to comply with each? Did we get to our weight goal? Did we struggle to fully comply -- with quantities or with "forbidden" foods or with activity level? Did we try to exclude particular food groups or macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein)... only to find we couldn't stop eating them, or we just overate the things that were "allowed"? Did we engage in unnatural, extreme, or unsustainable practices to force accelerated weight loss? Did we find ourself frequently rounding or making exceptions, excuses, or justifications? Were we constantly fighting cravings and urges to eat in ways the diet didn't "allow"? Did we feel exhausted by what seemed a never-ending battle against food? Did it make us feel good in body? In mind? Did it come with side effects feelings: deprived, crazy, sick, tired, angry, obsessed, not good enough, etc?
3. WHAT HAPPENED AFTER/BETWEEN DIETS?
How have our diets worked for us, long-term?
The between-diet and post-diet stages are critical stages to consider. What happened after our diet was over, or while we were between diets? Did dieting make lasting improvements to our health and weight, long-term? Were we able to maintain the changes they outlined? If not, why not? Were we able to maintain our physical/weight goals? Did we achieve our other goals (happier, more attractive, more successful, stronger, healthier, wealthier, kinder, better, more respected, more satisfied, more likable, more loved, etc). Did we "go off" our diet because we couldn't keep up with the food or eating rules it specified? Did we find ourself binging or overeating when we were "on," "off"or between diets? Did we end up back at or near our pre-diet weight... or worse, at a higher weight?
If we've tried dieting but nothing's worked for us long-term, we might need to dig beyond our diet -- we might need to uncover the root cause of our weight struggles.
DIGGING UP THE ROOTS OF OUR WEIGHT STRUGGLES
If we're constantly struggling with controlling, maintaining or losing weight -- despite knowing what we should be eating and when and how much -- our excess weight is likely to be a sign of a deeper issue.
The root cause of our excess weight might be in our relationship to eating -- in how we're using food.
Many, many of us have some level of mental, emotional or spiritual need for food that extends past the physical needs of our bodies.
The problem is... food cannot satisfy cravings that exist in our minds, hearts or souls.
And if this is the case, we are failing to release excess weight because we're trying to use the physical, surface solutions of food, exercise and/or diet to fix a non-physical, non-surface problem.
If we have hurts, holes, feelings or thoughts we're trying to conquer, avoid, get through, repress, squelch, or fix -- and food or eating is our default handling method -- diets will always fail us. We will always go back to the food to try to fill needs that aren't physical or nutritional.
If this sounds like us, we may be someone who needs to take measures to reduce our food dependency if we want to be able to release our excess weight.
We will need to focus not just on the physical aspects of diet/exercise, but on identifying what triggers drive us to use food beyond its purpose for physical nourishment. We will need to work on understanding and healing our damaged, dysfunctional relationship with food.
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