I'm not a big fan of "tips" when it comes to eating. A tip should be the helpful nugget of advice that helps point you in the direction you want to go. But, when it comes to diet, it's always something like "drink three glasses of ice water before lunch!" or "use baby utensils to eat dessert." That's the kind of advice that only makes you feel more stupid. (I know, because I've done them both.)
That said, if you're stuck in the yo-yo cycle of dieting, it's hard to get out. It took me a lifetime to hit rock bottom, quit the habit, and start changing my life for real. But, if you're feeling trapped and need a way out, there's no need to wait for a dramatic epiphany. Here are a few tips that might actually help you shift gears and head in the direction you want to go. If you're truly ready to quit the diet cycle, then right here and now is a great place to start.
1. Set a new goal (not a weight-based one).
Diets are rarely just about goal weight. They're about the goal life that will happen once you've hit that magic number. Unrealistic expectations are what drive us toward dieting and what makes them fail. So, starting now, set a new goal. Perhaps it's health-related or maybe it's about your career or social life. The important thing is that you mentally unlink those things from weight. When weight is neither your goal nor your albatross, then everything else falls into perspective.
2. Get a reality check with your doctor.
Scared of the doctor? Great! Now's the perfect time to go. If you've struggled with your weight, the doctor's office might seem like a particularly dreadful place. But, the good news is that many doctors are less concerned with the number on the scale than they used to be — and even if they are, they're probably not going to shame you for it. If health is a real priority for you, go to your doctor and tell them so directly. Give them an honest and detailed picture of your lifestyle. Get a physical and ask them to go through the results with you, via phone or email, and ask them what they see as the most important things do to for your personal health. The more knowledge you have, the more empowered you are.
Not the kind where you list each meal and its carb- or calorie-count, like a record of your sins. Start a journal that lets you see how food makes you feel. Take note of your hunger before eating, your fullness after, your satisfaction with the food, and if it brought up any feelings. When we're so used to quantifying food in terms of a diet's units, we forget how to treat it like food — like, the stuff we eat to stay alive. Try a month of food journaling like this and you'll begin to see your own thought and eating patterns right there on the page.
4. Quit the scale.
I know, I know. How will you know what your "progress" looks like?! How will you know if you've had a good day without that number on the scale? There's nothing inherently wrong with knowing your weight; it's just that most of us lifelong dieters are so used to defining ourselves by it. There are many good, verifiable reasons to quit the scale, but if you're trying to break the yo-yo cycle, it's crucial. The scale can boost your self-esteem or absolutely demolish it, and until that's no longer the case, you've gotta get that thing out of your bathroom.
5. Try a mindful meal.
Mindfulness is one of the simplest and most difficult practices you will ever take up. But, it's the fastest route to changing your relationship with food and the ritual of eating. I suggest starting small, as I did, and setting a goal of one mindful meal each day. That means no distractions, no screens, no other person chatting across the table. It should just be you and your plate. At first, you may find yourself so bored and antsy that you want to toss that plate across the room — that's normal. But, hang in there and you won't believe how differently you taste, consume, and feel your meal. It's worth the wait.
Click HERE to read more from Refinery29