Today I want to share with you why diets don’t work for emotional eaters. I remember when I was trying so many different trendy diets like Atkins or paleo or restricting my calories. I thought dieting would be the way out of emotional eating.
I thought if I could figure out how to eat properly, maybe I wouldn’t have any emotional eating and maybe I wouldn’t be bingeing. It didn’t matter what diet I tried. I was recommended so many different diets thinking, oh, then finally I’m going to balance out my body, I’m going to feel better. It didn’t matter what diet I tried. I felt so restricted, so put into a corner that I just gave up on dieting and swung to the other extremity and just ate whatever I wanted.
My emotional eating didn’t go away. I couldn’t even control my emotional eating. I just decided I couldn’t do anything. That’s really when I hit a rock bottom because I felt so defeated, so deflated and I didn’t know what to do. This rock bottom, in a way, was a really good place to be in because I had to start figuring out what worked for me.
Why Diets Don’t Work
I realized why diets didn’t work for me specifically, and that was because diets were restrictive. If they were not cutting out a certain macronutrient like protein, carbohydrate or fat, they restricted calories.
This created a restrictive mindset in me that was stressful and very self-critical. This made me want to emotionally eat even more because I felt so restricted. It didn’t matter how much willpower I had to do the diet, I still couldn’t get through it.
2. Not Made for Women
Diets are not set up for women. They’re not set up for women of reproductive age because women of reproductive age, have a certain cycle and our hormones change throughout the month. So that means that certain times of the month you’re going to want more calories, more food and not as much activity. Other times of the month you’re going to need less calories, less food, and you’re going to have more activity. You’ll look like you’re succeeding on your “diet” during these times. Other times of the month you’ll feel like a total failure.
If you’re not aware of this cycle, you go through periods of the month where you think you’re just failing. “What’s wrong with me? Why do I have sugar cravings?”. I know that would happen to me where I’d feel so guilty. Why did this happen? Why was this happening for me? And I see this with clients all the time. They’ll be doing well for a couple of weeks. Then all of a sudden they have carb cravings out of nowhere.They don’t want to work out as hard and that’s totally normal. But diets don’t cover that.
The reason is that most diets are tested on men who have a 24 hour hormonal cycle. They don’t have this other additional 28 day cycle. So women have a 24 hour cycle and a 28 day cycle, but men just have the one day cycle. So these diets work for them and they are tested on them because it’s easier for scientists to study.
3. Not Nourishing
Another thing that I realized with diets when I finally figured it out was that they’re not nourishing. Like I mentioned, diets cut out macros or reduce calories or both. Diets don’t satisfy your hunger – you’re constantly feeling hungry. I know I would constantly feel hungry. I also didn’t know how to tell the difference between hunger and emotional hunger. So it was disastrous for me.
The goal of a diet is usually weight loss and not nourishment. It’s really all about calories, restricting calories and probably over exercising to meet a goal. Diets are very externally focused. It’s not holistic.
What I needed was nourishment and I needed to figure out my digestion. That’s what I teach clients now. It’s how to truly nourish themselves and take care of their digestion so they know they’re getting all those nutrients and they know when they might need more nutrients than other times or more calories. And it’s totally OK.
2. Body Acceptance
I also needed to learn body acceptance. To deal with the voice in my head telling me that I’m not good enough, that I need to lose weight, that I need to look a certain way. That’s what I really needed. I needed more of a holistic approach.
3. Emotional Wellness
Because of the emotional eating, I needed a way to powerfully move through my emotions that were driving the emotional eating. I needed to find a way to find them, figure them out and to resolve them. This isn’t covered in diets which focus on willpower to push through. Diets and willpower don’t get to the root cause of emotional eating. With willpower I could sustain a diet for a month ( at times a year) and then I would burn out and swing to the other extreme.
I’ve seen it in clients as well. They try to be good for a certain amount of time and their willpower runs out. If they haven’t gotten to the root cause they don’t succeed in eating differently. When we start working together and we start getting to the root, clients start eating well in a sustainable way. They don’t have to restrict and feel guilty when they don’t succeed. They get off the merry go round and do away with this diet mentality.
Those are some reasons why diets don’t work for emotional eaters and what does. Personally, I needed different things. I didn’t just need diet and exercise. I needed to go deeper in a more holistic way and to really look at how I was nourishing myself, my self talk about my body and moving through my emotions. Those were the three things I needed to to learn, to embody and to practice.
So if you’re struggling with emotional eating, this is a powerful way that I teach clients to move through it. If you need more support or more help, please reach out and let me know. You can book a call to see how I can best help you. This is important for emotional eaters because the old way of doing things doesn’t work anymore. We need a new way.
To true change,
Certified Holistic Nutritionist.