Today I wanted to share with you why restriction doesn’t work for chronic dieters or emotional eaters. I wanted to talk about restriction in a different way to help you see how restriction doesn’t help you meet your health goals and to feel good in your body. It actually creates more yo yo dieting and emotional eating.
I tried many diets over the years. I was chronically dieting and I could only sustain a diet for so long before I failed at it, even if I did the exact same thing. I see this with clients as well. They’re using diets to control their emotional eating and to control their body. It even goes deeper because in our society we have this very restrictive mindset. We tell ourselves “I eat too much” or we’re constantly saying “I should eat less”.
We’re creating restriction around food, not nourishing ourselves, not feeling abundant around food. I see this with clients and I experienced this myself. Restriction doesn’t work to help us reach our goals; to move past our emotional eating or to ditch dieting.There are different areas of restriction that compound and make us not reach our goals.
Areas of Restriction
1. Our food
So the first area is looking at how we’re nourishing our bodies. Diets tell us to restrict foods, types of foods, restrict calories. So when we are eating in this way that a diet recommends, we’re saying, “oh, this diet knows what I should be eating”. We give our power away to the diet that tells us how much we should eat and the types of foods we should eat.
We don’t ask
- Are these foods deeply nourishing our body?
- Are they digesting in my body?
- Are we feel energized by it?
Instead we say the diet knows better than us and we restrict ourselves. If the diet is restricting calories and certain macros, what happens in our body is that we go into fight or flight mode. We go into stress mode, we go into survival mode because we’re not nourishing our bodies enough. We’re not getting enough nutrients or calories or whatever it is our body needs.
So our brain starts looking for calories because it’s being starved of calories, it’s being starved of energy. It starts looking for food. That’s where we can start bingeing or overeating. We just gorge on food. We’re so ravenously hungry. This isn’t exactly emotionally eating. But at that point, we’re eating whatever we want. And so the diet is really restricting us.
You’re probably looking to a diet to control yourself, to control your hunger. You want to control how much you’re eating. You don’t have enough willpower. So you think you need a diet.
What we really need:
What I teach to clients is to come back to in a more abundant way of looking at food, to nourish their body, to give it the right nutrients, to make sure things are digesting, that they feel satisfied after meals.
2. Diet Mentality
The second area of restriction comes from the diet mentality. We are told we have to eat at a certain time or every 2 hours. We’re following what the diet says and not tuning into our body. This becomes a restrictive mindset to control ourselves and control food.
We’re constantly controlling ourselves around food:
- when we can eat
- how much we can eat
- we need to not eat after a certain time
We’re not tuning into our bodies. We are listening to these external rules about our body. We’ve lost complete contact with our body. We don’t listen to our own body’s cues. This creates this mindset of resistance and restriction. Our body is fighting against the rules we think we should be following.
When we say we “should” be doing x, y or z it’s very punishing. We should be eating now. We should have this. It’s all of this pressure and criticism of how we’re eating and we’re not understanding what our body needs.
This is where body acceptance is important.
When we look at a diet to tell us when and how we should eat, we have no body acceptance. We’re not aware of our bodies needs; when it’s truly hungry and needs to eat.
We say that something’s wrong with us and this creates internal resistance, this creates restriction internally. So, of course, we keep punishing and restricting ourselves and we’re not aware of what our body truly needs and we’re not accepting of it.
What we really need:
The way to come back into balance is to learn to tune into our body.
What does our body need?
How does it feel when we eat?
How does it feel when we accept where our body is at and are neutral about it?
How does our body feel when we give it enough rest or we give it enough of what it truly needs to to feel good?
When we’re not criticizing our body, when we’re not saying we have to eat at this time, when we’re not so rigid, how does our body feel? We want to really nourish our body.
3. Emotional Resistance
The third area of resistance that I see is with emotional resistance. As an emotional eater or dieter you use food to control your emotions whenever you’re feeling uncomfortable. You go towards food whether you’re aware of it or not because this pattern is usually developed from when we’re really young. It’s a way to control. We might not be aware of it.
So we’re controlling our emotions and then we use a diet to control our coping mechanism. So we have two layers of resistance here.
When we’re controlling our emotions, we’re not looking at the emotion and what it’s telling us to do. We’re using food to cope so we don’t have to look at the emotion. We really need to get under the emotional eating into the emotion to see what we really need. The thing is that we probably didn’t feel safe feeling our emotions. Eating food meant that we could distract from our emotions.
What we need:
To come back into balance, we need to learn how to feel safe in our bodies and process those emotions. All of those emotions that are not processed and unresolved live in the body. We need to feel safe in the body to process through them.
I do this with clients with somatic meditations. This brings us back into balance. We’re not controlling but allowing our emotions.
And if if we look at each of the 3 areas I’ve talked about we want to move from
- restriction around food to abundance
- from a restrictive mentality towards our body cues to one of acceptance
- from controlling our emotions to allowing them.
These 3 areas are key and important for emotional eaters and chronic desires to get a handle on. Restrictions create stress in the body and stress keeps you away from your health goals. It keeps you away from releasing weight, feeling at ease in your body now and from nourishing yourself.
Everything I’ve mentioned, all of this restriction is very external. We’re saying we have to be a certain way, whereas our body is trying to tell us we need something else and it rebels by going out of control.
If what I’m saying is resonating with you and you were looking for a different way to move past your emotional eating and to ditch dieting, then I’d love to invite you to book in an Emotional Eating Assessment Call. The Emotional Eating Evolution Program goes through all of these areas and can support you. I developed this program through my own trial and error journey with emotional eating. So if you’re ready to commit to yourself, I invite you to book in that call.
Certified Holistic Nutritionist + Emotional Eating Expert.