How To Stop Dieting, Eat Normally And Lose Weight
If you have a tendency to overeat, you’re fed up with going on restrictive diets, you want to eat in a more balanced way, lose weight or control your weight long-term, then take a look at the 20 tips below, based on advice I give my clients.
Many people approach me saying they’ve had enough of dieting, but they’re still overweight and want to just start eating ‘normally’.
What is normal eating?
A good place to start is to work on a more ‘middle-way’ approach, where you avoid swinging between restrictive eating and overeating (eg being ‘on’ or ‘off’ a diet). It’s also important to stop labelling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, because when we eat ‘bad’ foods we can feel a sense of failure. Food isn’t bad, it’s the way we approach it that’s the issue. You might also need to work on any ‘crooked’ or extreme thinking and behaviours you’ve developed from years of dieting.
Restriction leads to bingeing so ‘ditch the strict’
We will always be hard-wired to enjoy fatty, sugary foods, so we need a realistic approach. It’s really ok to eat a couple of biscuits from time to time. Being able to eat just two biscuits and feel satisfied with that amount is what clients tell me they’d love to strive for – it’s a midway point between eating a whole packet of biscuits and not allowing yourself any biscuits at all. Because restriction can lead to bingeing, it’s really important to give yourself permission to enjoy foods you love in a moderate way. By ditching strict, rigid rules, by slowing down our eating, focusing on the food in front of us and savouring it, food becomes more satisfying and we learn to become more satisfied with less food. With mindless overeating there’s often little enjoyment.
Slow down and put some thought into what you eat
Mindful eating is about enjoying food whilst nourishing the body. But we’re never aiming for perfect eating – it doesn’t exist! Flexibility is key, as well as engaging the brain and self-awareness. Eating on autopilot whilst rushing around is so easy to do. By slowing down, putting some thought into what to eat and how much to eat and being aware of our triggers to eat/overeat (such as emotional eating or fast eating), we can become less reliant on diets, eat in a more balanced way and be more prepared for any eating occasion. We can all find strategies to help us eat in a way that’s in our own best interest- you just need to put some commitment into creating your own personalised way of eating. Get curious about your eating, without being judgemental.
If you want to address overeating, stop dieting, eat normally and lose weight, which of the following tips would you benefit from focusing on? Don’t try them all at once- baby steps!
- Identify and address your eating triggers (people, places, situations, mindset).
- If you want to lose weight, don’t follow diet rules. Restrictive diets can lead to bingeing and cause a poor relationship with food. They are usually unsustainable and often provide only short-term results. Create your own personalised way of eating instead- personal guidelines for clarity and focus (eg reduce portions, 2 courses not 3 when eating out, eating dinner before 8pm, eating only when hungry, dessert or alcohol-free days).
- Don’t just have a weight loss goal, address your relationship with food too. Address emotional eating, if you’re regularly overeating.
- Avoid all-or-nothing thinking and behaviours around food (such as weekday restraint and weekend overindulgence, no biscuits vs. the whole packet). Aim for ‘middle-way’ eating (eg savouring and feeling satisfied with just two biscuits).
- There is no right or wrong way to eat, no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods– it’s how much of a food you eat and how often you eat it that counts. Eating ‘bad’ foods can fuel guilt and shame. Give yourself permission to eat foods you enjoy in a mindful way- if we don’t allow ourselves foods we love we will only crave them.
- Adopt a more flexible attitude around eating vs. a rigid ‘shoulds and musts’ mindset or too many rules. Stop policing yourself around food- rigid rules are unsustainable, and rules can lead to rebellion! Avoid ‘perfect’ eating- it doesn’t exist. Don’t think you’ve blown it if a meal doesn’t go according to plan- use the next mealtime to make a better food decision/eat less. Make adjustments-think of your eating as a bank balance: if you overspend (overeat), spend (eat) a bit less over the next few days.
- Enjoy your food: with mindless eating there is often little enjoyment. Avoid eating whilst overly distracted (eg TV eating). When we notice what we’re eating, food is more satisfying, enabling us to feel satisfied with a moderate amount. Be present with food, savour the taste- learn to enjoy less food more.
- Tune in to your body’s needs: notice when you’re hungry and full, what kind of food your body might need. Are you thirsty? Respond to those internal cues; don’t be overly influenced by external cues (such as the sight/proximity of food, others eating).
- Balance your blood sugar levels to stabilise appetite and insulin levels (insulin is a fat storage hormone). Add some protein and/or dietary fats to meals and snacks (eg nuts, dark chocolate, avocado, oily fish, healthy oils, eggs, cheese, meat, poultry, pulses (eg chickpeas- houmous) to avoid large blood sugar peaks and dips.
- Self-care: make decisions that are in your own best interest, most of the time (including food choices, getting adequate sleep, stress management, communicating and getting your needs met). Give yourself choice and permission. Watch out for that inner critic! Self-criticism can make us feel a ‘failure’, which can affect motivation.
- Be aware of unhelpful ‘autopilot’ behaviours- engage the decision-making part of the brain (think before you eat). ‘Power in the pause’. Am I hungry? Shall I eat this snack now, or is lunch approaching? Will this food taste as good as it looks? Am I still enjoying this or is it time to stop? Will this food keep me going or will I go looking for more food? Slow down- fast eating is linked to overeating.
- Consider the big picture: lifestyle (eg stress levels, sleep), personality, mindset (eg attitudes, beliefs, nutritional knowledge, self-awareness), self-concept, physical/mental health status, unaddressed needs, childhood, behavioural (eg portions, speed of eating, plate clearer) etc- all factors impacting eating habits and a person’s relationship with food. Self-awareness and self-care, self-compassion therefore key for positive change.
- Be more discerning– eat what you really want to eat and pass on the rest.
- Stock up: have a good variety of foods at home to inspire you to eat in a healthy and balanced way. Make a shopping list and stick to it (don’t fall for special offers on unhealthy, processed, high calorie foods and the way food is presented- food marketing).
- Avoid getting overly hungry as this can lead to mindless overeating and poor food choices. Carry a healthy snack in your bag. If your eating is erratic, try to plan and structure your meals and snacks.
- Notice and address any non-hunger eating, eg boredom eating, stress eating, secret eating, anger/frustration eating, reward eating, procrastination eating, see-food-and-eat it eating, other emotional or comfort eating.
- Watch out for excuses you might regularly use to eat, eg “It’s only the one biscuit”, “I’ve eaten most of the packet so I might as well eat the rest”, “I can’t let the food on my plate go to waste”, “I don’t have time to cook healthy meals”.
- Try calorie-‘shaving’ (eg have regular coffees not lattes, leave some food on your plate, only eat desserts at weekends, cut a small slice of cake, drink from smaller glasses).
- Consistency: keep practising new behaviours to embed new habits (make sure they’re achievable, realistic and enjoyable). Baby steps: try just 1-2 new things each week.
- Journal, eg mood and food links; complete exercises, eg: “I’m eating this because…..”
Try experimenting with new ways of eating, and remember to be consistent- there’s no point in doing something really well for two weeks and then going back to old habits! If you make a commitment to adopting more balanced, mindful eating, you should be able to tackle overeating, stop dieting, eat normally and lose weight in the process.
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