Anyone who has been on a diet (or like me, a hundred diets) knows all too well what a “perfect” meal plan for the day is supposed to look like. Here is a typical example:
Egg whites (cooked with pan spray)
Black coffee or plain tea
Salad with grilled chicken and lemon wedge (no dressing)
Plain iced tea
½ cup rice
Totally depressing, right? Unfortunately this is the type of diet plan we’ve been told to follow for years, and one we think we should follow still in order to get results.
Well, those who keep going back to restrictive diets like this are getting results—just not the results they intended. Quite the opposite, actually.
I see this with new clients all the time. Though I don’t offer them a diet to follow, right away my clients’ food journals start off looking like the meal plan above. But then it’s only a matter of time before they crack and the overeating (especially of sweets) starts to fill their food journals. Most of their overeating happens at night—after they have struggled all day to “be good.”
Once the food frenzy is over, they tell me about the shame and guilt they feel for overeating and tend to get down on themselves for having no willpower. I am quick to offer relief by helping them see what’s really going on.
A common theme I have noticed in most of my clients is that in their diet history, they have previously adhered to a diet plan that was so restrictive it caused them to become obsessed with food to the point of uncontrollable binging and/or hiding food and eating in secret.
The experience of extreme deprivation and subsequent rapid weight gain was so traumatic for them that their internal alarm bells go off the minute they put themselves back on any kind of regime that resembles a diet. They instinctively rebel by overeating. It’s not a lack of willpower—it’s a protective reflex.
When I look at meal plans like the one above, the first thing I notice is that it’s not that much food. I also notice that it’s plain and boring. For many, just looking at a diet plan like this brings up feelings of scarcity. That feeling of scarcity is the very thing that drives overeating.
And let’s be clear: they are not sneak-eating grilled chicken and broccoli. They are choosing foods like candy, cookies, chips, or ice cream. They eat the very foods they tell themselves they can’t have. Does this sound familiar?
If this is resonating with you, let me share with you what I teach my clients:
- Start with a clean slate. Leave all those past diet-y meal plans in the past. Those meal plans were never your meal plans anyway. They were created by someone else and do not take into account your personal likes and preferences.
- Focus on NOURISHING your body. Dieting equates to the removal of food choices (scarcity), but the act of adding in nourishment feels abundant. You know your body best, so build your personal meal plan based on foods your body thrives on. Be sure to incorporate your favorite fun foods, too! Knowing you can have them feels good and eliminates the need to fixate on them.
- Eat luscious food. Luscious food is the kind of food that not only satisfies your need for fuel, but that also satisfies your palate. When you eat boring, tasteless food, it’s not long before you are rummaging through the cupboards for something else with FLAVOR. It doesn’t matter if you are not hungry; you want to feel satisfied. By eating luscious foods to begin with, you end up eating less overall than if you ate junk food on top of diet food.
Switching from a scarcity (diet) mindset to an abundant (nourishing) mindset will take some practice and the transition is not meant to be perfect. You may still overeat from time to time as you are figuring this out and that’s okay. When this happens, I invite you to be kind to yourself and remind yourself that this is a process. Just keep moving forward, focusing on abundance and nourishment.
Did your body relax just now when you thought of abundance and nourishment?
Mine sure did!