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  • Maya

How to stop yo yo dieting (and why it's happening in the first place)

woman standing on bathroom scales worrying about her weight and diet

If you have a history of yo-yo dieting, and believe that the next diet you attempt is somehow going to be the magic bullet that fixes your entire life, listen up.

It’s probably not that you're lacking willpower or discipline. Or that you're just terrible at dieting.

It’s more likely that you have attempted some fad diets that are not only unsustainable, but tend to encourage all-or-nothing behaviour.

You're probably stuck in a particular mindset, with the wrong expectations about how you can make changes that last.

Here are some signs that you're stuck in the all-or-nothing cycle that perpetuates yo-yo dieting:

  • You're either fully ON a diet or fully OFF

  • You easily give up if you're not following a diet plan perfectly

  • You go on very strict diets and exercise routines before events such as parties, weddings or holidays

  • You are 'good' with your eating all week and then 'fall off the wagon' on the weekend

  • You feel that you're unable to stop eating certain trigger foods once you open the packet, and are too fearful to keep them in the house

  • You end up emotional eating and feel deeply regretful afterwards

A lot of people find themselves stuck in a cycle of restriction and overeating, where they feel like they're existing on a swinging pendulum and can't trust or control themselves around food.

The good news is, you can change your thinking around your relationship with food, to end the cycle of yo-yo dieting and experience a balanced, healthy approach to eating.

And it's important to address yo-yo dieting for two big reasons: yo-yo dieting can severely impact someone's body image and self-worth, and frequently fluctuating your weight up and down can also be dangerous to your health.

Let's look at why your current approach and mindset towards dieting probably isn't working for you. Here are 4 reasons:

1. You expect big changes, and you expect them quickly.

Not all goals provide immediate gratification. Unfortunately, the health and fitness industry bombards us with unrealistic examples of how rapidly you can lose weight or change how your body looks. But these examples are often achieved through unrealistic, unsustainable and sometimes dangerous means. Ask yourself: can I see myself doing this over the long term? If the answer is no, then it's highly likely you're going to be hitting the 'nothing' part of 'all or nothing' when the diet becomes hard to maintain.

2. You have unrealistic expectations about staying motivated.

Motivation is not a passive process that can be relied upon. It's often fleeting and inconsistent. By all means, strike while the iron is hot, but don't pick goals that you'll have no desire to perform on days when motivation is low. This is particularly true for goals related to external motivation; goals where are are looking for external validation such as praise from others about our weight loss.

3. You haven't learned to trust yourself around food.

If you have certain foods that you consider trigger foods, foods that you can't trust yourself around or foods that you feel need to be eliminated altogether in order to successfully diet, you may be setting yourself up to fail. Removing temptation foods tends to make them more enticing, resulting in overeating once we give into our cravings. This can reinforce our beliefs that this particular food is one that we can't control ourselves around, and the cycle continues. Instead, working on getting in touch with your internal hunger and fullness cues, as well as learning (and practicing!) to mindfully eat trigger foods can remove the power you feel they hold over you.

4. You are hyper-focused on the outcome and the scale weight.

If you're obsessing over a goal weight or a particular time frame, you're going to be more emotionally reactive every time the scale doesn't change or even goes up (which is totally normal). If relying heavily on scale weight as a form of progress, you'll be engaging with rigid thinking that is strongly associated with diet failure. You'll also be susceptible to allowing this number to ruin your mood, which can have a substantial impact on your food choices.

If you want to start addressing this, I'd recommend bringing in some awareness about the all-or-nothing thinking that you find yourself engaging with when you feel the urge to diet.

Start thinking about food as nourishment, and start paying attention to your internal cues; which foods make me feel good? Which foods give me energy? What is my body telling me? If I'm craving a particular food, why is that happening? What would happen if I ate a small amount of the food I'm craving, without distraction? Is there something else that I need right now, instead of turning to food?

If you'd like some support with your eating habits, and would like to know how to change your behaviour so that you don't have to be in a cycle of overeating and feeling bad about your body, you can book a private 1-to-1 session here.

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