Following a diet, whether it be counting calories, calculating macros, eating clean, fasting, or following any kind of food rule, is not the answer to feeling more in control around food.

Rather, it’s likely the reason why you feel out of control in the first place.

Safety in diets

There’s a strong sense of safety and control in diets and food rules, and as you move away from your reliance on them, it can feel almost as though you’re flailing and have nothing to grab hold of.

Ironically, this perceived lack of control comes from our reliance on these external guidelines to determine when, what, and how much we can eat.

This leads to a sense of deprivation, as we’re essentially being “told” what to do, instead of making decisions based on our own needs and wants in that moment; something that was innate to us at birth.

As a result, these guidelines cause certain “forbidden” foods to become emotionally charged, and us to feel almost powerless around them.

Meaning, that when we finally “give in” to eating them, we find ourselves eating compulsively and feeling out of control, believing such things as:

  • “I have no control over my sweet tooth…”
  • “I feel like a food addict…”
  • “I obsess about food all day long…”
  • “If I start eating chips, I can’t stop…”
  • “I’m really good all week, but once the weekend comes I lose all control…”

Dieting strengthens our lack of control

What do we do to try to reign ourselves back in? Restrict even harder, which only serves to fuel this cycle.

For many, they don’t know life outside the confines of dieting, and the thought of learning to trust in the guidance of their body, instead of a set of rules, feels completely foreign and even wrong.

Especially for those who:

  • Are put on diets as children
  • Required to finish all the food on their plate, regardless of being full
  • Endure food insecurity
  • Turn to food in an effort to cope with uncomfortable emotions, or during a challenging or uncertain time in their life

All of which are ways that many of us lose that innate trust we were born with, becoming disconnected from ourselves.

Structure, not rules

The last thing I ever want to do is invalidate the safety and control that someone believes dieting and rules provide her. Which is why maintaining some structure around eating cultivates confidence, while decreasing one’s dependence on diets and rules.

The key is to create structure that feels safe, but flexible and satisfying, both mentally and physically for that person.

Little by little, obsessive thoughts fade, confidence is gained, liberation is experienced, and connection to and trust in the body is something we begin to depend on.

None of which has the space to occur as long as we’re holding tight to something outside of ourselves.