Why You're Diet Hopping & What it Can Tell You About Yourself
Most women who want to lose weight have been in this place. And it sucks.
Diet hopping is when we can’t stick with just one diet, and find ourselves going from paleo to vegan, high carb to keto, and then we tell ourselves, “OK, I’ll just eat intuitively.“
But then that doesn’t work, either.
It makes us feel like we are failures because we can’t “stick to it”. We end up feeling unmotivated, undisciplined, and we feel burdened by our bodies and our desires.
Today I’m challenging you to look at your relationship with your body and with food differently. First things first: there is NOTHING wrong with you. There are specific and smart reasons why we find ourselves in this space, and it’s not because we’re undisciplined or looking for a quick fix.
What we are looking for is OURSELVES and where WE fit in within the world. The list below explains what diet hopping means and what it can tell us about how we’re currently navigating life AND meal time.
1. What was working for us once upon a time isn’t working for us anymore. We all have that one diet, or that one period of time in our life where it all felt easy and we looked and felt great. Bodies change, though. Everything that is alive, moves, and so nothing stays the same. We have to be willing to move with life and not look back or hold onto what worked in the past.
This can be very scary. In an uncertain world, many of us tend to hold on tightly to what we feel we can control, and for a lot of us food is one of those things. If you find yourself diet hopping, know that this is a sensible, intelligent response to the observation that what worked in the past isn’t working anymore. It’s not you. Your body is telling you something.
2. We need more freedom & variety. Almost all diets cut out something in order for it to be effective. For many of us, this is also why most diets end up being ineffective long term. It doesn’t make sense to give up any whole food group forever, unless we are having a reaction to it. For example, low carb diets ask you to give up fruits and whole grains, two foods that work really well for a lot of people, while vegan diets ask you to give up all animal foods, even though many of these animal foods work really well for some people.
I remember being at the farmers market in the fall when I was on a low carb, anti-candida diet and just the smell of an apple filled me up with so much forbidden desire I could have cried right there at the market stand. Looking back, I can’t believe I was so strict with what I could consume and so dead-set against what I desired.
When we cut out things completely, we tend to gravitate toward imbalance. I did that low carb, anti-candida diet for years, so it took me a little while (years) to have a more balanced relationship with fruit and carbs in general, but eventually I found a more solid place with it, and it’s not such a big deal anymore.
When we jump from diets that seem to be on polar opposite ends of the spectrum, such as paleo and a low fat diet, it’s really likely that BOTH diets are cutting out things we actually need and benefit from, at least in smaller amounts. Moderation and listening, rather than following rigid plans, is probably an important lesson here. Listen to what your behavior is trying to tell you.
3. Our current life situation is mirroring the diet situation: too many options, none that really make sense for YOU. Diet and life hopping are self-defeating practices and it’s important that we find a comfortable place where we can hang out, even just for the interim so that we are not constantly changing things up, never feeling any relief from symptoms or excess weight, and convincing ourselves that we are a failure.
Look at your life and see where else there are options that are weighing you down. While there is freedom in choices, choices that don’t work for you don’t offer any freedom at all. You don’t want to make a choice that feels more like a cage than opportunity.
See what does work within your options and go with that.
4. Observe your relationship with rules and authority. Often our relationship with food mirrors our relationship with life. If we feel trapped in life, we often end up trapped in diet land too, or trapped within our bodies and with food in general.
If the only way you feel safe or in control of your life is by sticking to a diet, it’s time to get reflective and observe your life and see what needs to change. Look into your past and see where you often felt a lack of safety or trust as a child. Often times, people who struggle the most with food were required to be more mature and more nurturing to parents or siblings when they were children themselves and as a result have few boundaries and not a clear understanding of how to have their own needs met. These are really confusing emotions for a child to experience, and it often results in wanting to cling to food, rules, or other addictions to feel safe or to have a sense of escape from reality.
Also, sometimes dieting can be a convenient escape from reality, so be sure you have a clear understanding of what you’re really trying to accomplish with your current diet(s).
5. When there are two options you can’t choose, make your own third option. And make it work for you. This is key, my friends. You may be a person who finds the perfect type diet for you right now, laid out in a book by a guru somewhere, or you may be a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. If you are going back and forth between numerous diets, it’s unlikely that any of them actually work for you. Take what works for you from each one and create your own thing.
Don’t be scared of messing up, messing up is a part of learning, creating, and growing. All the good things in life involve plenty of messing up and plenty of mistakes. But you can do it.
As for me, I don’t diet anymore. There are certain foods I avoid because I don’t like how they make me feel, and there are certain practices I employ because I love how they make me feel, but my diet hopping days are over.
I’ve allowed my body the space to breathe and choose amongst countless decisions and revisions.
After decades of playing games with food and holding a certain number on the scale like a carrot over my head (that I’d reach just after this next cleanse, just after thirty days, or eight weeks on “X” diet), it feels damn good and very grounded to be where I am right now: a slave to nothing - no rigid rules, no socially prescribed ideas about what is OK or what my body needs to look like, and no reason to feel like I’m failing at diets or life.
I’m still making a lot of mistakes, but that is life, and I am learning to fall in love with all of it.