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Breaking the Cycle

June 28, 2012 by Andrea Godfreyson, Registered Dietitian

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In the heat of summer (and sometimes when it just isn’t raining – we will take what we can get on the coast), there is a sea of fit scantily clad bodies covering the sand at the beach by my house. Observing this day after day, it would be easy to let my mind to wander and start to compare myself.

It takes effort to put aside thoughts of considering restricting certain foods to meet this perceived ideal. I don’t think I am alone in this. Many people I have spoken to seem to relate and have struggled with similar thoughts at some point.

Unfortunately, the mere suggestion of avoiding a food often makes us want that food even more. Strict food restrictions can set us up for failure.

No matter how successfully we avoid a food we have deemed to be “forbidden,” when we do eventually end up eating it, we often blame ourselves for failing to resist temptation and feel guilty. We may blame ourselves for not having self control or willpower and start to feel like we don’t deserve to lose weight or meet our goals. These negative feelings can make us want to give up the restriction altogether and give in to satisfy feelings of deprivation.

When we do give up the restriction and allow ourselves to be “comforted” by the food we have been missing, it’s common that we gain the weight back - sometimes even more than when we started. We may be left back at the starting gate feeling even worse about ourselves than when we began. Overall, it’s a messy cycle that isn’t helpful and can be destructive.

Dieting and restriction can sometimes seem like a good idea, especially when we feel pressure for quick results. Understanding the cycle of deprivation, guilt and shame is helpful to start disengaging from it. Not that it is easy, but awareness allows us the opportunity to try something different.  Finding lifestyle changes that make us feel good while we are celebrating and improving our health will help break the cycle and are more likely to have lasting effects.

This is an entry in our series exploring healthy weights, weight management, and feelings around food and eating with respect to weight. We welcome you to take part in the discussion and share your stories.


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