If you know what to do when it comes to eating, movement and weight loss but you just aren’t doing it, the problem isn’t:
- You and your laziness
- Your level of self-control or willpower
The problem is the impact of All or Nothing Dieting, and how it has disconnected you from your body and your feelings, causing you to stop trusting yourself.
Go back and read that again because your inner bully has likely been telling you that your struggle is all your fault.
What is All or Nothing Dieting?
All or Nothing dieting is the traditional way of changing your eating habits. Depending on the specific plan, All or Nothing Dieting may have a variety of rules, foods that are good, or foods that are bad.
The unifying principle with All or Nothing Dieting is the belief that you either have to eat “perfectly” or “what’s the point?”.
3 symptoms of All or Nothing Dieting:
- Swinging between perfection and sliding back to old ways, moderation feels impossible.
- Going over carb, calorie or point targets for the day and thinking, “I blew it already, I’ll eat whatever I want and then start again later.”
- Eating one or two of a treat and then going back to finish the whole box, because you “shouldn’t” have eaten the treat anyway.
Why is All or Nothing Dieting harmful?
The greatest harm caused by All or Nothing Dieting is it stops you from trusting yourself to make consistently healthy choices and feel in control when you do choose to indulge.
Moreover, a recent review in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reveals that self-directed dieting (the same as All or Nothing Dieting) leads to disordered eating and low self-worth, where Medical Nutritional Therapy does not.
Diets don’t work
Furthermore, there is a lot of evidence that All or Nothing diets do not result in long-term sustainable weight loss.
Depending on the specific research study, 80-98% of diets fail.
So why do people keep returning to All or Nothing Dieting time and time again?
One reason is that restricting your food intake is a way to cope with uncomfortable emotions.
3 Ways that All or Nothing Dieting takes you outside of your Zone of Trust
The Zone of Trust is the place where you trust yourself around food. You feel calm and resilient, able to handle what life throws at you and in control of your eating habits.
Inside your Zone of Trust is where you can trust yourself to mindfully indulge and make consistently healthy choices.
Being outside your Zone of Trust makes you susceptible to eating struggles.
When you are struggling with making consistently healthy choices or feeling obsessed with food, that means you are outside your Zone of Trust.
8 Symptoms of being outside your Zone of Trust:
- Binge eating
- Emotional Eating and Stress Eating
- Feeling obsessed with food
- Food addiction
- Emotional outbursts
- Suffering from anxiety and depression
- Using food to “zone out”, also known as dissociating (feels like an emotional wall comes down when you eat or like an out of body experiences)
- Restriction (All or Nothing Dieting)
Restriction is not good for you
I want to make note of the last symptom, restriction. Using restriction to cope with being outside your Zone of Trust occurs when you feel eating (or other events in life not related to food) is out of control and so you buckle down on food and/or your weight to try to feel in control again.
Let me say it again for people in the back: restriction as a coping strategy is not healthy.
It leads to disordered eating and makes it harder to get back into your Zone of Trust because it pumps you full of stress hormones, among other reasons that will get clearer as you read the rest of this blog post.
A history of trauma makes you more susceptible to going outside your Zone of Trust
A history of trauma, whether it be a specific, horrific event (big “T” trauma) or less obvious events that occurred overtime or were personal in nature (little “t” trauma) can make it much easier to leave the Zone of Trust and much harder to get back in.
In fact, those who have a history of trauma and/or PTSD are more likely to develop obesity and binge eating disorder. Which is why I have based my Zone of Trust on Dan Siegel’s Window of Tolerance model for understanding the impact of trauma on the nervous system.
Most women I work with in my Courage to Trust Method have a trauma history, although for some it is less obvious. So here’s a few examples of things I would define as traumatic that my clients are often impacted by:
- Being put on a diet at a young age (the implication being living in a larger body means you are less worthy of love and connection).
- Chronic All or Nothing dieting over the years, each time feeling like a failure and impacting your self-worth.
- Witnessing and being shaped by a parent’s disordered relationship with food.
#1 All or Nothing Dieting Changes your Biology & Hormonal Patterns
Changes occurring on a hormonal and cellular level influence weight gain and the feeling of food obsession.
The first way All or Nothing Dieting changes your biology is through Forbidden Food Syndrome.
Forbidden Food Syndrome is why you feel like you have a petulant preschooler living inside whose only goal in life is to scarf more cookies than the Cookie Monster.
This petulant preschooler is not borne out of your immaturity, or some fault of your own, but rather the “nothing” part of All or Nothing Dieting, where a food is “off limits” on your plan.
The result of thinking of food as “bad” and “off limits” is that your brain sends out more dopamine which causes you to obsess about the forbidden food and motivates you to seek it out.
Side note: I help women create a supportive relationship with these previously “off limits” foods all the time so that the Forbidden Food Syndrome isn’t activated by setting healthy boundaries around food, check out my Courage to Trust Method to find out how to work with me.
All or Nothing Dieting can increase stress hormones in the body, leading to a decrease in metabolism.
All or Nothing Dieting can raise stress hormones in the body, and research shows that more stress means more indulging in high fat and high sugar foods.
Dieting can also slow your metabolism, leading to weight gain and the potential to restrict as a coping mechanism. In my experience, dieting itself can be traumatic, causing anxiety around stepping on the scale and using tools like tracking.
#2: All or Nothing Dieting makes you feel bad about yourself.
It tells you that it’s your fault when the diet doesn’t work (which I’ve already proven isn’t true) and shames you for weight gain.
That shame results in isolation, feeling alone, and making it harder to get help each time you feel like you have failed.
Those self-critical thoughts impact your quality of life, making social situations, shopping for clothes, and looking in the mirror while washing your hands hard.
All or Nothing Dieting sucks!! Who’s with me?
#3: All or Nothing Dieting Disconnects you From your Physical and Emotional Needs
With All or Nothing Dieting, you lose touch of your physical hunger and satiety cues when they are ignored in favor of food rules. This is especially true if All or Nothing dieting has trained you to believe that feeling hungry is a good thing because it means you will lose weight.
Emotional cues are also lost when you learn that food works so well to numb your feelings when you slide back into indulgence with All or Nothing dieting. This leads to emotional eating.
Sometimes food works so well that you aren’t even aware of the underlying emotional need causing the eating.
Oftentimes, people think they eat out of habit or mindlessly eat, or eat to “zone out”, but in my experience, there is almost always an underlying emotional or physical need that food is meeting.
The Problem isn’t You. It’s All or Nothing Dieting.
My hope is that by now you can see the problem you are having in regards to food obsession and weight gain is not your personal failing.
The problem is that All or Nothing Dieting stops you from trusting yourself around food by kicking you outside your Zone of Trust and that leads to the phenomenon of knowing exactly what to do and struggling to make any changes.
If you’re ready to discover an alternative to All or Nothing Dieting, check out my Courage to Trust Method and book a call to see if you are a good fit.