I heard someone say the other day that nobody stays on Weight Watchers for longer than a year or two. Well, my mom has been on Weight Watchers for over 20 years. For as long as I can remember, she has obsessed about her weight and been on one diet or another, but Weight Watchers has been the diet that has deprived her of enjoying food for over 20 years. Of course, I couldn’t see that until I stopped dieting myself and just started eating, but now it’s very clear that my mom has always stressed out about every bite of food she puts in her mouth. She’s always talking about how many points something is, and for a while she didn’t want to go out and eat for celebrations because it stressed her out too much. I wonder if she’s every really enjoyed a good meal without thinking about the points and beating herself up?
Diets Can Make Your Relationship With Food Unhealthy
In my experience, diets like Weight Watchers will drive you insane. You need to count the points and stay within a certain range if you want to lose or maintain your weight.
If you go over your points, you beat yourself up. You stress out. You worry about how much weight you are going to gain. And that doesn’t feel good.
Because of that, you start to aim to eat under your points, which feels better at the end of the day, but means you need to plan your meals out meticulously, and instead of enjoying your food, you view it as points that are taking away from other points that you could be eating.
And, eventually you become crazy when it comes to food. You don’t want to eat a cookie because it will take away too many points from your daily total. And if you do eat a cookie, you stress yourself out. Of course, stress can cause weight gain and make it hard to lose weight, so this becomes a vicious cycle that eats away at your soul and success.
You never just sit down and enjoy a meal.
I’ve been where my mom is because I’ve tried Weight Watchers. It became an obsession to count points. I did lose weight, but that’s only because I was eating so little food in my day that there was no way I could maintain my weight! I got a thrill out of seeing myself hit under my daily points, and the smaller the number, the better I felt. I was hungry, but the numbers I was seeing helped me hold out until my next few bites of food. Eventually I realized how crazy I had gotten. I was limiting foods that I enjoyed, messing with my daily nutritional needs, and eating too many diet foods that were unhealthy for me.
I feel horrible for her now as she talks about gaining .2 pounds that week and, because of that, stresses out about the food we are eating.
She was recently talking about how they’ve introduced new ‘free foods’, which I think is great – but she still obsesses about everything because that’s what she’s known for so long.
What really eats me up is that she may never get off this crazy train. She’s been on Weight Watchers since her 40s. It seems to be a habit that she can’t let go of.
Maybe other people are benefiting from diets like Weight Watchers in a positive way. Maybe they are learning how to eat healthier and stop overeating. But, for most people I know, the points is the focus and eating becomes mostly about points and not about pleasure or nutrition.
Sometimes Diets Can Teach You How To Eat Better
I’m not totally knocking all diets. I’ve seen a trend of new diets that focus on eating healthy foods that offer nutrition and work with your hormones to help you become healthier and lose weight at the same time. They don’t force people to count calories. These are the diets I can get behind because they are not so much about dieting as they are about eating better.
I know that people like my mom who have started to become unsure about what foods are actually good for you and not, could benefit from some of these new diets. They teach people how certain nutrients interact with the body and how to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need for your specific needs – taking into account your health, lifestyle habits, etc.
But Usually They Just Make You Feel Restricted
I know that as a vegan who avoids processed foods and foods with artificial ingredients as much as possible, saying that diets can make you restricted may sound off. But I don’t stress out about foods that contain some fat or sweetener like people on a diet. I make the best choices I can, but I have room for all kinds of foods in my diet and I don’t feel restricted at all.
In other words, I don’t restrict myself from foods that I want to have. As long as they are vegan and not made up of chemicals, I will eat them!
I have never met one person on a diet who doesn’t restrict themselves from something they want to have. I’ve seen people restrict themselves from important nutrients like fat (which is something their body wants to have, not just them), deny themselves any food that is sweet, cut pizza completely out of their diet, and avoid certain snack foods like the plague. Diets almost always causes more stress than good.
Going On A Strict Diet Often Makes You Gain Weight
One thing I’ve experienced and noticed is that going on a diet almost always makes you gain weight.
First you decide to go on a diet and set a date.
Next you eat as much as you can of the foods you really want to eat, but won’t be able to eat on your diet, and you gain a few pounds in the process.
Then you lose the weight you gained as you stay committed to your new diet for a week or two.
Then it becomes too hard to stick to the diet and you go off the diet and gain back the weight you lost – and often a little more
In the end, you weigh more than you did before you decided to go on a diet.
It’s the feeling of being restricted before and during a diet that makes you gain weight. And that’s why I think getting rid of that feeling is important.
Education And Mindset Help You Make Good Lifestyle Choices
In my experience, it really boils down to education and mindset.
When you know which foods are good for you specifically, then you will understand which foods you need to eat.
For instance, dairy was making me sick. I didn’t know it until I started to educate myself about how dairy can be an allergen and cause a whole host of problems in the body. It explained my bloating, fatigue, and other symptoms that you don’t need to know about. Once I quit eating dairy, all of those symptoms cleared up and I felt better and I lost weight easily!
I educated myself on different aspects of my diet and each insight helped me tweak the way I eat to maximize my health.
I strongly feel that everyone should do the same thing. You may respond to certain foods differently than I do. Certain foods may be causing inflammation in your body and making it hard to lose weight – even when you think you are doing everything right. By eliminating those foods, you may find it much easier to shed weight or maintain your weight loss.
By educating yourself on which foods make you feel good and which foods make you feel bad, you can create your own diet (way of eating) that works for you.
Once you educate yourself, developing a mindset that you want to eat in a way that encourages both health and happiness is important.
With the right mindset, you won’t feel like you are restricting yourself from foods. If you believe certain foods are bad for you, then you won’t feel deprived if you don’t eat them. You will find alternatives that you like just as much or more.
For instance, I loved dairy cheese, but once I realized that it was had been doing harm to my body, I didn’t feel like I was missing it. I started to view vegan cheese as a great alternative, and that helped me experiment with many different recipes and products and ultimately find some alternatives that I love!
The Diet Struggle Disappears When You Learn What’s Good For You And Change Your Mindset
I feel like I know what’s good for my body and what’s not. And, it’s not a struggle for me to eat good foods because I view them as good and delicious.
My mindset towards whole foods (which is what my diet mostly consists of) is much different than it was 20 years ago.
Back then, I thought whole foods were gross and processed foods were delicious, so that belief dictated how I ate and how deprived I felt when I went on diets that contained whole foods!
Now I just eat. I don’t count calories or points. I eat good foods that make me feel good. I eat mindfully. And I enjoy every single bite that I take!
I can’t tell you how freeing it is to eat this way. And I highly recommend it!