Stay off the Diet Swing
This July my family attended camp together. One of the activities, that my kids only watched, was called the Giant Swing. I strapped myself into a harness, donned a helmet and watched the space between my feet and the earth grow rapidly as I was pulled up up up toward the trees. When I decided I was high enough in the air, I pulled a cord and whooosh! Down I went into a … giant swing…weee…from one high point to the other…weee! There I am below on one of the descents.
Like with all swings, if you descend from a high point, you’re going to end up in the nearly opposite high point very soon. That’s what swinging is about. We all know this since childhood.
It’s very similar with diets. Nobody starts a diet expecting a ride on a swing, but that’s almost always what you end up getting. Even extreme diets (super low calorie shake plans, grapefruit-only-for breakfast, cabbage soup all day long) often feel exciting at the beginning. But a diet is a diet is a diet (even if it seems “healthy”) as long as it tells you what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat.
Finally today, I’m going to start eating clean. No more junk! No more excuses.
So you plan out your from-scratch meals: breakfasts, lunches, dinners. You go grocery shopping, skip the snack aisle, say no to bread, thaw your chicken breasts, feel awesome as you chop a mound of veggies on Sunday. Meal prepping is fun! I never need to eat sugar again because in Ketosis I trust!
But inevitably, gravity (reality) takes hold and down you fall. A child gets the tummy bug, you’re plowing through a project, you go on vacation, it’s a holiday season, you lose a job, you get a job, you plan a birthday party, you miss bread. You move farther and farther from the high of cookie cutter eating and start eating cookies again and suddenly you notice you’re on the other side.
Now you’re eating all the “junk” again. But only after 2pm. You don’t even bother with food in the morning. You’re driving through McDonald’s on the way home from school pick-up. You haven’t had a sit down “meal” in days because you can barely find time to shower and brush your teeth, nevermind leisurely chopping vegetables and remembering to start the slow cooker. So you munch on chips and soda while you clean your kitchen and your kids inhale their chicken nuggets.
Once you notice this, you feel terrible. Guilt and shame envelope you. You blame yourself. Why can’t I be disciplined and organized? Why do sweets have so much power over me? Clearly I’m a sugar addict.
You’d love to eat clean again, but maybe in a few weeks when things settle down. Because you really want to do it right this time.
Here comes the swiiiiiing…
But maybe the ketogenic diet isn’t the right one for me. I just need to cut out the BAD carbs. Back to the drawing board. The Pinterest board. Fill up with ideas. Clean out your cupboard. Shop anew. Cauliflower crust pizza, low carb bread, 30 lbs of greens, new blender, perfectly portioned tupperware. Now I’m set! This is it. No going back. #newlifestyle. #healthy
You’re back at the top of the swing…feeling high on freshness and new beginnings. Ready for your beach body to emerge and your skin to rewind to 19.
But what goes up, must come down. Here comes that swiiiiing again.
The swing from rigid dieting has nowhere to go but to the land of chaos and poor self-care. The strictness of dieting is hard mentally and physically. So the mind and body push back and you end up throwing all self-care away because it’s impossible to keep up the diet version. But not taking care of yourself doesn’t feel good either. Now you think you just need to try harder being “good” or look for a different diet. A different set of rules.
But a thorn by any other name is still a thorn.
The best solution to keep from swinging between diet extremes is really simple. Stay off the diet swing. Just don’t get on. (Go to a park and ride a real swing if you want a little exhilaration, maybe try zip-lining)
Instead of dieting, learn to trust your body and make eating decisions from the inside out. There’s no swinging in grounded, intuitive, autonomous eating.
But if you have a long history of dieting and restriction, this isn’t necessarily easy. You may need some “diet detox” support. Both to keep you from falling for another diet again and to help you learn to take care of yourself with food in a realistic, sustainable, enjoyable way.
Because it’s OKAY to care about your body, your health.
Here are some books you might find helpful:
Here are some podcasts you might enjoy:
Depending on where you live, I’m also available to help you navigate Intuitive Eating virtually or in-person. Book a free 15-min discovery call so we can chat more about what you’re struggling with and what it might look like to work together.