How dieting leads to overeating

“How often do you diet?”, “Are you conscious of your food intake?”, “Do you try to eat less than you would like to at mealtimes?”, “Is your weight an important factor in your food choices?” All these questions are forms of weight concerns that may give you an idea about your body image and your relation to food.

It is well known that most dieters are women. Why? Simply because women usually like to be fit in order to wear this tight skirt or this sexy red dress. Being unable to do so may cause frustration and lead to body dissatisfaction, which results in dieting as a mean to regain some control. However, what we fail to realize, is that dieting and restrained eating, may paradoxically promote overeating.

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Many types of food are restricted / prohibited when dieting. When you cross the diet boundary (by eating something “forbidden”), you feel guilty and chances are that you would start consuming more food than none dieters, to mask anxiety, regardless of the palatability of the food. Moreover, suppression may make the thought that you are trying to restrain (by not eating) more salient. So as soon as food is denied, it becomes banned and therefore desired and consumed more.

When we hear dieters, and especially women, talk about food and diet, we notice that the concept of self-control is always latent in their speech; which means that eating reflects a breakdown in this control. This can lead to a low self-esteem, since they feel unable to control something as “simple” as food.

Here are few tips to help you overcome overeating as a result of dieting:

– When you consume sugar and fatty food, endorphins and dopamine are released and signal a pleasurable experience. It stimulates you to repeat this enjoyable and satisfying experience and to eat more of that type of food. Any simple cue (the smell of a similar food, the sight of a restaurant’s advertising…) would trigger the positive feeling you had when you consumed this type of food and so it becomes a habit; you eat without being hungry and without being able to control it. Once it becomes a habit, you would need something higher in fat and sugar to get the same feeling of pleasure. Whenever you feel the need to eat something, ask yourself these questions before eating: “Am I really hungry? What triggered my craving for this food? Does it remind me of a similar enjoyable experience”.

– Keep in mind that if you overindulge by eating something fatty every now and then, you will not gain weight if you keep a certain balance the next couple of days.

– After a splurge, get back on track straight away, instead of thinking: “Since I blew my diet today, I’ll continue doing so till next Monday, and then I’ll go back to it”. You’ll get stuck in a vicious circle that might be really hard to break.

– Exercise regularly and enjoy it! The boost of energy you gain after exercising is beneficial for your mood and your health.

– Never skip meals to compensate for the extra calories you took the previous day.

– Plan your meals ahead of time, in order to avoid situations where you would overeat and choose junk foods.

– Record your food intake to be conscious of what you’re eating.

– Do not completely suppress yourself from any type of food and learn to eat reasonably.

– Do not forget that your body needs some time (around 20 min) to tell your brain that you’re full.  Eat slowly and enjoy every bite!

Finally, stay positive and self-confident. Your beauty is not measured by your physical appearance.

6 Replies to “How dieting leads to overeating”

  1. I’ve been watching my weight–many ups and downs–for 40+years and I always resort to counting calories. I make it kind of a game that I enjoy winning. Eventually, it gets old and I drop it for awhile, i.e. the holidays and cruises but I eventually start to gain weight and start counting calories again. Not sure if this is the best way to “live” but it works for me.

    1. If it works for you then that’s great! The problem with weightloss tips and techniques is that they don’t work out the same for everybody. So if you found what works for you, then by all means keep at it 🙂

  2. The reasons why most dieters are women is not SIMPLY due to the fact that “women usually like to be fit in order to wear this tight skirt or this sexy red dress.”
    It is actually much more related to the fact that society pressures women, much more than men, to have the so-called perfect look as seen in fashion magazines, ads and other billboards.
    Most women aren’t fat and yet they diet because society mirrors a distorted image of them if they do not abide by the fitness criteria defined by fashion, models and magazines.
    I think it is important to state that widely renown fact, instead of putting it “as simply as” fitting is some kind of dress of skirt…

    1. Well directly or indirectly, it leads all to the same idea. The want to have the so-called perfect look by being able to wear that dress or skirt that has been spotted in the fashion magazines. But, honestly I feel that men as well as getting that pressure these days. They are becoming obsessed about their bodies and are using all kinds of injections and plastic surgeries.

    2. Thank you for your reply. You’re right. Everyone has to find their own strategy.

      I find that I get addicted to counting calories/losing weight as a flipside to the occasional food frenzy phase. I am happiest when I am losing weight. I know that that shouldn’t be what life is about but it makes me feel successful. Losing alot of weight when I was 16 was the highlight of my life back then. I was a celebrity at school and around my family. “How did you do it?’……compliments, attention every day, etc. Until I almost became anorexic before anyone heard of anorexia. I snapped out of it and was pretty balanced until I went to college and gained the freshman 15, then 30, then 50………….and was mad at myself for abandoning and burying that thin person I was. (I think I was bored……)

      I love the feeling of waking up “thinner” every day…..a new me. I get a little depressed when I reach my goal or know I am getting too skinny. “Now what?” Maintaining weight can be boring. You still have to watch what you eat but you don’t get all the satisfaction and rewards. So I guess that’s why I gain some weight back and the cycle starts over again.

      Charlotte, excellent point. I struggled with this. I couldn’t figure out if I was so “thin” why didn’t I look good in white pants or shorts?? It was frustrating. Self-acceptance of one’s body type and God given features is the key.

      1. Well, it seems to me that you love a challenge and want to maintain a goal when it comes to your weight. Maybe when you do reach your target weight, it would be a good idea to take up a new sport and start getting better at it. Maybe some dancing or yoga. This way you put yourself some new goals that are indirectly focused on you weight but also it keeps you busy getting better at something.

        Would that work?

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