“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.
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.