Healthy Eating for Your Active Lifestyle

What is the diet mentality?

It’s the mindset that tells you to cut back, restrict and eliminate foods in order to lose or maintain weight. It’s using rules such as no eating after 7:00 p.m. or putting food into categories of good and bad to control eating. The diet mentality is sneaky and subtle as it works its way into how you eat and view food.

Do any of these behaviours sound familiar? 

  • Cutting back on carbs to shed a few pounds
  • Following clean eating guidelines (more likely rules) 
  • Not eating after supper, regardless of hunger
  • Examining every food label to ensure it meets your standards
  • Running an extra mile to make up for last night’s treat
  • Scheduling cheat days 
  • Using coffee or water in place of a snack to hold you over until lunch
  • Measuring out or weighing food to control intake 

Most of us can relate to at least one of these. It’s easy to consider them as normal or even healthy. I mean, who doesn’t want to eat clean? Seems harmless. Right? 

It’s hard on your mind

So what’s the issue? For some, these thoughts and behaviours are fleeting. For others, they control eating to a point that makes it difficult. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle, dabbling here and there with dieting thoughts and behaviours. However, the diet mentality affects a normal relationship with food and can lead to negative psychological consequences such as the following:

  • guilt and fear around food
  • feelings of failure when standards aren’t met
  • undue focus on body shape, size and weight

…and just as hard on your body

As we slip into dieting mode and start to restrict food (whether it’s through a traditional diet or through our own set of guidelines), our bodies

  • learn to hold onto fat when food is more available
  • slow our metabolism to save energy
  • have difficulty sensing hunger and fullness
  • gather weight around the mid-section

How’s your relationship with food?

In a world full of overt diets and more subtle diet plans, it can be difficult to resist buying in to them. But it’s worthwhile to take a few minutes to look at your own thoughts around food and notice where the diet mentality may be creeping in. Ask yourself these questions:

What guides my food choices? Is it a desire for weight loss or fear of weight gain? Or do I decide what to eat based on my appetite for different foods, taste and how my body feels in response to these foods?
  • What determines when I eat? Do I abide by a strict schedule or do hunger and fullness guide me?
  • Do I experience negative feelings around eating such as anxiety, fear and guilt?
  • How does my relationship with food compare to the definition of normal eating

Perhaps you answered these questions with confidence and the diet mentality has no space in your mind – that’s great! On the other hand, maybe your thoughts toward food are littered with rules and anxiety and you find that enjoying food is difficult. You’re certainly not alone in this! If you’re looking for another option, a great place to start is with intuitive eating, an approach that helps guide you into a healthy relationship with food.

The bottom line

Even though you may have rejected diets per se, I encourage you to go the whole way and root out the diet mentality that may still linger. Take a look at where you are currently, consider what your relationship with food should look like (more on this in a couple of weeks) and forge ahead! 

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Kristina Isaac, RD.

Registered Dietitian

Kristina (BSc, RD) is a registered dietitian and blogger for Nourish Move Thrive. She enjoys finding creative, fun and simple ways to communicate the science of nutrition.

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