As someone who has experienced the restriction/binge cycle, I can personally tell you that diets don’t work.
Restriction is Not the Answer.
My personal experience with restrictive eating habits was that I would at some point give in and “binge”- a primal urge to satisfy my hunger. Unfortunately after having a binge episode (onset from depriving myself) then I would feel SO guilty and I would purge to “rid” myself of what I had just ate because of all the guilt. I would then deprive myself AGAIN and start the whole cycle of starvation/binge. The mental toll that this takes on a person… can be defined as obsession, guilt, shame and depression to mention a few.
The interesting thing is, once I gave up the idea that restriction was the answer, and once I started eating regularly, the urge to binge went away. Because I was nourishing my body I was able to stop thinking about food so much and started to think clear…
Take something away from someone and they are going to become obsessed with not being able to have it- especially if it is food. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I told myself I can’t have something I start to think about it more. I.e. I CANT EAT CARBS- I WANT CARBS SO BAD!!! The rules- allowed, not allowed, “good foods”, “bad foods”- this all feeds the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours that lead into the dark tunnel of disordered eating. Restriction causes a mental f*k up. Well at least it did for me and many others who have struggled with ED.
The idea of “not eating to lose weight” or “not eating very much to lose weight” in theory sounds simple- calories burned vs calories consumed = deficit = fat loss. YOU WOULD THINK. But when we deprive our body on a “diet”, our body considers this as stress – and stress hormones kick in (high levels of cortisol and adrenaline). The body then compensates by reducing the amount of calories burned by slowing down our metabolism. This is the bodies way of protecting itself for “survival”. The body, being deprived the body thinks it needs to conserve energy here because there is a lack of food; a threat to our survival. Constantly on the “treadmill” so to speak with losing weight and eating less to maintain and lose the weight…. it’s enough to drive anyone mental and most definitely not happily sustainable for the long term.
Are Any Diets Good “Diets”?
Controversially, I am not necessarily opposed to intermittent fasting- but that is a whole other topic that I do not want to get into nor promote during this post. ANY diet is not recommended for someone struggling with an eating disorder. For me, I worked on eating whole and healthy foods (majority) and allow myself whatever I feel like these days. I follow intuitive eating which I will get to in a future post. There are no “good” or “bad” foods. I don’t follow a plan where I feel like a bag of crap if I don’t follow it- I eat when I am hungry (most of the time) and stop when I am full. There are days when I find myself eating when I am not hungry and I just go, “okay- this is something that I am aware of, great”. And I move on from there. I don’t strive to be “perfect”. With food I feel…. normal.
True Change Starts Within
And so this is where it leads to- long lasting healthy and happy relationships with food and eating are beyond just placing focus on the external level of food choices. Mechanical eating was something that helped me on my journey- eating consistently to not set myself up for a binge later on which would then result in purging and then ending up in shame.
However, a diet that ONLY focuses on what you are eating and does not look deeper into why you might be eating or feeling a certain way and using food as a crutch inadvertently to deal with what needs to be addressed deeper within.
From what I have realized, it was less about the food and more about other changes that I needed to make within.