How to Know if Diets Aren't For You

Scroll the media headlines, Instagram posts, and YouTube videos and odds are you are going to find endless content raving about the life changing miracles of a certain way of eating - be it keto, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, juicing, fasting… the list goes on.

And heck, these claims may just be true! Weight loss, clear skin, mental clarity, endless energy, amazing digestion - why wouldn’t you want to try it as well?!

And so, you do! And maybe you start out strong and feeling good with your new way of eating, but next thing you know, you feel stressed, alienated, overwhelmed and… even less healthy. And all you can ask yourself is why? SO many people seem to be thriving on this diet, yet you, well you feel even more anxious and out of touch with your body than before you started. How can this be? And what should you do about it?

Well let me start out by saying, you are not alone. We all want to feel like our healthiest and best self (physically and mentally) and so when you see people succeeding at a certain diet, the lure to try it on yourself is extremely tempting. I mean, who doesn’t want to “find a new you,” and if a new way of eating can do that for you - why wouldn’t you want to do it!

So why is it that when you decide to make the leap to try (or re-try) a new diet, you eventually end up feeling completely trapped by the diet in a way that really isn’t supportive of your health? The simple answer - food rules don’t work well for you.

It is true that some people can follow a certain set of rules / guidelines about food and never have it spiral them downward into an obsessive, pendulum-swinging, and disordered way of eating. They find balance in their diet and it doesn’t take a turn for the worst that has them controlled by their food.

But for some of us, that isn’t the case - and knowing that is very important. Because as a practitioner, I will often hear my clients express that they are pulled between finding food freedom and wanting to try another diet, even though failed attempts at endless dieting is what brought them through my door.

So how do we know if diets aren’t for us? Here are some key things to consider before diving into a restrictive way of eating that may end up working more against you than for you:

  1. When we are on a diet we get depressed or anxious: if every time you start a diet you find that you feel even MORE sad or anxious than before you started, it is a good indication that you aren’t really built for restrictive eating.

  2. You obsess easily : food and obsession can go hand-in-hand very easily. If you have a tendency to obsess about food, meaning you constantly are thinking about it when you aren’t eating, or constantly worried about what you ate after you eat, it is a pretty good indicator that starting a diet will only make things worse for you

  3. You tend to pendulum swing in your diet: if you frequently go from restrictive eating to binge eating, it is probably not going to work in your best interest to start a diet. YES, it may be tempting at first, and you may get a good “handle” on things in the beginning - but for those of us that often swing, eventually diets will have us back on the other side of the pendulum. In this case, an inclusive diet is your best bet for success

  4. You have no major health concerns, but want to feel a little better: look, I get it more than anyone - wanting to feel good in your skin is super important. But diets aren’t always the sustainable answer. If you have a serious health concern (i.e. diabetes, celiac, seizures, chronic skin condition) sometimes a specific diet is mandatory but if you are looking to feel better, making small shifts in your every day nutrition might be your best long-term solution. Explore how you can eat more REAL food, get in the kitchen a bit more, understand and listen to your hunger, work on your emotional eating - all things to have you feeling great in the long-term.

So, if you find yourself often wondering WHY CAN’T I DO IT? or feeling like you SHOULD be able to, or wondering if you should try again - consider the above. Yes, diets may work for some, and if so then great! But our mind and bodies are not all built the same, so stay true to you when it comes to making decisions about your health, because you deserve it!

Andrea Zimmering