3 Ways Not to Feel Left Out When You Ditch Diets
I’m not a fan of diets, as regular readers will know. But I will admit they one benefit: giving you a sense of unity.
After all, when you’re on a diet, you can be pretty confident someone else around you is, too. Or at the very least, you see images of pretty people on diets of all kinds. On TV… magazine covers… billboards… and social media. They’re everywhere.
But when was the last time you saw images of happy women eating mindfully?
My guess is not very often.
And I’m betting if you tell friends that you’re eating mindfully, you get some blank looks. Or worse, they might feel like you’re attacking them. That you’re criticizing their efforts. They might get defensive and not even hear what you have to say.
This can be tough to deal with. Here you are, trying this new, wonderful approach to food and eating. And you don’t have a support network.
But don’t give up hope! Just because this isn’t something everyone immediately gets, it doesn’t mean you can’t find support. Here are some ideas for ways to remind yourself you’re not alone.
1. Share with those close to you
Telling those closest to you about what you’re doing is helpful for many reasons. But one of the biggest is bringing it into the open, so if it’s someone you eat with, you won’t feel like you’re hiding something. Depending on their response, they might be willing to try it with you, or be a supportive presence. That way, if you have a day where you’re bombarded with diet messages, you can at least tell them about it, and they can start to understand how much it’s stressing you out.
Now, it’s up to you how much you want to tell them. You could start by saying you don’t want to restrict yourself based on diet rules. You prefer a different way of eating, where you’re paying attention to what your body is telling you.
You could also point them to the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating website, or The Centers for Mindful Eating, for information on what this means. Or use language from those sites yourself.
If you have friends who are serial dieters, you could gently explain that diets aren’t for you. If they seem receptive to hearing more, feel free to share. But I don’t recommend pushing this approach unless you’re invited.
And if your friend seems upset with what you’re saying, you can simply say that you recognize everyone is different, and you’re finding what works for you. Maybe sometime they’ll be curious to know more, but maybe not. And it’s okay that you’re on different paths.
2. Find others who are interested in mindful eating
This could take different forms. You could read books about people who have discovered mindful or intuitive eating. A few ideas are:
A bit of shameless self-promotion, my memoir, Winning the Losing Battle: A True Story of Weight Loss and Transformation
Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat by Dr. Michelle May
Books by Geneen Roth, such as Women, Food and God and Feeding the Hungry Heart
Half-Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir by Jennette Fulda
The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl by Shauna Reid
Teenage Waistland: A Former Fat-Camper Weighs in on Living Large, Losing Weight, and How Parents Can (and Can’t) Help by Abby Ellin
Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding Myself by Frances Kuffel
You could also watch movies like Embrace, which celebrates body image, and Chocolat, which celebrates food, especially chocolate.
Another option is finding an online community. The Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program has one, which includes a private Facebook group. You could also see if there’s a Meetup in your area for Mindful Eating – or maybe start one!
You could also sign up for webinars through The Centers for Mindful Eating, some of which are free or minimal cost.
If you’ve taken a mindful eating class, see if others want to keep in touch. Remember you don’t have to get together in person. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, email, phone – all these are great ways to stay in touch.
3. Put up images of what inspires you
Think about what kind of pictures might help you feel less alone with mindful eating. Maybe it’s a cover of a book you read. Or an image from a movie. Or maybe a picture from a website, or even a photo of certain foods or gardens.
Or maybe see if you can get a picture of yourself enjoying eating - here's one of mine for inspiration.
Whatever it is, try to get a printed copy or two of it. Maybe add a quote or phrase that speaks to you. Some I like from the Am I Hungry? program are, “Think direction, not perfection,” or “It’s about feeling good, not being good.”
I also like comment in the movie Embrace, about avoiding a diet because it has the word “die” in it.
Put these images up where you’ll see them on a regular basis. They can help push back against all the other images bombarding you.
Find what works for you
These are just starting points, but I hope they help. If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear them!
But whatever you do, remember you are NOT alone. Many others, including me, are with you and here for you. Always.