If you have been trapped in the diet cycle and aren’t sure how to get out – this post is for you! Read on to learn more about the reasons why you get trapped in this cycle (hint: it has nothing to do with willpower!) and steps you can take to get out of the diet cycle.
This post includes excerpts from my book Unapologetic Eating, which you can order on Amazon (hardcover, ebook, and audiobook versions available) or support independent bookstores by ordering on Indiebound.
Every person I know who has dieted (even if not on a “formal” diet) has recounted going through the same diet cycle.
They describe swinging between two states, either:
1. Being disciplined, eating “really well”, not binging, and sticking to “healthy” eating.
2. Feeling completely out of control, eating “whatever”, often with a sense of “F it, the day is screwed up already, might as well keep going”.
If this sounds familiar, you are not alone! And – spoiler alert – being stuck in the diet cycle is not your fault, and there is hope. Keep reading to find out how you can get out of the diet cycle and find a way of eating that feels sustainable and works for the long term.
What is the Diet Cycle?
The diet cycle describes the experience of cycling through periods of restrained eating – dieting or food restriction of some sort – followed by periods of disconnected eating and feeling out of control around food. The diet cycle is almost always accompanied by feelings of guilt (“I shouldn’t have eaten xyz food”) and shame (“I can never stick to a diet, what is wrong with me?”).
The cycle typically starts when you receive a message that something is “wrong” with your body and you feel, or are told, that the way to “fix” it is by losing weight. So you restrict food intake in some way (i.e. count calories or macros or carbs, go on a specific diet, limit certain foods or food groups, etc.).
Now, this often works for a little while. You may feel more in control and less anxious. For many people, the structure of food rules or having a type of guide to follow makes them feel safe.