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Farewell dieting…I am breaking up with you

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I have been a dieter for the majority of my adult life, writes North Shore Mum Stephanie Dolman. Name the most popular diets – WeightWatchers, Jenny Craig – I have been on (and off) all of them. I have not tried diet shakes or pills as, to be honest, I love food too much. Has being on and off diets for such a long time helped my weight? Well, it has helped my weight go in one direction – up! My relationship with food is like the worst type of relationship. I love food, I hate food; I break up with it, we get back together. I eat when I am happy, sad, mad, bad and everything in between. But it has to stop.

As we are all probably aware by now, the typical diet doesn’t work. In fact, research has shown that for the majority of people who undertake diets, the weight they lost is generally regained within five years (if not beforehand), plus some! I knew I needed to have a better relationship with food, but how? If dieting doesn’t work (and, face it, we know it doesn’t in the long-term) then what can I do? How do I improve my relationship with food?

I decided to call another NSM, who also happens to be a dietitian, and booked in to see her. Prior to my visit she sent me some videos, and watching one was like the woman in the video knew me. When I eventually met with her we spoke a lot about what my relationship with food was like, and I explained how I cannot go on another diet – THEY JUST DON’T WORK. She told me it was great that I realised this, and she was not going to put me on a diet. We were going to look at my relationship with food and try to get back to eating why all people should – because we are hungry.

For the following two weeks my new dietitian asked me to write down when I eat and list it on a scale she gave me. This was about trying to gauge why I eat and to get me to recognise when I am hungry and full. What I realised in the two-week period was that I eat for every reason, except hunger. I eat to be social, I eat when stressed, I eat out of habit, and the list went on. Everything was listed, except hunger. And due to this I, in that whole two-week period, didn’t feel hungry. I actually was eating for so many reasons apart from hunger, that I never got to be hungry. That was a revelation.

I have since been back to see the dietitian and we worked on some exercises. We also discussed what I had learnt over those two weeks and what I realised. We talked about the expectation to eat when others do and how that is tied to social norms. Towards the end of my appointment she got me to fold my arms, and then asked me to fold them the other way. It was really hard. This exercise was to show me that habits (in this case 20-year ones) take a long time to break.

After seeing the dietitian for a short while my mum asked me if I had lost any weight, and I said I hadn’t. I said that the dietitian had not weighed me. She asked me what the dietitian had me eating and I said the food I normally eat. She looked at me aghast. ‘So what is she doing?’ she asked. I replied that she was helping me to change my relationship with food, and that is such an important thing for me to do. It will be a process and it will take time but, for me, I am off the dieting train…forever.

Does this story resonate with you? How is your ‘relationship’ with food? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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