The first question I normally get asked from women I coach is, “how do I eat healthy?”.
This usually leads to me explaining how to cultivate a fine-tuned, loving relationship with food.
Some of these women stop me and say, “Oh, no. I mean, what do I need to eat?”.
I then proceed to tell them that this method of thinking is what’s been preventing them from eating healthy in the first place.
And there’s a clear reason why.
No matter how hard you try, you cannot force yourself to stick to strict food rules.
No meal plan, diet protocol, or weight loss program can tell you exactly what to eat.
Your body and brain are far too complex for that.
And strict food rules aren’t necessary to have the results you want with your body.
Let’s discuss how we got here in the first place.
First, it’s necessary that we define what a diet actually is.
A diet is any method of eating that has strict food rules written by someone other than yourself.
In other words, it’s trying to fit yourself into a healthy eating box.
That’s it, friends.
Which means, diets are running rampant in our culture.
We have a number of boxes to choose from in order to “eat healthy” and lose weight.
Some of these boxes include keto, vegan, paleo, etc.
Even more boxes are created from weight loss programs telling you to follow strict meal plans to achieve results.
Where it goes wrong, is that these healthy eating boxes require you to depend on willpower.
And willpower is useless for seeing sustainable results.
It’s like holding a beach ball underwater.
You can keep it underwater for quite some time until you let go and it comes bursting through the surface.
It’s impossible to hold on forever.
This is exactly what it’s like when you rely on willpower to stick to strict food rules.
The worst part?
When you fail to stick to these rules, you make it mean something negative about yourself.
Which is when you’ll experience frustration, doubt, anger – all of the emotions that likely caused you to eat unhealthy in the first place.
So, you continously indulge in unhealthy food and gain the weight back.
Leaving you to chase the next fad diet you can get your hands on.
This vicious cycle was a part of my life for years.
And there’s a good chance you know how it feels.
But, I promise you.
The reason you’re failing to stick to strict food rules has nothing to do with your self-worth or how capable you are of being healthy.
It has to do with your brain.
The truth is, our bodies and brains were never meant to follow strict food rules.
We’re simply not adapted to that nonsense.
Our bodies were designed to give us hunger signals when it needed to eat.
And fullness signals when it was time to stop eating.
Diet culture has perpetuated restrictive eating patterns that have skewed our ability to maintain a close relationship with our body signals.
We’ve lost the ability to clearly communicate with our bodies as it relates to food.
As a result, we think we need diets to tell us how to eat properly.
Since we’ve forgotten how to listen to our bodies so she can tell us what she needs.
The reason that our bodies fail to follow strict food rules?
When you limit the amount of food you’re allowed to eat, your body will enter starvation mode.
Your body doesn’t know the difference between an actual starving person and a dieter.
To your body, they’re one and the same.
Which means, your biological mechanisms will adapt as if it’s trying to save you from starvation.
Your metabolic rates will rapidly decrease, food cravings will increase, your eating will become more ravenous, and you’ll likely experience mood swings.
To most of you, these symptoms will make you feel like your body is “out to get you”.
When really, your body is trying to save you from starving yourself.
In case you weren’t aware, your body is always operating out of the best intentions.
Additionally, strict rules rules will also cause a psychological response from your brain.
In the same way that your body response from a place of starvation…
…you brain responds from a place of deprivation.
When you deprive yourself of anything, it trains your brain to crave larger amounts of that thing.
Our brain wants more of what it’s not allowed to have.
For instance, if I tell you right now to not think about an elephant…
…what’s the first thing you think of?
When we make an object forbidden, we increase it’s value to our brains.
It becomes special and we heighten our desire for that item.
Which is another huge reason why strict food rules don’t work for us in the long-term.
The allure of eating what we’re not “allowed” to have is too tempting for our primitive brains to handle.
If you’re anything like I was, having these realizations can be a bit overwhelming.
Since you now realize that you’ve been working against your brain and body.
The good news?
Your body has been waiting for you to have this realization for yourself!
So you can start working with her to give her what she needs.
In order to cultivate a loving relationship with food and your body, you need to learn to listen.
Start paying attention to what your body is trying to tell you on a daily basis.
At what points in the day does she feel genuinely hungry?
When does she feel satisfied and full during a meal?
Are there moments when you feel called to eat but aren’t actually hungry?
What foods make her feel amazing?
What foods make her feel weighed down that you could do without?
Basically, you want to start asking your body questions.
Cultivate a real relationship with her.
You don’t need strict food rules to tell you how to eat healthy or love your body.
Because the truth is, your body has known the answers all along.
I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified eating psychology coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.