signs you’re on a harmful diet without knowing it

Jessica Penner, RDNutrition, OvereatingLeave a Comment

When I talk about diets and how they never work, how studies show time and time again that people who diet only end up heavier over time (they drop pounds with every new diet, but gain more back once they fall off the diet), I inevitably have people tell me, “Jessica, that doesn’t apply to me. I’ve never even gone on a diet… ever!” But when we talk more about their history, we find out that they’ve fallen victim to the sneakiest diet of all, the “non-diet diet.”

If you’ve ever….

  • made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier
  • adopted a vegetarian, gluten-free, or Paleo diet with the hope of losing weight
  • decided not to eat at certain times (after 7:00 pm)
  • given yourself a limit on certain foods or restricted them all together (eg. “I only eat chips on the weekends”)
  • gone for an extra run to balance out the calories you ate
  • tried a detox program
  • tried to distract yourself when you feel hungry

… then you might have fallen victim to a “non-diet diet.”

The non-diet diet

This non-diet mindset is sneaky, because people who have fallen for it don’t think they have a problem. Unlike the chronic dieter, they haven’t tried all the diets and hit rock-bottom from yet another failure. But when I ask them questions like…

  • are you happy with your relationship with food?
  • would you trust yourself to be alone in a room full of your favourite foods?
  • are you happy with your body?

… they all answer no.

That’s a huge problem, for their physical AND mental health.

These kinds of thought processes are either an indication of a health problem, or a predictor of one. They are things that you CAN change, but you first need to be aware of the problem to begin with.

Think about your interactions with food as you would think of an intimate relationship: there are horrible relationships, amazing relationships, and a lot of in between. There’s a whole range. Some people have horrible relationships with food (chronic dieters). Some have amazing relationships with foods (intuitive eaters). The rest fall in between (non-diet dieters). They aren’t in a constant state of suffering, but the relationship could use improvement.

Why settle for anything less than amazing?

This is what an amazing relationship with food looks like:

  • you eat guilt-free
  • you love eating, and look forward to the times in your day that you spend with food (but don’t obsess over thoughts of food all day long)
  • you eat what you want (yes, really)
  • you DON’T eat what you DON’T want (you’re in control)
  • you want to eat food that nourishes your body
  • you’re in tune with your body, so that you notice when you aren’t nourishing it
  • in general, you eat when you feel hungry
  • in general, you stop eating when you’re satisfied 

Some of those things scare people. They think that eating what you want automatically means eating a lot of junk. I suppose it can mean that, but only when something else in your relationship with food is out of whack. When you have a great relationship with food, eating what you want means that you primarily fill up on food that nourishes your body, but you’re not scared of rich foods either. You’re free to enjoy all foods in appropriate amounts, and take what life sends your way.

As an example: the other day we had a VERY hot humid day, and my husband took my son to the pool. On the way home he picked up some small milkshakes for the whole family, even though suppertime was close, just because it was the kind of day that REALLY called for a milkshake. Little did he know that I had the some thought at home, and was also preparing to make milkshakes. We ended up eating milkshakes for supper! Of course we joked about a dietitian’s family having milkshakes for supper, but we didn’t feel guilty about it at all. It was the perfect treat on that summer’s day.

Of course, most days I work hard to ensure I’m filling our bellies with more nutritious meals. If you had asked me the next day if I wanted to have milkshakes again I would have recoiled. Same with my husband. Our relationship with food is healthy enough to eat what we want, and want what we need.

Everyone can (and I believe should) have this type of amazing relationship with food! It makes me sad that so many people don’t.

Unfortunately, it can’t be achieved overnight. Reading a blog article likely isn’t going to do it. Beating yourself up isn’t going to do it. Finding the latest superfood isn’t going to do it. There are a million things that people try to do in order to achieve a healthy balance, but very little is actually effective.

That’s why I developed a program that is.

If you’re interested in learning more, read on here. 

signs you're on a harmful diet

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