I’m not going to lie, I eat everything. Cottage cheese is probably one of my favorite foods. However, there once was a time in my life when diet restrictions were a big part of my day-to-day. Recently, I’ve let go of that, thanks to a little concept called “anti-dieting”. Now my life is changed and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Keep reading to learn about what anti-dieting is, and how it’s helped me.
What is Anti-Dieting?
I first heard about anti-dieting when listening to this episode of “Stuff You Should Know”
The concept of anti-dieting is basically just saying, “stop dieting”. Like literally, stop worrying about cutting out certain food groups, and just eat what you want, when you want. This doesn’t necessarily mean to binge on candy and junk, but if you want to you can.
That’s the thing about anti-dieting, there are no rules. No restrictions, no shame, no guilt. You just live your life and let go of the fear of certain food groups.
The thought process is, if you just eat mindfully and pay attention to the way your body feels, you most likely won’t even want to binge on junk food because you’ll be satisfied. You can enjoy the foods you like, but since nothing is off-limits, you likely won’t be tempted to overindulge.
My experiences with dieting
I’m not exactly sure where I was in my wellness journey when I initially listened to this podcast, but I know I was definitely not okay with an “all foods diet”. I feared dairy, I constantly told myself that I needed to do a Whole30 detox again soon, I often avoided gluten for reasons that I don’t even know, and the worst part? When unhealthy foods were put in from of me, I had zero control and often binged on them and felt awful after the fact.
As a high schooler, I went through a short phase during which I mainly ate egg whites, spinach, and pickles. I obsessed over low-calorie foods and drank tons of diet coke, striving to be extremely skinny. Back then, it felt to me that many of the celebrities and public figures in pop culture were stick skinny, and an anorexic appearance was collectively strived for. Luckily, this was just a short phase of disordered eating and I wouldn’t say that it really got out of control for me. I was able to sort it out on my own and it didn’t last long.
Flash forward many years, I tried my first Whole30 diet when I was 22. I started this diet with the goal of feeling good. Whole30 is a super restrictive diet that lasts for 30 days. During these 30 days, you don’t eat any: dairy, grains, gluten, sugar, alcohol, soy, and legumes.
Basically, you eat a lot of vegetables, meat, and potatoes and always strive to buy high quality, organic foods.
A lot of great things came from my experience doing Whole30. I loved the way that it taught me to really read ingredient labels when grocery shopping, it showed me the important difference of buying organic, and I really did feel good during some of it.
However, this good feeling didn’t really last and such a restrictive diet just isn’t something I could stick to long term.
On top of that, the strictness of the rules kind of triggered some overly controlling and OCD behavior from me. I obsessed over the specific rules and took it super seriously. If I felt like I overate I would mentally beat myself up over it, and if I ever felt bloated I would get super frustrated.
In hindsight, doing Whole30 brought to the surface those same old disordered eating patterns I experienced in high school, but at the time I hadn’t realized it at all.
I’ll never forget when I figured out that the salad dressing I had been eating almost weekly, from one of my favorite restaurants, actually contained soy when I previously thought it hadn’t. I was on day 28 and I felt like all of my hard work was ruined.
“Have I completely ruined everything?” I asked in the Facebook support group, after confessing my noncompliance. I felt so much guilt and shame, and literally cried for hours! THIS IS NOT HEALTHY.
What I loved that they pointed out in the podcast, is the way that diets are often considered a “healthy” thing to do, but the reality is, dieting often leads to very unhealthy patterns in terms of mental health. Dieting can even cause a person to eat less healthy, because you’re often more likely to derail and go crazy after you’ve been restricting yourself. I’ll always remember “the last supper” before starting a Whole30 cleanse when I’d binge on pizza or pasta to celebrate my last night eating carbs for a month.
Something else to note is that when we binge on foods and emotionally eat, it’s usually related to a deeper-rooted issue. Anti-dieting encourages you to look deeper before you eat something you’re craving, if you’re wanting to eat because you’re upset about something else, the food may not be the solution. On the contrary, if you just simply want the food, you can go enjoy it and not worry!
Into an anti-dieting era
These days, I eat whatever I want and it honestly feels really good. I’m not going to Mcdonald’s every day or anything, but I’m also not bending over backward to comply with any type of diet rules. I feel free, relaxed, and accepting of myself and the foods that I like.
Sometimes what you eat goes a little deeper than you may realize. I know that my mental health has been negatively affected by dieting in the past and at the time I was oblivious. It wasn’t until I started to let go of restricting myself that I realized the negative effects it had on me.
I still try to eat well. I focus more on buying high-quality foods (less processed, organic, etc.) and definitely eating vegetables and whole foods frequently, but I’m more aware of my mental health and the way dieting can affect it. Basically, I eat what makes me feel good and some days that’s a salad while other days it’s a milkshake!
Have you hear of anti-dieting?