If you’ve come to terms with the fact that diets don’t work, that’s a huge milestone, congrats! But where do you go next to stop overeating? If diets don’t work, what does?
Most nutritionists and doctors have their medical opinion, and that’s great.
But I’m a woo-woo Psycho-Spiritual Wellness coach with a radical opinion. Instead of focusing on surface-level stuff like food, I like to focus on the psychological causes of overeating, which is 90% of the problem.
If you want to learn how to stop overeating without going on another diet, read on!
This post is packed with tons of resources and videos because this is one of the most important concepts to understand.
Why Diet’s Don’t Work
tl;dr — here’s a 6 minute video that explains it all:
Here’s an example from my own life to show you why diets don’t work.
Before I recovered from chronic dieting, I had a list of restricted foods. Carbs were on that list, which meant no burritos (and no happiness).
Standard advice at the time was, “Can’t have a burrito if you want to lose weight!” (Sigh.)
With these restrictions in mind, whenever I wanted a burrito, I would make myself have something “lighter.” But it never satisfied me.
I would graze on healthy snacks, but nothing would hit the spot. As a result, I would wander through the kitchen and graze and graze and graze…
Once it was late at night, the psychological and physiological desire for the burrito would overwhelm me, and I’d binge eat one in a blur.
My willpower was shot because I spent the entire day resisting the burrito.
No amount of willpower can match the biological response to deprivation. (I’ll dig into this more soon.)
So, at the end of the day, I ate the dang burrito along with a bunch of other food that I never wanted in the first place.
This overeating obviously leads to weight gain, which motivates us to further restrict our diet, and everything happens all over again.
Doesn’t it feel like the feedback loop from hell? Why does this keep happening? Why don’t diets work?!
You’re Practicing the Wrong Skill
When we keep insisting on dieting, we are practicing lots of restriction. We’re getting really good at the skill of listening to what our brain says we should eat.
This skill is useless.
When you exhaust your willpower on restricting your diet, there’s none left over for the stuff that actually matters.
Your body already has all the wisdom it needs to be its natural weight. It’s only when we stop listening to our body (to our hunger, fullness, cravings, satisfaction) that we experience problems.
If you want to stop dieting and also stop overeating, you need to redirect your willpower.
Stop practicing restriction. Instead, practice the #1 skill of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness: emotional tolerance.
A Better Skill: Emotional Tolerance
A pillar of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness is developing tolerance for discomfort.
When you build more tolerance for discomfort, you stop seeking food to “take the edge off,” because your threshold for discomfort has increased.
Also, this discomfort is different from the discomfort of dieting!
Dietary restriction creates physical discomfort that plays against your body’s biology. Emotional discomfort is what we’re targeting here.
To develop emotional tolerance, I recommend practicing the Stop, Drop, and Feel. This is my #1 tool to stop binge eating. If you can master it, you can even stop a binge in its tracks.
Here’s a video that explains how it works (it’s my most-watched video of all time):
While this tool can take you far, you can’t stop here. If you want to get over the obsession with dieting, you need to keep digging.
Diets Don’t Address the Storm Underneath
While the Stop, Drop, and Feel addresses the emotional aspect of overeating, we haven’t addressed the restriction aspect.
Studies are revealing that while dieting might lead to short-term success, it’s almost guaranteed to result in long-term weight gain — often more weight than before.
While I enjoy that there’s science supporting this, I don’t like speaking from the left-brain. I like speaking from intuition.
Doesn’t it just make sense that dieting doesn’t work? It’s a Band-Aid. It’s not addressing the psychological reasons for overeating, so of course it doesn’t work!
So, if diets don’t work, what does?
The answer is by doing the opposite: giving up dieting and working towards a normal relationship with food.
How Psycho-Spiritual Wellness Approaches Weight Loss
Giving up dieting can make you feel like a fish out of water. And it can also trigger all sorts of fears, especially the fear of gaining weight.
When dieting is the only think you know — when food feels like only thing that you can control — it often feels utterly reckless to let go of the food rules. But let go, you must.
Here are some steps to help you through the process:
- Acknowledge that the fear of gaining weight is valid, but if dieting keeps resulting in binge eating, then giving up dieting should actually help with weight loss over the long-term.
- Follow the Psycho-Spiritual eating guidelines. They’re really simple: eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and feel your feelings when you want to eat when you’re not hungry. Obviously, this is easier said than done, so…
- Start practicing the Stop, Drop, and Feel on a regular basis. This is how you will develop the emotional tolerance necessary to stop dieting and still reach your natural weight. Emotional tolerance is the right skill to practice!
- Give yourself permission to eat what your body wants. Permission is the antidote to restriction-fueled binges. Stop practicing restriction. Turn your attention towards emotional tolerance.
Nothing is going to make it easy or comfortable to give up dieting.
But these steps can help you create a solid foundation to rebuild your relationship with food (so that you don’t revert back to dieting, like the time I did).
How to Feel Normal Around Food
When you give yourself permission to eat whatever your body wants, it serves as reverse psychology. Once you’re allowed to have the burrito, you probably won’t want it anymore.
And even if you do, you’ll end up eating less than if “bad foods” were not allowed. Why? Because you won’t waste your willpower, and you can channel that energy to developing emotional tolerance, which is a much better skill to practice!
If you want to support yourself with even better material, grab the free 13-page ebook on Psycho-Spiritual Wellness below:
Originally published November 15, 2018 // Last updated February 12, 2020