Giving up dieting is tough, and it’s even harder when you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s a necessary step, though, if you want to stop the restrict-binge cycle.
When I gave up dieting, I was already fed up with going on diet after diet only to gain back everything I lost. Miraculously, giving up dieting was one of the steps that helped me slowly move towards “normal eating behavior.”
Before we get to the steps to stop dieting and eating normally, let’s quickly address what that last part even means.
At the end of this post, there’s also a free ebook on eating psychology that you can download. If you want it now, click here to gain instant access to it!
What Does It Mean to Eat “Normally?”
There is no one-size-fits-all way of eating; but generally, I consider normal eating to include eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.
This is what we intuitively knew as babies, before diet culture (and all the other psychological reasons for overeating) stepped in.
While this might seem basic to some people, anyone currently in the grips of compulsive eating knows what a dream this can feel like!
My journey was not linear at all, which make me panic more than once. I was afraid of gaining weight and afraid I was “doing it wrong.”
After a few years, I took everything I learned and put it together into Psycho-Spiritual Wellness: a path to stop compulsive eating rooted in psychology and spirituality.
I made a video back in the day just for this post. Here are the 5 steps I took to stop dieting and eat normally (my second-most-watched video):
This rest of this post will summarize some of the best tips I’ve gained during my own journey to stop dieting, stop overeating, and stop self-sabotage.
5 Steps to Stop Dieting & Feel Normal Around Food
The road to recovery from Diet Culture looks different for everyone. These steps provide a loose framework to make the process a little smoother.
Here are the 5 steps to stop dieting and find Food Sanity:
Step 1: Eat exactly what appeals to you (including the “good” and the “bad”)
To remove the feeling of obsession and compulsion around food, you need to get rid of all the rules and restrictions.
Lifting the dietary restrictions acts like a powerful form of reverse psychology.
When you give yourself full permission to have anything you want, it actually helps you NOT want it.
This means no more calorie counting. No more bans on particular foods. Instead, all foods are allowed and all foods are equal.
The idea is to neutralize food so that you can listen to your body and let your weight regulate itself.
If the lack of control freaks you out, that’s totally normal. Hopefully you find a little saving grace in the next step.
Step 2: Follow the PSW eating guidelines
Now it’s time to add some structure to help reduce binge eating or overeating.
To stop dieting and stop binge eating, try following the Psycho-Spiritual Wellness eating guidelines. This will help you minimize emotional eating and binge eating.
The eating guidelines are simple yet challenging:
- Eat exactly what appeals to you when you’re hungry
- Stop when you’re full*
- “Feel your feelings” when you’re not hungry
*Obviously, if we could stop when we’re full, we wouldn’t need this advice to begin with, right?! I hear ya! And the next step will help.
Step 3: Develop “emotional tolerance” — a skill far more important than dieting
Emotional tolerance is the most important skill for learning how to stop dieting and eat normally.
It involves increasing your willingness to be uncomfortable. And not in an I’m-going-to-starve-myself kind of way; but in a I’m-going-to-let-myself-actually-feel-my-anxiety kind of way.
I have a tool that will help you get better at both stopping when you’re full and feeling your feelings. It’s called the Stop, Drop, & Feel, and it can help you learn how to stop a binge in its tracks.
Here’s my most-watched video on how it works:
Over-simplified (so I hope you watch the video) explanation: The SDF involves practicing emotional check-ins with yourself whenever you feel compelled to eat when you’re already full.
Step 4: Be prepared to take two steps forward and one step backward
The first stage of giving up dieting is a scary one because some people binge on their previously-restricted foods.
If this happens to you, KNOW THAT IT’S TEMPORARY. Please don’t let this stop you from staying fully committed.
When I first gave up dieting, I was triggered by the lack of control and messiness of the process. I was so uncomfortable that I wanted to go back to counting calories, even though I knew it didn’t work.
(My thought was: at least dieting is straight-forward!) Luckily I stuck to the process and gave it my best shot, and the binges stopped. Eventually I reached my natural weight because I broke the restrict-binge pattern.
The key to getting through the rough, initial phase is to stay committed to allowing all foods. Do not revert back to dieting.
If you revert back to restriction, you will stay stuck in the restrict-binge pattern. But if you binge and don’t restrict after, the pattern will slowly end and you’ll get closer to food sanity.
Step 5: Know the signs of recovery from diet culture (it won’t feel the way you’d think)
Let’s end this article with some tough love:
When I first gave up dieting and focused on “feeling my feelings” instead of overeating… life got worse. At least, it seemed to get worse.
But after a few months, I realized that I was just feeling the emotions that have been there the whole time. It wasn’t that life got worse; it was that I finally opened my eyes.
When you start “feeling your feelings” instead of buffering with food, you may also start to feel more uncomfortable. This is normal.
In other words, if you start to feel worse when you try to give up dieting and practice the Stop, Drop, and Feel, it means you’re doing it right.
I know it’s the least sexy-sounding concept, but it will help you become more resilient and feel normal around food — and that’s the ultimate goal.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask me for help. I love coaching people through this stuff — it’s what I do!
And if you want to dig even deeper into this process, grab the free 13-page ebook below. It includes a free 5-day course in Psycho-Spiritual Wellness to catch you up to speed!
Originally published April 13. 2018 // Last updated August 8, 2020