There's an anti-diet movement happening in the world right now. Research shows that diets often lead to binging and long-term weight gain rather than weight loss. Plus, when it comes to recovering from disordered eating, we're recognizing that diets may play a part in the unwanted behavior rather than the solution.
The takeaway is this: diets don’t work.
And the primary reason for this is that diets are based on restriction and deprivation... which often lead to disordered or binge eating, increased levels of stress, and an unhealthy relationship with food.
But, what if you want to diet for your health?
What if you want to follow Vegan, or the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), or eat gluten-free? Is is possible to follow a "diet" without the negative side effects of dieting? Can we eat intuitively while respecting medical restrictions or food sensitivities?
This is what I want to talk about today and I'm not going to tell you what to eat or not. (Because I'm definitely not a doctor nor nutritionist!) Instead, I simply want to open the possibility that we can eat any way we want without feeling restricted or deprived.
Meaning, if you have an autoimmune disease and want to use food to help you feel better, I don't think you're doomed to a restrictive diet for the rest of your life.
To dig into how this could be true, let's start at the beginning!
The word diet, as a noun, simply refers what one eats throughout the day. It refers to the types of food a person or community generally consumes. However, in today's society, a diet typically stands for something a bit heavier.
Inside The Wellness Boulevard, we define it an externally-driven way of eating that gives a false sense of control, single-handedly informs behavior, and greatly influences internal worth. This type of diet is most often used to lose weight, but can be used for "health" benefits as well.
So, if the word diet really stands for a way of eating - often one based on community values or beliefs - then it's not the word diet we need to exclude from our life.
Instead, we want to look at the ways of eating that are:
In other words, diets are diets not because we eat or don't eat certain foods. They're diets because they come from outside of us. We're being told what to eat based on information that someone else collected. Even more, we're hoping and praying and wishing that this one thing will solve all of our problems. We're hoping to lose weight, gain back bodily function, or lengthen lives. (Because we're hoping those are the keys to happiness.) That's not to say that these goals are a problem but it's to say that you're holding onto a lot of pressure when you think these factors of your life, and particularly your happiness or your worth, depend solely on the food you're eating.
The problem with diets arises not because we're eating (or not eating) specific foods, but because those foods carry guilt, "shoulds", and moral obligations. We're good... we're bad... we're on plan... we're off plan... we fell off the wagon... we got back on the wagon... we ate the cheat meal for the week... THIS is what holds us back.
Language like this (and the shame, stigma, and moral implication this language stands for) is the issue. This language consciously and unconsciously implies something about us as human beings.
When it comes to eating for health without feeling restricted, we need to start by addressing that there's nothing wrong with choosing to eat in accordance with a set of principles or ideas. With choosing to eat in accordance with a belief (like vegan) or in accordance with underlying health challenges or symptoms (like autoimmune disease or allergies).
But that choice is massively important.
The difference between a diet that may cause more harm than good and a way of eating to be embraced is internal. The difference is found in our FEELINGS - in force, restriction, and fear AS OPPOSED TO choice, freedom, and love.
For example, imagine that you’ve followed The MERGE Method (a 5-step plan to help bridge the gap between intuitive eating and health-based "dieting"). Say you've addressed any amount in which you were eating to control your body, you've explored a variety of natural healing treatments, and you've discovered that certain foods affect how you feel physically.
You now have important information that gets to inform your choices and this information is what makes all the difference.
Because it's personalized information.
Because it's backed by YOUR own bodily science.
Because it's evidence that's been collected in your everyday life.
It's because you get to use this information to inform your decisions rather than rely on external guidelines to make those decisions for you.
It's subtle -- because you may make the same decisions about what you do and don't eat -- but this slight intention behind the choices you're making helps you feel empowered again.
When you have personal information that can inform your decisions, you have free will, power, and choice. When you rely on externally-driven information (like experts or food-based success stories that tell you what to eat), then you've given up that very same power (and freedom).
In other words, when you have a choice, you no longer feel restricted. (So long as you're actually getting enough food.)
To take it a step further, when you're allowed to make any choice, and you know that you are still a worthy, important, and valuable person no matter which choice you make, then you no longer feel deprived.
Choice is the most important piece of the puzzle that's going to influence whether or not a "diet" will lead to negative outcomes. (Whether it will feel deeply controlling and whether you will feel bitter, resentful, and angry.) But the most important element of choice is making sure you untangle your worth from your food and your health in the first place.
Now, although it's definitely possible to cut out certain foods without feeling restricted or deprived, it's also important I tell you that you might not have to cut out those certain foods at all.
This is why step #1 of the Merge Method is so important. We have to make sure the cause.
If you want to dive deep into the nitty gritty of making sure you don't have to follow a restrictive diet for the rest of your life, grab your Wellness Boulevard membership today. You'll get immediate access to the most in depth video I've done to date on this subject: The MERGE Method, a 5-step process to eat *any* way you want without feeling restricted or deprived.
I also invite you to join my (free) Facebook Group, Autoimmune Well with Kel. There, I recommend watching two livestreams in particular (go to the "videos" tab in the group) called: "The most important Q to ask yourself if you want to feel better" and "How to feel good about not eating foods that cause physical reactions".
Then, I'd love to know: How does diet play a role in managing YOUR autoimmune disease?