“I used to be a compulsive dieter, emotional eater and was 20kg overweight. I would have done anything to lose weight. For one week, I ate nothing except bananas and milk. But dieting never got me anywhere – this was the only thing that did.”

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I used to be a compulsive dieter, emotional eater and was 20kg overweight. I guess you could say healthy eating never came easily for me.

During my teen years and early 20s, I was dedicated to being thin.

I counted calories, carbs and cut out fat. I restricted food and punished myself with exercise. To say my relationship with food was disordered is an understatement.

I would have done anything to lose weight. For one week, I ate nothing except bananas and milk. Throughout high school and university, I was permanently on a diet, but like most people, it never got me anywhere.

You see, like 95 per cent of people, I failed to permanently lose weight by dieting.

Diets fail for many reasons but scientists are only now beginning to understand why.

For one, dieting slows your metabolism and makes you feel hungrier and less satisfied. At the same time, food becomes more ‘tempting’. So when you try to fight against biology with ‘self-control’ and a meal plan, you’re setting yourself up in a losing battle.

As any dieter will attest, dieting also makes you obsessed with food. Foods on the ‘forbidden’ list suddenly become a focal point, and naturally, when food is restricted, we want to eat it all – just in case there isn’t any later.

I never intended to binge eat. But starving yourself isn’t sustainable, and when you start eating again, it’s near impossible to make measured, healthy choices.

Thus, while I constantly tried to lose weight, I just got bigger and bigger.

Finally, after 10 years of struggling with my body, I finally gave up the fight. I knew that while I continued dieting and trying to lose weight, the binge/ diet cycle could not be broken. Eventually, I accepted that I would rather be fat and happy than fat and miserable.

So I finally gave it up.

At first, my decision to stop was daunting.

What would happen if I stopped watching everything I eat? Wouldn’t I gain weight if I ate what I wanted? What would happen if I started listening to my body instead of a diet book?

So, I stopped weighing myself and I finally bought clothes that actually fit. Instead of ignoring my body cues, I tuned into my natural hunger and ate the foods that made me feel good.

My new objective was to be ‘healthy’ instead of skinny.

I stopped punishing myself with gruelling exercises (which I hated!) and started moving my body for enjoyment – even if I didn’t burn 500 calories a session.

Once I quit dieting, I eventually stopped feeling deprived. Once I gave myself permission eat, I realised that there was no shortage of food. For the first time in years, I could stop at just one cookie – naturally!

At the same time, I started to adopt simple, healthy lifestyle changes. I began walking to the shops to buy groceries instead of driving. When this change became effortless, I reduced the sugar in my coffee to one teaspoon, then half, and finally none. I continued to adopt these healthy changes for years and years.

It took me over three years to lose 20kg, but considering I never have to lose that weight again – it was a small time investment to make.

These new habits never felt like punishment so being healthy has finally become enjoyable and easy. Nowadays, I actually prefer eating lots of salads, having less junk food and exercising more.

The biggest mistake we make when we try to lose weight is thinking the process will be quick and easy. In reality, losing weight once and for all takes time. You can’t expect to lose a kilo a week – and maintain it. You need to be far more patient.

The key to losing weight is to understand that it is more of a psychological challenge than physical one. You can’t punish yourself into losing weight. It won’t work in the long term. And weight loss isn’t as simple as having good ‘willpower’ or knowing which foods to eat.

Instead of focusing on being skinny, focus on being healthy. Buy into healthy habits – not diet books. Listen to your body instead of ‘diet gurus’. And be patient and kind to yourself. I promise it’s a much better, healthier recipe for success.

Lyndi Cohen is an accredited practicing dietitian and founder of The Nude Nutritionist.

October 4, 20163:07pm

nutrition | body+soul

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