Something I hear all the time from individuals struggling with dieting, disordered patterns of eating and eating disorders is that they feel more ‘in control’ of their lives on some level, when they’re restricting or micro-managing their weight, food and exercise. Often they report that they feel this way even when they simultaneously feel out of control around certain food or over their thoughts about their body or food. This is a really conflicting psychological place to be in.
This feeling can also be a trigger for individuals who are practising intuitive eating and actively rebelling against diet culture, but then find themselves in a difficult period of their life and suddenly experience the urge to diet.
I know that this is a theme that often comes up for me personally. Whenever I feel a general sense of control over my life, I’m perfectly at ease around food and find joy in exercise. When my life is in a state of chaos, however, and feel like I have very little control, I notice thoughts bubble up about dieting, such as whether I should begin tracking food or enrol on a personal training programme that advocates micromanaging my macronutrients and exercising for fat loss.
The trouble with this thought process is that (and I’m about to sound like a broken record since I’m always saying it) dieting will not fix your life. Once more for the back of the room:
Dieting will not fix your life.
Most of the time a diet (even the ‘sensible ones’ ) won’t even improve your health long-term; often any intentional weight loss is regained within 5 years, our self-esteem and body image plummet further and our relationship with food continues to be complicated and fraught with anxiety.
In order to work through this internal conflict and interrupt the urge to diet, we need to establish why we feel out of control in our overall life, and whether it’s just one or two areas of our lives or a general feeling.
Often there has been an event in our lives that triggered this feeling, for example, a death of someone close to us, becoming a parent for the first time, a diagnosis of a serious illness, a job loss or the breakdown of a relationship.
Instead of jumping into the next diet plan, take a step back and really think about what has happened in your life to make you feel out of control. Note down any specific areas of your life you feel you struggle with the most and really question whether there is anything at all you do to improve the situation.
Even if it is something you cannot change, you can take action by seeking support to deal with the issue at hand, for example confiding in a trusted friend or seeking counselling.