The 7 stages of the dieting cycle (and how to break free)

break free from the dieting cycle

If you've ever been on a diet (or perhaps you're on one now), it's very likely that you're familiar with the feeling of 'falling off the wagon' or 'going off plan'.

If you are, then I have good news for you: It isn't your fault when this happens (the diet plan is to blame!). 

Here are the 7 stages of the dieting cycle, and how to break free from it once and for all. 

Stage 1: Slipping off the diet & into total bliss

This can look like many things to many people. For me, it looks like mindlessly grazing on chocolates at my desk or ordering a huge curry at the pub on a Friday night. For others, it might be skipping a workout... or week's (month’s?) worth! Whatever it is, it feels great at the time and you've completely forgotten your health goals.  


Stage 2: "oh s**t!"

You pause and think, what the actual hell am I doing? How did I let this happen? The feeling of regret steps in. 

Stage 3: The "I've dropped my phone, so let's completely smash it" approach

The all-or-nothing attitude kicks in of "well, I'm off track now, the damage is done? What’s the point?". 

Stage 4: The Reminder

At some point, either you or someone else or will remind you of your health goals. It might be that you've just opened Instagram and scrolled through a ton of pictures of healthy lunches, or gym selfies. It might even be that nosy woman at work who's just had the cheek to ask you if "you're still on a diet". 

Stage 5: The 'Must Fix-it Scramble"

You then move onto the 'must fix it' scramble as the feeling of regret comes rushing back. And lots of guilt. You feel like you've let yourself down and that you must salvage yourself quickly! You tell yourself that this requires drastic action. You begin searching for fitness gurus on Instagram, pinning diet tips and browsing Amazon for that diet book everyone in your office was talking about last January. 


Stage 6:  'Mission: Throw Everything At It' 

You declare that you're going on a new diet! Getting 'back on plan', or going to the gym every single day this week, maybe even twice a day! You're going to eat clean, give up drinking - and you're going to do all of it, right now, all at the same time. This is what I refer to as 'The January 1st Mindset’. 

Stage 7: Admitting Defeat

With the last stage in mind, this stage should probably be called the 21st of January mindset! You realise it's all just too much. You give it all up and admit that your new diet plan isn't working out and that you don't have the kind of lifestyle that allows for twice (or even once) daily gym sessions. You might even relapse at this stage and repeat stages 1-8 all over again! This is what's known as 'the dieting cycle', and it may even last years!

The final stage (but only if you're ready to finally ditch the dieting mindset): Recovery.

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The only way to graduate to this stage and escape the dieting trap is to realise that there are no quick fixes for getting your health back on track. 

You'll know you're at this stage when:

  • You know that fads are utter rubbish and that there's no magic bullet.

  • You know that crash diets are not sustainable, there are too many rules, you're just bloody miserable and hungry when you're on them and it's affecting your social life.

  • You know the all-or-nothing approach doesn't apply to health and fitness, it's about consistency, not perfection. [Click to Tweet this]

  • You know that if you lose weight on a diet, you'll gain it back, plus some when you 'come off plan'.

  • You know that exercising too much is harmful to your health.

  • ...As is bouncing between doing no exercise at all, then over doing it and back again.

  • You know it's going to take time, and that you'll have to do it in gradual stages.

  • You know that there's more to losing weight than simply what you're eating and whether you're moving. There's also your mindset to address: your motivation for losing weight, issues around emotional eating, body image and self-sabotage, and strategies to put in place to make healthy eating and exercise easier to fit into your busy lifestyle.

If you're nodding your head at all of this, then good news! You are ready to finally escape the dieting cycle and get your health back on track.