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  • Writer's pictureSam Finkelstein, RD

How To Spot A Diet

Diets come in many forms, under many names, promising a sure-fire way to stop worrying about your body and food, and start loving yourself. Research and the personal experience of most show us that these are false promises. And studies even support that falling into this dieting trap could have serious health consequences, ranging from mental to physical challenges. As we become wise to the downside of dieting, that sneaky little monster evolves too. As a result, we have a culture full of "lifestyles" parading around as reasonable solutions to your eating problem, when all they really are are diets in disguise. Below is your checklist by which to assess a lifestyle of program to determine if it is, in fact, a diet.

1. Promises weight loss

Since research pretty overwhelmingly supports that each body has its own size, shape, and weight at which it is happiest and healthiest, and that this spot will vary greatly from person to person, even if they are the same height, age, gender, etc., this is a false promise. No one can tell you what your body is supposed to weigh better than your body. And the way that is determined is by seeing where your body falls when your eating and exercise are flexible and intuitive. Any program that promises your body will change in a specific way as a result is a diet.

2. Tells you to rule out certain foods...

It doesn't matter what the food is, as this changes over time as diet trends shift. A few decades ago, people were encouraged to rule out high-fat foods. Now th

ere's more of a focus on demonizing carbohydrates, while adding on a push to get rid of anything "processed" or not "clean". Many people feel the need to rule out certain foods because they feel they're unable to start without stopping. Research shows us that this only happens when a food or nutrient (specifically sugar) is given to us intermittently or in a restrictive way. When we are told we have free reign, consistently, this addict-like behavior just seems to disappear.

3. ... Or says to eat them "in moderation"

"Moderation" is one of those words that I used to use all the time that now stings my gut every time I hear it. Moderation

is another word for restriction. Your body knows what you need. Trust it, and show it that it can trust you, and it will guide you toward balance on its own (Note: "balance" is not code for "more fruits and veggies"... it means all foods your body requires and enjoys happily and harmoniously coexisting in your diet)

4. Recommends you do things you know will not be sustainable long term

I have seen countless examples of these diets, that seem so impossible to stick to for one day or week, let alone for the rest of your life. Whether it's intermittent fasting, which recommends you go for anywhere from 16 to 24 hours without eating, or forever avoiding any "processed" food, see if you can picture yourself doing something like that forever (and enjoying it). If the answer is no, there's a good chance it's a diet.

I should mention here that if you're in eating disorder recovery, it's common to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of feeding yourself consistently every day. Remember that this is a difficult change, and to take it one day at a time. This diet red flag does not apply to ED recovery.

So, the next time you're feeling allured by the promise of a better life via the next best lifestyle, consider this list. And if you're fed up with diet culture and are looking for a new way to relate to food, get started on your path toward intuitive eating by subscribing to my email list, following me on social media, or reaching out for a free consultation.

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