The Mental Load of Dieting

Have you ever considered the burdon and mental exhaustion your regimented eating and lifestyle could be having on you?

We nourish and move to keep our bodies in a state of health and well being, however do the boundaries of such actually prevent us reaching the elixir state of true health?

Firstly let’s address ‘Mental Load’...

Think back to the last day you had where by you got home from work and your other half or a friend asks you about your day and what you have been up to….you don’t really recall any defining moments apart from the fact you know you have been busy with all these invisible mental tasks, that are often hidden underneath your obvious workload but are the small contributors to often make the more obvious tasks move forwards. You feel exhausted…

Consider your morning routine from you getting up, waking the kids and getting them out of the door to get to school - could you list all of the ‘things’ you need to remember in order to ensure this overarching task is completed?

These small mini tasks we often delegate upon ourselves, especially as women, can compound into larger problems if not addressed and the rules, rigidity of following a strict meal plan/diet can also place additional load on this growing pile of ‘stuff’ you have to consider on the daily.

This however, in the context of dieting, does not just simply apply to prepping your meals daily/weekly and making sure you have your gym kit with you for pre/post work exercise. The psychological impacts that dieting can have on us goes pretty deep.

As discussed in last week's Blog, Diet culture is deep rooted into our society, and along with it the emotional and psychological challenges it puts us through and also can keep us stuck within.

Dieting is well documented in numerous studies to have an impact on your mental performance, heighten anxiety and leave us more prone to depression, that alone is some additional mental load to carry.

Our daily number of thoughts in our heads can be documented as anywhere between 50-80,000 thoughts per day….80% of which are more negatively inclined due to our good old reptilian and paleo limbic brains that never developed around survival back as cavemen.

When we enter the process of dieting, we often begin with the exciting supercharged intentions of this dream body we have in mind, however not actually with a strong, true definitive goal of what we WANT to achieve and WHY, that does FIT with our lifestyles and our means and capacity to be able to reach it.

It could be argued that really we set ourselves up to fail from the very start with not knuckling in this fundamental. Within this also, comes the comparison stress and anxiety - our goals are often designed around what other people look like and have, not considering the truths of their age, demographics, lifestyle choices, supplementation, behaviours around how they got to this point….as a majority of those who are staying lean all year round are not doing so by healthy living.

There are so many other factors involved, which many may not even speak out about or even knowingly recognise within themselves that there is an issue especially around their dieting behaviours.

They may not address how they obsess about food constantly, waking in the night absolutely starving, daydreaming their way through the day with a lack of focus and concentration being very socially withdrawn, as a consequence their life suffers. As more and more mental load is placed up on us, our performance in key areas will begin to slip. Even the internal conflicts surrounding food restraint can cause us constant stress and emotional agitation.

Dieting itself changes the way we feel about our body, not only does our perception of what is actually true regards our body image begin to shift but also our beliefs we have about ourselves, and these themselves can create a real debilitating mental load on us that can often be hard to shift.

Think of those days where someone brings extra chocolates, biscuits or cakes into the office for a colleagues do you feel in that moment? Worry, anxiety, panic, stress...telling yourself you either can’t have any as you will ruin everything, or more often than not, have a slice of cake and head deep into the ‘F**k it’ moment thinking you might as well make the most of the situation now you have failed AGAIN.

It is in these instances of anticipated deprivation, that we suddenly feel a loss of all control and dieting on the whole begins to eliminate our abilities to recognise hunger and satiety. The denial of foods, dieters are far more likely to turn to food in periods of anxiety or emotional need, perpetuating what will then be a guilt cycle post eating, as the stress and notion of restriction and punishment must be initiated to make us feel like we balance out the ‘bad’ we have done with ‘good’.

Is your brain ready to EXPLODE yet?

Mine too!

It makes you wonder why we put ourselves through all this right?

Our society fat shames and attributes a lot of health problems to an individual being obese - placing that person in 'a box'. Something to consider, is the strong evidence that yo yo dieting also presents a considerable health risk. It has been shown that men and women whose weight fluctuates often or greatly over a period of many years were found to have significantly higher risk of death (heart disease being a front runner) than those with relatively stable, even high weights. So could it be the constant yo-yo dieting associated with ‘obesity’ rather than being overweight itself we attribute to ill health, as we must also consider the boundaries of which someone is labelled one way or the other.

Now hear me out on this one - if we labelled someone as slightly underweight, they would be more likely at health risks than someone slightly overweight, yet we see slim as health.

Image Courtesy of Dove Beauty Campaign

As a coach it is my goal to help you let go of the emotional and mental challenges developed and encountered around both food and your own body beliefs working on your new ideal, re-writing what you will pursue to be your new truths and beliefs. I want to move you towards a more intuitive eating style, where there is no restriction or binding of rules. Yes this may be seemingly less exciting than 'this crazy ass diet' that will make you lose 14st in a day, but how has that been working out for you over the last 5/10/20 or even over 30+ years?

Giving up the diet lifestyle requires assistance and guidance, re-wiring values, attitudes, belief systems as well as reframing and education around mindset, nutrition and food and self love for what health and wellbeing should truly be about. Finding something that works for you, your lifestyle and your genetics, which requires resilience whilst we still live in a culture which places high value on our ability to be controlled, dedicated, willpowered and restrained around food and exercise.

Freeing up this huge chunk of mental capacity that dieting brings us, will enable you to see life so much more clearly, feeling engaged and fulfilled in life along with excelling in areas where you may have been otherwise struggling, whether that be work, with family, in your close relationships or overall life goals. You have the choice to create the life you desire, it may feel hard but the hardest challenges we seek and overcome, lead us to the best reward and fulfilment in life.

- Become your own Supreme Minority -

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