Going back and forth between two extremities is mentally exhausting under any circumstance, and it’s no different when it comes to diet. Find the balance you need to stay centered.
It’s helpful to think about eating using the metaphor of a pendulum.
On one side of the pendulum is restriction:
Deprivation. Dieting. Control. Hunger.
On the other side of the pendulum is overconsumption:
Binging. Overeating. Feeling out of control.
Imagine physically pulling the pendulum back towards the side of restriction, then letting go. The pendulum will swing wildly back towards overconsumption. If you’ve ever been on a diet, this is probably something you’re well familiar with. In fact, there’s a word for this –
The oscillating action of a pendulum is predictable because it’s controlled by gravity, a constant force of nature.
Similarly, our eating is controlled by another constant force of nature – genetics.
Humans are hardwired for feast and famine. It’s basically the reason we’re around today. Early humans were subject to long periods without food. If a human wasn’t crazy motivated to seek out food (imagine prehistoric earth with a lot of hangry people), then it came down to the survival of the fittest.
Most of you reading this will never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from (although many people still do). Still, most people regularly engage in this sort of self-imposed starvation called dieting. Even if you’re not following a strict weight loss diet, you’re still creating deprivation if you’re avoiding specific foods or food groups, compulsively exercising, or making food rules.
Only a small subset of people are able to pull their pendulum back towards restriction and keep it there. It’s actually a genetic fluke – genetic factors that are highly associated with anorexia nervosa. So let’s stop glorifying “good dieters” and saying how jealous we are of their willpower, because if their life was just a little bit different, it may have been the environmental trigger that set off a life-threatening eating disorder.
Instead of trying to control or stop unwanted eating behavior, try removing the restriction. Then (and here’s the hard part), keep your hands off. Just like a real pendulum, it will begin to slow down and settle with time,
And oscillate with a steady pulse.
Adapted from the original article.
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Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE is a private practice dietitian, food enthusiast, and nutrition expert based in Columbia, SC. By guiding others to rediscover the joy of nourishment rather than deprivation, Rachael helps men and women alike improve their health and well-being through delicious whole food recipes and practical advice through intuitive eating.