Surprising Reason Behind Weight Gain: Diet Mentality

by Marsha Hudnall

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How diet mentality thinking leads to behaviors that make you fatDoes the weight on your scale determine whether you have a good day? When you feel you have overeaten at one meal or eaten a ‘bad’ food, do you skip the next meal? Have you recently gone on a diet that eliminates an entire food group? Do you obsess about how many calories you burn during exercise?

If so, you may be a victim of the diet mentality. Research shows that this might actually be causing you to gain weight!
Take the Quiz

What Is The Diet Mentality?

People who have a diet mentality tend to follow a predictable cycle:

  • They go on a diet that restricts calories or makes certain foods off limits.
    • With this plan, they often don’t get enough calories to fuel their bodies or they miss out on nutrients needed by the body. Because the body’s drive for adequate fuel and nutrients is a powerful force that helps ensure survival, people on restricted diets often develop cravings.
    • Further, by forbidding ‘bad’ foods or entire food groups, psychologically they tell their brain that these foods are in short or no supply, intensifying cravings for the foods.
  • The cravings are — you guessed it — usually for something that isn’t allowed on the diet.
  • When the cravings get strong enough, or when they’ve had enough of the diet, they often go to the opposite extreme, eating to excess foods they haven’t allowed themselves. They’ve broken the diet so they “might as well give up and really cheat,” eating larger quantities of foods or focusing for days on all the foods that were off-limits.

This can occur the day they start the diet, or after having been on the diet for months. Ultimately, the cycle results in guilt and self-loathing. Then the dieter might go back on her diet determined to do it ‘perfectly.’ That is, until her body’s needs overwhelm her again. And she begins the overeating cycle once again.

Why is getting rid of the diet mentality so important?

The restrictive, negative thinking of the diet mentality sets us up for struggles and almost guarantees defeat. Once we overcome it, we’re much better able to make choices that are in our best interest, instead of being driven by needs that don’t even exist when we are feeding ourselves in a supportive manner. Such needs arise from out-of-control hunger – a sure set-up for overeating — a poorly-nourished body and feelings of deprivation. Supportive eating features regular, balanced meals that manage hunger, provide vital nutrition that supports a healthy metabolism, and allows for the other important roles that food plays in our lives such as healthy pleasure.


Do You Have The Diet Mentality? Take Our Quiz!

It’s a common affliction in today’s world as weight-loss diet rules increasingly define how we think about healthy eating and healthy living. Take this quick scientifically-validated quiz to see how entrenched you are in the diet mentality.

For each statement, select the number from 1-6 that describes your attitude.

Scoring yourself:

Your total of   plus 4 is your Diet Mentality score. Here’s what it means:

Between 0 and 24: You are entrenched in the diet mentality. Since most of society is in the same boat, don’t feel bad. Congratulations for taking steps to break away from that diet thinking, by tuning into websites like this one, and reading books like Staying Off the Diet Roller Coaster by Linda Omichinski, RD.
Between 25 and 49: You are still a diet thinker, very preoccupied with food and with your weight. You let numbers – calorie counts, fat grams and portion sizes – rule you. If you have been dieting all your life, it takes time to break the diet mentality. But you can do it if you keep working with approaches and resources that promote a positive attitude toward your body, toward food, toward your self-worth, toward joy in living…all without having to be a particular size or follow a diet!
Between 50 and 74: Good for you! You’re well on your way to living a lifestyle without diets! You may have already seen a shift in your thinking, and as a result even your behavior is beginning to change – for the healthier! But even though you are becoming less preoccupied with food and weight, you still have areas you need to work on. Look carefully at those areas in which you entered low scores, and find resources that will help you work through those issues…without dieting!
Between 75 and 100: Bravo! Congratulations on being a part of the wonderful, healthy world of nondieters. Sure, you may indulge in a little diet thinking from time to time, but that’s totally normal. You are definitely on the right road to better health, and you have a healthy attitude toward food, weight and life. Do you still need to make some changes to improve your attitudes and fitness?
Check our Fitbriefing From Insight to Action: The Path to Permanent Change to assess where you are in the stages of change and how ready you are to move on to the next stage. That awareness can help you make changes much more effectively.

How did you do? If you’re more influenced by the diet mentality than you’d like to be, consider joining the ranks of nondieters. A stay at Green Mountain at Fox Run can help you stop dieting and start living.

Learn more about how our non-diet approach can help you achieve a healthy weight and stay there!

For more information, call us at 1.800.448.8106 or email us at info@fitwoman.com.

Quiz adapted from Staying Off the Diet Roller Coaster, Linda Omichinski, RD, Advice Zone, Washington, DC.
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