How I Finally Gave Up Dieting


Giving Up Dieting to lose weightOne of our Slim Chance Award judges and favorite bloggers, Annabel Adams, let go of dieting for good last year. Think you’re ready, too? Annabel has 8 questions for you to answer to get you started.

Last year, I did something unheard of: I gave up dieting.

This may not seem like a big deal, but in a society that fosters body-shame backed by a $66B weight-loss industry, it IS a big deal.

I’m not going to give you the false impression that giving up dieting was easy. In fact, giving up the hope, and desire for, weight loss has been harder – for me – than losing weight itself. So why bother? If I can lose weight, shouldn’t I? Shouldn’t I at least try?

No. It’s a slippery slope and I’ll tell you why:

If you’re not “good enough” now, you’ll never be.

Dieting is not a means to self-acceptance; in fact, dieting is the quickest way to give yourself a potentially dangerous complex. You’ll notice that you start thinking of yourself as “good” and “worthy” when you eat less and weigh less and “bad” and “unworthy” when you eat more or weigh more.

Read Related Article: Accept Your Wonderful Self: Size and Self-Acceptancef

Worse – you’ll begin this thing that I call a “weight-centered contingency plan,” i.e. everything in life from travel plans to pursuing a romantic interest to wearing certain cuts of dresses will be put on hold until you reach a certain weight.

The problem is, once you get on this contingency plan, the end goal becomes fluid. You’ll find that if your goal weight was x and you reach it, a new lower weight goal will probably replace it.

So, you may be wondering, how does one give up dieting?

The most helpful thing for me to do when I decided to stop dieting was to ask myself critical questions. I’m going to list some of them below, in bold, with the answers I came up with after truly digging deep. You’ll see that by asking these questions I was able to get passed some of the falsities and fears that were embedded in my head. I hope that this exercise will help any of you who are dieting and would rather make peace with your body:

How is dieting working for you?

It depends on what we mean by ‘dieting.’ Dieting itself has not helped me get healthy; becoming curious and empowered about nutrition and fitness along with a host of other things, like stability in my home life and finances, mental work on self-perception, etc., have worked in unison to make me healthier. Dieting is not sustainable because it requires that I see food as a means to weight-loss/weight-maintenance rather than the complex and wonderful source of energy that it is. In other words, I’ll just diet myself into poor physical and mental health if I’m always gauging how and what I eat based on my weight.

Do you want to do this for the rest of your life?

Do I want to count, measure and restrict for the rest of my life? No way! My body is going to continue to change as I grow older, potentially have kids, potentially get sick or injured, as my schedule changes, as my interests change, etc. I have a world to conquer and so many awesome things to achieve – a certain size or weight is not one of them b/c there is no intrinsic value there! In other words, the only “value” I get from weight loss in and of itself is value that society bestows upon me for getting closer to the mainstream conventional standard of beauty, which is, arguably, unobtainable in a healthful way. The way to free yourself from the “standard” of beauty is not to try complying with it, but rather to identify it for what it is: oppressive, unrealistic and shallow.

How important is your weight really?

It’s not the sole determinant of my health, or even a good proxy for my health. Weight is correlated to health, but not causally related. Weight is correlated to health, just like where you live, who your family is, how much money you make, whether you went to college, what your job is, etc., is correlated to health.

If we are looking outside of health, then, yes, we see that being thin (and thin-pretty) carries a tremendous real-world value in our society. We also see that people are continually stigmatized and discriminated based on weight. I would be lying to say that weight does not/cannot dramatically affect your life.

However, just because society places value (and restricts rights) based on weight does not make it right and does not mean that the answer to discrimination is attempted compliance! The truth of the matter is that healthful habits make us healthy (see Matheson et. al, Wei et. al. and The Cooper Institute studies).  Even Michelle Obama recently said that health is “not about size or weight.” Way to go, FLOTUS!

What do you really want and can you get it by focusing outside of your weight?

I really want to love myself, and my body, without any contingencies, including weight-based contingencies. I want to love and relish in my body throughout all of its stages. I want to treat myself well and be well. I actually have to focus outside of my weight to achieve these things.

Can dieting actually be harmful?

Dieting IS harmful. When dieting, I have to ignore my biological instincts, hunger and satiation cues. When dieting, I stop listening to what my body craves. When weight is the focus, I see exercise as punishment for eating or as a “necessary evil.”

Dieting forces me to detach from my body. Dieting means my energy and focus is on my weight rather than on doing fun, positive and wonderful things for and in this world. Dieting makes me angry, tired, and resentful. It takes the enjoyment out of food. It makes eating a stress-based activity. It makes me see food as the enemy rather than as a life-giving source that is my ALLY in making me healthy.

What’s holding you back from quitting dieting?

Fear. If I stop dieting, I will gain weight. Hm. But will I? (NO, not necessarily. If we are eating mindfully, our body gets to its optimal and healthy size). Is living a fear-based life the path you want to take for the long-haul? No. I would rather do the work now to learn to love my body in all its stages than to spend the rest of my life dieting.

What’s the worst that can happen if you stop dieting?

I could gain weight. Is that a valid a concern? All concerns are valid because you feel them, but should we reframe this? Yes. Maybe you should start asking, “What GREAT things would happen if I stopped dieting?” The benefits blow the potential, and fallacious, cons out of the water.

Is this a diet?

It’s not a “lifestyle change” if it has weight as a measure of “success.” If weight is a measure, it’s a diet (don’t fool yourself!).

3 Quick Ways to Stop Dieting

I Gave Up Dieting; You Can, Too

Are you ready to stop dieting? Here are 3 quick ways to get on the path to a diet-free life:

[step]1[/step]Answer all of the critical questions above honestly.

Write down your answers and refer to them whenever you feel the urge to go on a “spring cleanse” or the urge to get “bikini ready” (p.s. you ARE bikini ready!)

download[step]2[/step]Fill your brain with allies.

Read weight-neutral books, size acceptance books and Health At Every Size® books (some of my faves include If Not Dieting Then What?, What’s Wrong with Fat? And Health At Every Size) and size-acceptance blogs like Dances with Fat, Fit and Feminist, and Deah Schwartz (there are SO many good ones!).

3 Let go of shame.

Remember that feeling shame in your body will never lead you to good health or a slimmer figure. Remember that there is a $6B industry out there that is doing everything it can to make you hate yourself so that you can pay them for a “solution” that doesn’t exist (in other words, if anyone had a true & sustainable solution for weight-loss, the industry wouldn’t be worth $66B and there would be no fat people).

The Cranky One

Annabel Adams writes about her journey from unhealthy to healthy…served up with a side of snark on her blog Feed Me, I’m Cranky.

Learn About Behavior and Emotional Health

21 responses to “How I Finally Gave Up Dieting”

  1. Maura says:

    Thank you for such a great post!

  2. Yes, I agree dieting is not the answer. Balance and moderation is the key to eating healthy. Being as healthy as you can be should be the goal no matter your weight. However, I have to disagree with your assumption that being over-weight has little to do with health. Type 2 diabetes is an epidemic in this country and that is directly related to most of the nation carrying too much weight. Diabetes is now more of a risk factor to your health than smoking. So, let me repeat, being healthy should be the goal and it takes balance and healthy eating to achieve that.

    • Annabel says:

      Hi Darvis, thanks for your comment! I do not assume that weight has little to do with health. I do believe that weight IS correlated to health just as a myriad of other factors are. My point is that weight should not be our focus and that, instead, we should focus on healthful behaviors. I do have to point out, however, that “overweight” (as defined by BMI) has actually been found to be protective in people over 65 AND, in general, to be associated with lower mortality. And, side note, diabetes is a disease not a behavior. Smoking is a behavior.

  3. Jules Joyce says:

    What an extremely powerful post! I have been on this journey for health and acceptance for a long time. One sentence here was KEY for the changes and shifts I am still making……Dieting forces me to detach from my body……..its fell into a disassociation pattern learned early on in my life….Once I worked on this one sole thing…I was open to working out the rest of the details by doing exercises (as you explained above) and given by my doctor..
    I gave up my blog of 4 years and did a 180 on my focus and blog in a whole different way now. I worked through the initial weight gain of giving up the *diet* but now I LOVE where my focus is…less stress, more art, and mindfulness in ALL my actions = happier!
    Again EXCELLENT and POWERFUL post. (and thanks for the links to other bloggers)

  4. Marsha Hudnall says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Annabel. As Jules said, it is a powerful one. And it is so gratifying to see where you have landed in your journey — a place of good sense and support for living the life you want, not caught in the defeating cycle of diets and weight worry. You rock, girl!

  5. Deb says:

    I’ve recently given up dieting… well, I’ve been working towards it for about a year. I’m finally ‘not-dieting’ but struggle because I still need to lose a significant amount of weight. After an initial worry that I’d gain a heap of weight I’m finding I haven’t. I initially lost some weight and hope to continue to – as a side effect from the (improved and less-angsty) decisions I’m making, rather than from restricting my eating.

    Well done and thanks for a great post!

  6. Lisa Christie says:

    Annabel, I love your story and the work you are doing. Thanks so much for sharing with our readers your journey….I’m sure it has inspired more than one person!

  7. […] How I Finally Gave Up Dieting, by Annabel Adams, a guest post on A Weight […]

  8. […] is what prompted me to officially give up dieting in 2012 [a version without my typical cursing is here]. I didn’t think it was a diet. It was just a “lifestyle change,” but, in […]

  9. […] I’ve bluntly stated in my How I Gave Up Dieting post–if it has your weight as a measurement of success, don’t be fooled, it’s a […]

  10. […] You see my response to these questions here. […]

  11. Harriet Krivit says:

    What is dieting, anyway? I would think any prescribed food plan which is not initiated from your own body signals, yes? But certainly with an awareness of your own personal health needs…or even medical needs. Then there is the amount or the common term portion size of whatever I eat. Does that get left to body signals? “Am I full now”? There are many foods that don’t even give me a heads up on that. For myself there is one thing rarely mentioned and I find a key to all of this. It’s the speed at which I eat. Slowing down feels like a diet. AND, addressing the degree of *pleasure…or any denial of it..not good. How many can honestly talk about *this….deal with it? Love to hear about this specifically.

  12. Nancy says:

    Great article. Thanks for making me hit the reset button on my worries about dieting

  13. Naina says:

    Nice blog!! Thanks for sharing wonderful information..

  14. Mel says:

    Thank you sooooo much for this article. I have been a size 6 and a size 16, and right now am a size 12. I lost 20 pounds after my 2nd child was born, and wow, people made a huge deal about how “great” I looked. As soon as I went back to eating a normal diet again and stopped working out like a maniac, I gained all of it back. Instead of jumping back onto the diet train for the upteenth time in my life, I have decided to try another train. This train runs on a track called “loving my body for what it can DO for me, not how it looks.” This article really helps, since I have dieted since the age of 11 and have been through eating disorders, depression and shame about my weight, diet pills, and fat loathing for 20 years. I will not be defined by my size anymore. Thank you for writing this article. I will come back to it again, I’m sure.

    • Annabel says:

      I am so happy to hear that you’re coming from a place of self-compassion and have given up dieting. Congratulations! Sending you my best.

  15. Rogue says:

    I love this.. I’ve struggled with my weight and counted calories all my life and even tho I’ve lost a ton of weight I’m still miserable and afraid of getting fat again and feeling not sexy as the next guy.. I’m a guy btw.. But I feel I can strongly relate to this post.. I’ve given up counting 5 days ago after reading this and I feel great and I’m started to be more mindful of my eating and it just feels amazing not to stress all the damn time. Also when you said the question … “What GREAT things would happen if I stopped dieting?” It just opened my eyes and put things in perspective.. I’ve read tons and tons of articles and blogs throughout the years trying to see if I could find the right way to diet or see if there’s someone out there that can relate to my perspective and your the first to have done that for me and thank you for that

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