Most of what we believe to be true about diets are really just untruths that have been perpetuated without being examined too closely. Diet myths are often widely held, commonly believed, and often totally false.
In the seven years that I’ve been sharing my experiences and understanding of weight loss for women over 50; I’ve come to believe that there is no one thing that works for everyone and that most diet information is harmful not just to our bodies but to our hearts and souls as well.
As women, we can never measure up to be the person that diet culture says we could and should be. The following diet myths keep us locked in to believing that something is wrong with us if we can’t diet.
My friends, dieting is hard and not sustainable because there is something wrong with dieting, not because there is something wrong with you!Sara
When I first started writing about weight loss, I was very restrictive. I didn’t restrict calories, I ate plenty of those. But I avoided all sugar and processed foods almost all the time. I did intermittent fasting by the clock rather than hunger.
About a year and a half ago, as I began to realize how absolutely toxic diet messages and plans are; I decided to change my message.
Here’s what I learned. Yes, I could manage my weight with my strict restriction but that just wasn’t the right thing for many women, and it wasn’t right for me anymore.
I want to turn diet talk upside down and give you a new way of thinking about your body and your food.
In my own experience, I lost about 10 pounds over the first year when I quit restricting in my diet. I didn’t gain—I lost weight. Throughout this post, I’ll share my new thoughts about diet myths and what to do instead.
And just to be clear, I’m not even in my fifties anymore–I’m 60.
Living this way is so freeing! It’s a big change from everything you or I have been taught.
Most women have a diet that they plan to “get back on.” In the meantime, they are in a cycle of overeating and beating themselves up. Underlying this is a belief that being on the diet will be good and how they are eating now is bad.
Diet Myths Keep Us in a Endless Cycle of Pain
I work with women every day to break this cycle. I challenge diet culture all the time. Here are some of the lies that our diet culture tells us:
- Being on a diet is necessary to lose weight.
- You need to be hungry/suffer to lose weight.
- Some foods are good, and some foods are bad.
- Acceptable foods don’t taste good.
- You have to deprive yourself of food you like to lose weight.
- You need to exercise a lot to lose weight.
- All calories are the same.
- Just eat less.
It’s no wonder that we hate going on diets!
Yet, at the same time, we want to do something. But our choices seem horrible.
The result is women that hate their bodies and are constantly frustrated at not being in control of their eating.
Because, often when we aren’t on a diet, we are in the part of the cycle where we overeat and binge.
This cycle of deprivation and overeating is extremely painful. Adding to that pain are the messages that you are lazy and lack self-control because you overeat.
Why Women Overeat
Why can’t you stop??? It seems like it should be so easy. You know better!
Here’s the part that everyone misses. Your overeating may not make sense to your logical mind—but your primitive brain is in the driver’s seat of your overeating.
In my opinion, food, mostly sugar and processed foods, are the most popular drugs available. You don’t need a prescription and they are available 24/7.
If everyone started eating just what their bodies needed, our “food” industry would collapse. Most people eat way beyond what they need to live and thrive.
Here are the reasons we overeat:
- Most of the food in stores has been created for the purpose of overriding your hunger; meaning you eat more than you need even after you are full.
- After years of overeating, our hormones that process sugar and fat are out of whack
- We don’t understand or use hunger to our advantage.
- We use food for entertainment, fun, connection, and celebrations.
- We reward ourselves with food.
- We eat to manage uncomfortable feelings.
Unfortunately, most women, do not simply eat food because they are hungry!
The Pain of the Overeating and Dieting Cycle
Every day you stay stuck in a cycle of overeating and dieting is a day that you could be using to feel better instead.
This cycle is so insidious that sometimes it feels impossible to break. That siren’s call to lose weight with restriction is strong.
Even among women, who are trying to eat to support their bodies and who are trying to love the bodies they are in, are often tempted to go for the quick fix.
I know this because, almost everyone I work with tries to diet at the same time they tell me they don’t want to diet anymore.
Women LOVE the idea of no more dieting, but it also terrifies them. Can YOU imagine a life without being on a diet or planning to be on one?
It is possible. But first I want to share the diet lies that keep you wanting to be on a diet.
Diet Myth: We Can’t Trust Our Bodies
It is absolutely terrifying to trust your body.
We’ve spent most of our lives learning to distrust our bodies, our hunger, and food. Something that should be a normal pleasurable part of our life, instead has become a source of unhappiness and frustration.
How did this happen?
Our conditioning to not trust our bodies began when we were young. For many of us, meals were by the clock rather than hunger.
We also were encouraged to clean our plate, not waste food, and to eat things we didn’t like because they were good for us.
So, we learned to eat by the clock, eat foods we don’t like, and nourish ourselves based on what other people said was good for us.
Later, we were fed a steady diet of you don’t look good enough and you need to be thin to be attractive.
Finally, as we began our “diet life” we trusted what other people said we should eat, instead of what our bodies required.
Diet Myth: Diets Will Make Your Life Better
Diets make a lot of promises. Even the most complicated diets tell us that they are easy. They promise that we will look amazing, and our lives will be changed forever.
Diets hold out the carrot that being thin is the gateway to everything you want.
Diets tell you that you can’t enjoy life now. You can’t participate in certain activities until you lose enough weight.
Diets promise that everything will be great if only you can get that weight off. I AM saying, you CAN have an amazing life without losing a pound. In fact, I encourage you to do this.
Diet Myth: Diets Know What You Need to Do More Than You Do
Diets tell us that we can’t trust ourselves to eat the food we want in the quantities we want.
Diets tell us that we need to be perfect to lose weight.
Diets tell us that foods are good or bad.
Diets tell us we are good if we stick to the diet and diets say we cheat if we eat things not on the plan.
Diets tell us that if we just have enough willpower and can subjugate our hungers, then we will finally have the life we crave.
Diets do not deliver and over the course of decades, they undermine all your natural hormones and body signals.
Diet Myth: Being Thin is Healthy
This is probably the worst. We’ve been fed the biggest lie of all—that being thin equals health and happiness.
First of all. There is no proof that being thin is healthy. I would offer, that it is probably the opposite. Many women who achieve enviable thinness do so at a cost.
The kind of deprivation it takes to be thinner than your natural weight is NOT healthy.
Yet even doctors push the lie that “losing weight” is medical treatment.
We have become so fat phobic that we don’t even allow for the natural and normal variations in human sizes.
The BMI is stupid and is baseless as a measurement of health in any way.
Ladies, there is a wide range of healthy and normal weights.
Yet, when we have doctors (who don’t receive much training at all in this area) and every other kind of expert telling us we need to lose weight, it can be scary to believe that we can be a normal size and be healthy.
Diet Myth: You Need to Be Thin to Live the Life You Want
I see women putting off living a life they love because they aren’t thin enough. Everything gets shoved aside because we don’t like how our bodies look.
What are you putting off until you lose some weight?
Travel? Having sex? Hiking? Going to the beach? Starting a new career? Doing fun things?
These are all just activities we put off, but mostly we put off feeling good about our life, our body, and the food we eat.
It is difficult to understand why we can’t accept ourselves (and others) just the way we are. Even women who try to demonstrate they have a life they love get crucified on social media because of their weight.
We not only hate the fat on our bodies; we hate it on others just as much, especially if they are living a great life.
Diet Myth: If You Can’t Lose Weight, it Means You are Lazy and Lack Willpower
Women who are overweight (by their standards or others) are no lazier or lacking in willpower than thin women.
I mean that and am 100% serious. Your weight is not a reflection of your morality, your motivation, your worthiness.
This is really important.
We have a culture of equating thinness with moral superiority.
Being thin has nothing at all to do with the kind of person you are.
Yet, I know that many of you don’t believe that. I hear all the time the kinds of things you say to yourselves.
- I’m ugly and gross
- No one wants to see me like this
- I’m lazy
- I need to get my act together
- There’s something wrong with me
- I hate looking in the mirror
You say things to yourself that you would never say to anyone else.
You truly are a miracle beyond what your size is. There is no one else like you who has the gifts you have. There is no one that loves like you do and who contributes like you do.
This is essential to understand. You are so much more than your weight.
Diet Myth: The Only Way to Lose Weight is to Diet
Diets give you a plan to follow. Follow this and you’ll lose weight, and your life will be wonderful.
Here’s the problem. Even if you do follow the diet correctly, it doesn’t mean that your life will be amazing. It doesn’t mean you will be able to keep the weight off. It doesn’t mean anything.
At the end, you won’t have the high of losing weight and you’ll still have to learn to just eat like a normal person.
That doesn’t happen though.
What usually happens is once the diet is done, we are done with deprivation and the pounds just start coming back on.
That used to be me!
Not anymore. I eat the way I want to eat. I aim for nutritious and supportive for good health. I’m also willing to eat foods that taste good sometimes but don’t offer anything nutritious.
I trust myself to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.
In the past year and a half, I have totally quit all restricting.
And I not only didn’t gain my weight back, but my weight also dropped to the lowest part of my natural range.
I didn’t diet or restrict, and I still lost weight.
When I decided to not restrict what kinds of food I ate, I did commit to one thing. I committed to honoring my hunger.
I eat when I feel hungry, and I stop when I feel full.
Sometimes I eat breakfast, sometimes I don’t.
Most days I eat three small meals. I rarely snack. I eat out two or three meals a week. But on all days, I eat food that I do like.
How to Transition from Dieting to Just Eating
First of all, you may need to consciously eat more. That might seem strange at first but in my experience, women plan too little food to eat. Then when they get hungry, they go overboard and then end up eating too much.
Plan your meals to have enough food to keep you comfortable until your next meal. This may take some practice. We’re not used to eating enough at meals to last until the next one.
Tips for eating enough at your meal to last until your next one
Include healthy and nutritious fats. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil. Or add half and avocado, a few olives, or some nuts. Fats not only help you stay satisfied; fats make your food taste better.
Have a serving of protein. If you are a woman, this is usually about 4 to 6 ounces. If you are having eggs, 2 or 3 whole eggs.
Add more vegetables. Experiment with how you cook them or eat them raw. A variety of vegetables is good for you and provides extra nutrition and fiber.
Don’t forget to have some complex and healthy carbohydrates. I usually include ½ a potato or sweet potato or a serving of winter squash. Sometimes I will have a serving of rice or corn tortillas. Other carbohydrates would include whole grains or beans if you eat these.
Most people build food around “fillers.” Fillers are bread, pasta, and rice. If you include these, keep the portions small. These foods can keep you from losing weight if you are sensitive to them.
You have endless variety with these kinds of foods. Have fun with figuring out how to eat without relying on processed foods.
How to Live Without Another Diet Forever
- Commit to never dieting
- 80%—90% of the time, eat foods you like that are also good for you
- Allow each week for some fun food
- Eat only when you feel hungry to start
- Stop eating as you feel full
- Aim to not snack; eat enough at your meals
- Give your body a break from eating from dinner until first meal of next day
- When you want to eat and you aren’t hungry, check in with yourself and see what it is you really need.
- Don’t be afraid of the scale. It’s only one piece of data. Whether it’s once a day or once a week, just note the number and move on. You are only looking for trends: gaining, maintaining, losing.
- Move your body in ways that feel good, give you energy, and help you move better.
- There is no such thing as cheating, getting off-track, getting back on track, or doing this wrong.
These are the things that I walk my clients through, the mechanics of the process. Any of these actions can be helpful to you right now. Even just the awareness can be helpful.
Real life of course includes events, situations, and circumstances. All of these may at times feel like they are there to keep you from losing weight. They don’t have to though.
Remember, no matter what the situation, you are allowed to eat. You can eat anything you want. If you are hungry and you stop when you have had enough.
This takes practice!
This practice will help you live without another diet. Let’s eat to live—not live to eat.
Keep showing up my friends,
Ready to find out more?
Schedule a free consultation today.
Coach with Sara
Hi, I'm Sara Garska and I'm so happy you're here! My Think Big Life began shortly after I turned 50. Big changes can happen with a small start, an adjustment of thought, or a simple process. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a certified life and weight loss coach, I can help you create a life you love. Click here to schedule a free 50-minute coaching session.