Deprivation is a key factor why diets don’t work. Abruptly taking away foods that you love, can lead to obsessive thoughts about the food and eventually those thoughts lead to action and madly devouring the beloved food in a frenzied attack. In my history of dieting, I have started many diets that left me so hungry and absolutely craving something I loved to eat because I told myself it was banned for good. It was on the ‘do not have’ list of food items or was one of those foods that you must ‘eliminate’ or ‘avoid’, if you were to succeed. Being somewhat a perfectionist, I took that to literally mean forever and if I strayed I would of course, blame myself for failing to have the willpower to manage the diet and generally felt very frustrated and demotivated. Thus, one diet ended and after a period of time this would eventually be followed by another diet with the misguided hope that this time I would finally succeed in my weight loss endeavours.
Diets can either biologically deprive you or psychologically deprive you. As some diets recommend eliminating essential food groups (think of ‘no fat diets’ or radical detox diets) the body is going to naturally crave those nutrients. Those types of diets set people up to fail. I have recently had an insight into how thoughts about what you are eating can lead to a deprivation mindset. A few months ago a family member was advised by their doctor that they had a wheat allergy and they would need to make some dietary changes and go gluten free. As I noticed that eating pasta made me sluggish for at least 2-3 hours afterwards and so my family member didn’t have to walk the journey into a gluten-free existence alone, I decided I would join them in in going gluten free. The goal I set was not to completely avoid gluten products, it was more to choose gluten-free options if they were available.
My insights after going gluten free, is that it has been journey of adventure, not one of deprivation! I have been able to discover all these new, exciting foods that I would not have tried as well as trying out lots of new, yummy recipes. I also observed that I was automatically selecting foods that were more nutritious and beneficial to my health and wellbeing. I never thought, “I can’t have this or that” or “I must stick to this”. I had thoughts that I had ‘added’ to my diet and health. I did not think that the pleasure of eating certain foods had been ‘taken away’.
I am now more aware that trying to change an eating habit with the expectation that you will completely avoid that food item, will increase the likelihood of feeling deprived which will lead to difficulties sustaining the change. If you do need to minimise or eliminate a food group as a result of health concerns, a helpful mindset is to believe you are free to choose what you decide to eat. I chose the gluten free option not because I had to eliminate gluten but because I wanted to. It’s so much easier to change any habit if you willingly choose to change, rather than feeling that you must change. Furthermore, any observation that certain foods will have negative effects on your physical and mental wellbeing, will strengthen the decision to choose food items that are more likely to benefit you.
A further insight that made the journey easier, was having the mindset that I was ‘adding’ value to what I was eating by trying new foods and new recipes and by so doing I was ‘adding’ to my health and wellbeing. Another key factor I observed is that I didn’t rush in and cut off gluten immediately. I just eased myself into the process and that made it a breeze. Finally, a further key factor that made the journey of going gluten free more interesting, was learning about the process of changing to gluten free. Some great resources I have found are:
1. A very interesting article by Dr Mark Hyman on the dangers of gluten. Click HERE to see that article.
2. Lots of resources, information and recipe ideas from Gluten Free Works. Click HERE for the link.
3. Holly Noonan’s program on going gluten free for emotional eaters. Click HERE for the link!