One of the things I don’t like about dieting is that many dieting programs have unrealistic standards that must be met in order to be “successful”. Having previously been on mainstream dieting programs (and some extreme ones as well!), where I was given “support” to help me achieve some goal weight, I have personally experienced the unrealistic standards that dieters are confronted with.
I have been told things such as “that chocolate you ate has set you back three weeks” and “you need to stick exactly to the program otherwise your weight loss will be slow/come to a halt”. This precise adherence to a dietary program is not sustainable when the diet stops. It’s not even doable on the diet, hence why the diet stops.
It’s perfectly normal to have setbacks when any goals are made. That’s how you learn. Thomas Edison, a US inventor, has been quoted as saying “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward”. Yet one little dietary setback is usually considered to be failure as a result of having no willpower. The individual is blamed despite the problem being more about the unrealistic standards of the dietary program. Weight management is a bit more complicated than just follow the diet as close as possible, get to your goal weight and live happily ever after.
Interestingly, when I started writing this post I googled ‘perfectionism’ and ‘dieting’. Most of the articles seem to be about helping the individual overcome their perfectionism, so they can keep happily dieting. In my experience the standards expected of dieters just encourages perfectionistic thinking.
I’d rather attempt something and try and get some of it right and learn from setbacks, rather than attempt something that requires 100% precision. This unrealistic standard of many dieting programs is clearly not going to boost anyone’s self-esteem. Research also finds that perfectionism is strongly associated with anxiety and depression. Although not all diets have such rigid standards, many do and the perfectionism is implied through the dietary rules. For example, diets usually come with a list of “don’ts, you should, you must and you can’t”. This is also the language used by those with perfectionist traits. I haven’t found many diets that don’t use this type of language.
Dieting alternatives are more conducive to improving one’s physical and mental wellbeing than trying to adhere to the rules one is expected to follow when they are on a diet.
Some helpful resources are:
1. The book “Intuitive Eating” by authors Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Click HERE for the link!
3. The book “If not dieting, then what?” by Dr Rick Kausman. Click HERE for the link to the site.