Dieting as a Form of Insanity?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome. If this is true, is yo-yo dieting a form of insanity? Let’s think this through and see if we can stop the insanity.

We’ve covered a lot of information on how the status of our digestive system impacts our health, and weight is no exception. Whether or not digestive health is a factor is really an individual question. Let’s look at a few factors that could be causing you to ride the diet roller coaster.

Relationship with Food

We all have a relationship with food.  The purpose of food is to nourish our bodies.  Food is intended to provide the nutrition our bodies need to function properly.  When we are experiencing intestinal issues like dysbiosis or leaky gut, we may not be absorbing the nutrients we are consuming from food.  We learned all this already.

But there’s more to it than that.  We also have non-nutrition relationships with food.  Food has been a part of our lives since we were born.  Can you recall how food has been used at different stages of your life?  For example, although we cannot remember infancy, we know that food is typically tied to bonding time with parents or caregivers.  As an infant, we are dependent upon others for our ongoing source of life.  How this was provided impacts our relationship with food as adults.  And it doesn’t stop there.

Was food ever used as a reward, an incentive, or for comfort?  Think back to how food was used or presented in childhood.  Has any of this carried over into adulthood?  Stress eating and emotional eating are very likely carry-overs.  It might even go beyond food to other behaviors that have substituted for food like alcohol or drugs.

How we view and use food are indicators of our relationship with food.  Start being aware of the role food plays in your life.  Is food tied to something other than hunger?  I’ll be the first to admit, for me, food was tied to boredom.  Just this year I examined my snacking between meals.  Once I was able to bring my blood sugar into balance so I wouldn’t need to snack, I realized I was looking for snacks at times when I was bored.  To break the pattern, I started drinking herbal tea or water.  I replaced the unnecessary food intake with something my body could use and addressed the situation causing the urge to eat.  For others it may be stress or emotional situations.  Utilizing stress management tools like meditation, deep breathing, yoga or any healthy activity that takes you away from stress about can help break this cycle.

The key is uncovering and understanding your relationship to food and how this may be impacting your health.  Another key tool is to be more present while eating; bringing awareness to eating habits and how we feel while eating.

Potential Allergies or Sensitivities

What could this possibly have to do with dieting?  Well, it’s not uncommon for people to temporarily remove foods while dieting, and then bring them back once they have reached their goal.  That’s really part of the roller coaster.  We give up sweets, or fried foods, or insert your taboo food here, and then after we lose weight we go back to eating the way we were eating before going on a diet.  The weight creeps back and we start all over again.  When you think about this, it only makes sense.  How could going back to what caused the weight gain bring us to anywhere but where we started?

I touched on this briefly last time, the concept of diet as a lifestyle rather than short-term fix.  We also talked a lot about food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances.  Not only might dieting be a short-term fix because we are cycling unhealthy foods in and out of our regular diet; we might also be cycling foods that are not generally unhealthy, but may be causing issues.

Taking a break from these foods will lead to a reduction in inflammation in the body and naturally, weight loss and better well-being.  But then the food or foods are brought back in, and it starts the cycle all over again.  One way to find out if you have a sensitivity or intolerance is to add back food groups one at a time, as you would if you were doing an elimination diet.  I use the scale to track inflammation; although, most of the time you can tell just by how you are feeling; e.g., bloating, gas, joint aches and pains.

Short-term vs. Long-term Goals

In the end, you need to assess your goals.  What are you actually trying to accomplish?  I doubt many of us enjoy the roller coaster.  Deep down, we know it’s not the way to go.  Many people end up gaining more weight than they lost when they go “off” the diet.  Diets do not teach us how to eat for weight maintenance, only loss.  Hence the weight creep that’s experienced over time.

Before going on a diet, write down your short-term and long-term goals.  Are there immediate results you are trying to accomplish?  What do you want for the long-term?  Maybe you have an event that you are trying to get into shape for and need a diet to get there sooner rather than later.  I get that.  But what happens afterward?  Wouldn’t it be nice to only set that goal once, achieve it and maintain?  That’s where the long-term plan comes in.  That’s where the insanity stops, and developing a plan for long-term health starts.

I came across an article from a doctor that touched on some enlightening points around the emotionality and effects of yo-yo dieting that you may find interesting.  You can click here to read more.  You might be surprised that the effects of yo-yo dieting go beyond physical.

What is your long-term goal?

Yours in Wellness,


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