I sit melted into the couch as my favorite show, Shark Tank, has left me on a cliffhanger before a commercial break (will they get the deal?!). My dreams of entrepreneurship are now met with the promise of a better life through a pill. Well, minus a laundry list of side effects (who needs their liver, anyway?). We can’t escape it- pharmaceutical advertisements are everywhere!
Whatever your struggle is, there is probably a pill to pop to “fix” it. The television commercial is familiar – a woman who was once bound by her illness is now living the good life. The troubles she faced are now gone. The perception is that there is a “quick fix” for our health issues; that one easy action will change our reality for the better.
That is until the lengthy and disturbing disclaimer begins to play. Suddenly the “easy” solution doesn’t sound so great. When faced with the reality of the side effects of medication, the decision to take the pill gets REAL.
SHOULD DIETS COME WITH A WARNING LABEL?
Diets don’t come with warning labels that educate us about the potential risks of our ventures. No one rattles off, even quickly or quietly, what may happen if we aggressively restrict our food intake. But just like restricting oxygen by holding our breath, we cannot aggressively “under eat” for long without some gasping.
It is simply cause-and-effect. You would never beat yourself up for becoming tired after taking your allergy medicine. In the same way, try not to get frustrated with yourself for the backlash of your decision to diet. Yes, it would have been nice to lose weight the “right” way but you had the best of intentions and now it is time to move forward.
In this post, we will look at some dieting “side effects” and what you can do about them.
Please note, this list is not exhaustive and is simply a compilation of observations that I have made through coaching clients. If you have something to add, I’d love to hear about it. Just leave a comment below.
DIET SIDE EFFECTS
1. LAST SUPPER EATING
If I were to tell you that tomorrow you were starting a juice cleanse, what would the rest of your eating look like today? Chances are you would eat as much of the “forbidden” foods as you could. The threat of not having access to a food that you enjoy would create a frenzy to “get it while you can”.
This practice has an unexpected twist too- Engaging in last supper eating can actually help the start of a diet feel somewhat easy!
- If sickening quantities of foods were eaten (“I never want to see that food again!”), it’s really easy to bypass cravings for our favorite foods… for a little while.
- The heavy hit of calories makes it easy to sustain on a lower calorie intake for a day or so until… our appetite returns.
Proverbs 27:7 NLT A person who is full refuses honey, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry.
2. PREOCCUPATION WITH FOOD
Several years ago I experienced some very troublesome digestive issues. In an effort to reduce my discomfort naturally, I removed a laundry list of foods from my diet that may have been problematic. Included in that list were foods like onions, garlic, and cabbage. I never thought that it was possible to crave cabbage. It is.
When we restrict food, any foods, it can create an intense focus on getting those foods. It’s human nature.
In addition to wanting what we “can’t” have, counting, weighing, and measuring food can feel like a part time job. While creating new habits does require time and attention, the end goal is to use tools that will eventually become obsolete. A purposeful focus is good. A life-dominating preoccupation, not so good.
3. YOU GET DISCONNECTED FROM YOUR BODY’S SIGNALS
When hunger and fullness are replaced with adherence to a diet plan, our body’s signals become fuzzy and difficult to distinguish. If the diet you are on tells you to eat 6 times a day and you tend to feel hunger for 3 meals and a mid-afternoon snack, you are stepping outside of what works best for you for the sake of following along.
Yes, having a loose plan and daily schedule in place can be a game-changer for eating well but this gentle structure is never meant to override what your body needs.
Dieters also tend to feel a strong draw to foods that they “cannot” have. When faced with the opportunity to finally eat a treat, hunger and fullness are of no consideration. Availability becomes the driver rather than a tummy growl.
4.YOU GET DISCONNECTED FROM YOUR TRUE WANTS
Much like disconnecting from our body’s signals (hunger and fullness), diets can cause foods to become super-appealing or super-redundant. If we love broccoli but end up eating it steamed meal after meal, we’ll start to despise those little green trees.
On the contrary, we may have a take it or leave it attitude about a certain treat. But, after feeling deprived of it for weeks on end, we’ll devour it at our church potluck.
There comes a point in the dieting world that the plan begins to skew our true likes and dislikes.
Colossians 2:21-23 NLT “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.
5. YOU FEEL LIKE A FAILURE
I have had clients from all walks of life in my coaching practices. Surgeons, lawyers, CEOs and moms of many. People, like you, who are doing awesome things every single day of their lives and yet- they felt like complete and total failures when it came to food.
Diets have a way of doing that. They take well-intentioned individuals with hopes and dreams and hand them a program that offers a dismal 95% failure rate. Then, those amazing people take their lack of success as a sign of their own personal weakness. They believe that surely, they failed the diet when it was the other way around – the diet failed them.
WHAT TO DO
If you identify with these dieting side effects, you are not alone. No one signs up for their first diet with the expectation of adopting these burdensome ways of thinking and acting. Give yourself plenty of grace as you move towards your “diet detoxification” process!
READ TO MAKE CHANGES TO YOUR HEALTH AND FITNESS THAT DON’T REVOLVE AROUND FOOD? GET YOUR FREE GUIDE “5 STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE YOUR DIET WITHOUT CHANGING WHAT YOU EAT”.
1. MAKE A DECISION TO LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Even if you decide to stick with an out-of-the-box diet, make a determination to start listening to your body today. Notice your hunger and fullness signals. Pay attention to the times, types, amounts of food that make you feel your best. There are signals being sent your way but you have to tune into their station to receive them.
Don’t judge what you discover, just observe.
- What do my hunger sensations feel like? How often do I experience true body hunger?
- How do I feel as I eat a meal when I am truly hungry? When I’m not truly hungry?
- What does my body feel like at different stages of a meal? How do I know when I am full?
- What types of food leave me feeling my best? Are there any foods that leave me feeling bad?
By simply noticing the answers to these questions you are on your way to reconnecting with your body’s cues!
2. QUESTION YOUR FOOD LABELS
Food labels. I am not talking about the nutrition facts label but the labels we place on foods, naming them as being good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. Yes, some foods are better for our health than others but more important than type is quantity and frequency.
I think you’ll probably agree that a cupcake at a birthday party or an occasional Friday night butter burger is not a big deal. However, eating those foods on a daily basis would be awful for our well-being.
1 Corinthians 6:12 NLT You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.
To start questioning your food labels:
- Notice how frequently you call foods good or bad. Then, pay attention to how that label affects your desire for them. How unfortunate it would be to crave a “bad” food simply because it was labeled as such and not because you were incredibly fond of it.
- Mentally (or verbally if you’re up for it) correct the label. Remind yourself that you physically CAN eat any food that you want (we have money and transportation) but you may not want to eat every single food that comes your way.
- Give yourself full permission to have a “bad” food in an enjoyable setting. Go out for ice cream with your family, have a dessert date with your spouse, or make yourself a scrumptious plate at a potluck. Choose only your favorite eats, relax, and mindfully enjoy them. You may be surprised how much more satisfying a piece of pie is when it’s swimming in ice cream rather than negative self-talk and guilt.
- If this idea scares you, start small. Grab a kiddie cone at a local ice cream joint or get a single-size serving at the corner gas station. Anything counts. It is all worth your effort!
3. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Repeat exercises 1 and 2 and you will begin to feel your dieting side effects lift. This process may happen quickly for some. But, if you have been dieting for awhile, it may take several months to get the residual out of your system.
Be sure to extend patience and self-kindness to yourself as you embrace a life without obnoxious diet rules!
THIS IS YOUR PROCESS
As you can see, dieting side effects are real. As you read through the list above, I pray that seeing yourself in the topics was a relief for you. You are not a failure or an anomaly. Quite the opposite- you are just normal. It is completely normal to rebound after a period of deprivation. Being hyper-focused on what you can or can’t eat would cause anyone to see food through a diet haze.
This is all expected. But, thankfully, you are NOT stuck there.
By tuning into your body’s signals and becoming a kind observer of what those cues are speaking to you, you will start to unpack that which is buried. By allowing yourself to enjoy ALL types of foods whilst winning the arm wrestling match against guilt, you will find that the pedestal beneath certain foods slowly diminishes.
There may be days where your efforts feel unnoticed but then… you feel a diet chain BREAK. No, it’s not easy but it will be worth it!