Recognizing the Diet Mentality
Now that we’ve done some mindset work to lay the foundation for intuitive eating, we’re going to talk about one of the most important intuitive eating principles: rejecting the diet mentality.
Actually, first we’re going to talk about recognizing the diet mentality, because you can’t reject what you can’t see.
You may not be on an “official” diet—in fact, most people I work with don’t think they’re “on a diet”—but there are likely other ways in which you’re holding on to dieting. That’s called diet mentality.
Diet mentality is continuing to practice the mental habits and rules you picked up through dieting, or through just living in diet culture. (If you have an active eating disorder, diet mentality is analogous to the eating-disorder voice.)
Diet mentality can show up in some super sneaky ways.
For example, maybe you’re allowing yourself to eat foods that you once considered off-limits, but you’re still berating yourself afterwards. That’s diet mentality.
Or maybe you’re keeping yourself from eating as much as you want at any given meal, because you think your portions “should” be small. That’s diet mentality, too.
Or maybe you’re clinging to one or a few rules from a specific diet, even after having given up all the other rules. You guessed it, diet mentality.
In the following journal exercises, we’re going to get clear on what the diet mentality looks like for you, and how it would feel to let it go.
Journal Exercise 1
Reflect on how the diet mentality is showing up for you.
Do you identify with any of the examples above? Or are there other ways the diet mentality manifests itself in your mind?
Can you think of where those thoughts came from? Were some of them from “official” diets you were on in the past, or from “unofficial” diets you picked up from friends, family, or society?
How much do you actually believe each of those thoughts? (It's OK if you believe some of them strongly right now; this is the very beginning of your journey, so it's very common to have some attachment to the diet-mentality thoughts and ambivalence about letting them go.)
Journal Exercise 2
Now we’re going to think about how all of those things feel.
What emotions came up for you as you identified your diet-mentality thoughts?
Did you feel sad, upset, bummed out? Angry at the diet mentality? Angry at me for making you think about the diet mentality? Defensive at the idea that diet-mentality thoughts might not be true?
ALL emotions are OK, so just allow yourself to feel what you feel, notice it, and write it down.
Especially if you’re feeling angry at the diet mentality, reflect on the specific ways dieting has led you astray.
Think about all the things diets have taken from you, like time you could have spent on pursuits or hobbies that nourished you, time you could have spent connecting with loved ones, an authentic and intuitive connection to your body, etc.
Let yourself feel whatever comes up as you reflect on the consequences of diet mentality in your life, and offer yourself compassion and comfort. (Try the Self-Compassion Break meditation from Day 1 for some guidance.)
Journal Exercise 3
Reflect on what your life would be like if you didn’t have to think those diet-mentality thoughts and feel those feelings.
How would you feel throughout the day if those thoughts weren’t on your mind?
What experiences with food or your body would you be more open to if you weren’t caught up in the diet mentality?
If you’re experiencing sadness at the idea of giving up the effort to change your body, that’s OK—it’s normal to grieve even the things that aren’t working for us, because letting go of any long-held belief is hard. Just notice the feelings, and offer yourself compassion and comfort.