What is diet damage? Its your body fat set-point increasing due to repetitive diets. It's where your metabolism takes a hit due to restrictions of any kind, be it carbs, calories or fat. It's the neural pathways that get formed because you are food focused. It's the trauma stored in your body due to it assuming that starvation was a possibility. "Why else would you chronically undereat?" your body wonders.
Now, when I say diet, I'm referring to a colossal amount of things that I'm well aware some of you will fight me on. If it's food focused and there is any kind of restriction or rules to follow, for the following few minutes of you reading this post, it goes in the diet category, I don't care how healthy your program is.
Body Fat Set Point and Metabolic Damage
Let's take it from the top. You have a body fat set point that is there for your own good. It's to protect you from famine. The more times you put yourself into a precarious position where the metabolism has to slow to protect you from starvation, the higher that set point gets as extra insurance because you are a proven risk. The more you diet, the more your body resists your efforts. You can generally win in the short term, but eventually you're going to get diminishing returns, get disillusioned, wonder why you're working so hard for so little and quit. Then you gain weight and beat yourself up for it, am I right?
Eventually you'll scrape together the discipline to try again, maybe with a different plan, because there is always somebody in your life in a honeymoon phase with a diet, losing the weight, being happy and feeling good. The problem is, the more you repeat this pattern, the more you compound the problem.
"I wish I was as skinny as I was back when I first thought I was fat."
Older me would love to go back and tell younger me to knock this crap off. That moment when you're standing in front of a mirror in a bathing suit and you're 5 pounds away from perfect and thinking "I should do something about this. Everyone diets... That's just the way it is..."
Diets don't work. It's been proven over and over, so now there's a re-branding of them known as "lifestyle eating" which is code for a diet you do for the rest of your life. These have "maintenance phases" that are a more relaxed form, but you're still not able to eat freely, and when you put some weight back on, you go back to the strict phase until it comes off again. Unless it doesn't.
Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of your brain to rewire itself, due to your environment, behavior, thinking, and emotions. This can be used as a helpful tool when you encourage your brain to make new neural pathways for certain things, or it can be detrimental depending on what kind of pathways are being formed.
You might think of your neural pathways exactly as you would a literal path. When you're doing something you haven't done before, you're breaking trail. It's hard, and you're very engaged mentally, emotionally and present to the situation, flattening the grass as you walk. The next time you do it, you can kinda see how you went and it's easier to find your way. With repetition, you've worn down all the vegetation, there's a very clear and wide path and you can walk it on autopilot. Whatever this pathway is becomes automatic for you.
When you're on a diet, a pathway forms around a constant process of planning, shopping, evaluating, rejecting or accepting every food encountered, and you're building a food focus that may eventually lead to obsession. This is just a hunch, but I wonder if that kind of focus creates a reaction in the body that says "There's a priority on finding food to eat, maybe I need to store more fat, just in case."
When you try to trick your body, when you say disparaging things about it, when you deprive it, your body experiences trauma. Dieting is kinda like waterboarding. On one hand you know you're not drowning, but it sure feels like it! In your head, you're not going to die from your dietary restrictions, but your physical reaction says otherwise. Yes, I just equated your "healthy lifestyle" with torture.
"But what about how much better I feel when I start (insert healthy program here)?" This is due to a rise in catcheolamines, which are the stimulatory adrenal hormones. When catcheolamines are released, you're more alert, clear headed, energetic, your appetite drops, you burn fat and not muscle. Yes, it is wonderful, but it's actually a stress response from your body.
How many of you understand that going weeks or months on high adrenalin is not sustainable? Not only is it unsustainable, but sets you up for adrenal fatigue and ensures that you'll have a tougher time losing weight in the future. This is a great post that unpacks this process in more depth.
I've looked at a lot of diets, and the majority have truly wonderful attributes. We would do well to eat unprocessed stuff with a bunch of great vegetables and less junk. Keto is big right now, and all of those healthy fats are powerful anti-inflammatories and people with chronic pain are finding relief. But why do we feel the need to be so extreme about these things? We want rules because we don't trust our bodies. We feel betrayed by them, and they feel betrayed by us. It's time to call a truce.
Calling a truce probably looks slightly different for each individual. To generalize, it would mean stopping dieting, and treating your body kindly and with respect. It would mean acknowledging your body's wisdom and establishing a sense of cooperation. It probably means doing some radical healing, even if the scale goes up. There has to be a better way than "whipping your body into shape."
Leah from Shelemah and I did an experiment for 30 days based around positive self-talk. The intention was to speak from our spirit rather than our soul (who has issues and is not the most loving and compassionate communicator) to address both physical factors that encourage weight gain as well as emotional baggage.
We used Chrysanthemum flower essence to get the soul relaxed enough to let the spirit help. We split 70 people into two groups and gave each the same positive conversation starters. We covered everything from metabolism and protective weight, to cortisol and forms of abuse we've done to ourselves. Neither group was trying to control their diet. One group used Chrysanthemum essence, the other did not. Over thirty days, the Chrysanthemum group lost an average of three pounds, the group that only talked to their bodies lost .7 pounds.
Both groups reported emotional healing and felt like they were headed in the right direction overall. The Chrysanthemum group tended to report physical changes as well as emotional.
We have a book detailing the process, it's a short read, and it takes you through thirty days of addressing a different physical or emotional issue each day. If you'd like to implement the Body Coaching in conjunction with Chrysanthemum essence there's a few options:
- We have a package deal of Chrysanthemum, Craving Control (not an appetite suppressant) along with thirty days of emails to help you stay on track. There's also an option of just the program emails if you already have the essences and book.
- You can just order Chrysanthemum and the book
- You can just get the book (but as I said above, the group that used Chrysanthemum and not just the talking had better results)
What ever option you choose, you'll need the book.
You will not be able to keep dieting and do the Body Coaching unless you alter it significantly. For one thing, you'd be sending your body mixed messages, saying all the right things, yet continuing to sabotage your health.
This is probably not the be-all end all for reversing diet damage, but it's a place to redeem your relationship with your body and start to work together for your ultimate health.
Image credit: © Can Stock Photo / ollyy