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“I haven’t found long-term dieting success…but shouldn’t I keep trying?”

People often tell me that they don’t want to pursue size acceptance, do body image work, or let go of dieting (despite clear evidence that dieting almost always fail long-term, and is the single leading predictor of binge-eating),because they say it feels like “giving up,” or they feel like they should “keep trying.” 

Ultimately, letting go of dieting IS giving up…on a fight that you’re likely doomed to lose anyway, and that’s beating you black and blue along the way

(…so, no, you probably shouldn’t keep trying,’ unless your goal is to push yourself further and further down the diet-binge rabbit hole as time goes on). 

Sometimes the wise, rational, and even “healthful” thing to do IS give up,
specifically when the thing you’re trying to do doesn’t seem to be working,
and is having the *exact opposite* effect on your life that you’d like.

Considering the incredibly low success rates of dieting long-term, and the enormous amount there is to lose along the way (e.g. your time, sanity, and long-term weight gain),

“giving up” on dieting is the responsible thing to do…just like “giving up” buying lottery tickets is also the responsible thing to do.

In business this is referred to as cutting your losses—when you let go of a costly strategy that you were hoping would pay off (but hasn’t), because you’re simply not willing to risk further losses or damages.

You’ve already lost [fill in the blank] number of years to diet-binge cycling…how many more years are you willing to gamble before you’re not willing to lose anymore?

On that note, if you’re ready to let go of dieting (for real) and want to learn what *does* work for creating permanent, long-term health outcomes (including mental health outcomes, like freedom from binge-eating, etc.) Check out my free video training series here. It’s worth the watch.

Why people keep dieting despite logic or rationality

“When I’m thin, people will take me seriously at work, look up to me, and I’ll get promoted.

“When I’m thin, everyone will think I’m cool and attractive and want to be my friend.”

“When I’m thin, everyone will want to date me, and I’ll finally find the person I’m ‘supposed’ to be with (and I’ll never have to worry about losing them).”

“When I’m thin, I’ll never feel lonely, rejected, or scared about my future—because I’ll have the friends, the family and the white picket fence.”

The fantasy that we can diet our way into safety, love, power, and acceptance—and diet our way out of judgment, powerlessness, oppression or rejectionunderlies almost all body-image or “food issues” to some degree or another, and makes dieting the true compulsion so difficult to give up.

No one tries to control their weight in a vacuum—we only try to control our weight…in an attempt to control something else entirely.

The problem is…the fantasy never meets the reality…

Most diets become binges, rebound weight gain, weight cycling, etc.; and those who are “successful” at weight suppression often suffer even more brutal physical and psychological damages on account of long-term deprivation.

Irrespective of weight, we find we’re not able to control the opinions of others…we still struggle in relationships; we still struggle with finances or career choices, or family-life challenges.

As it turns out, you can’t diet your way out of pain or uncertainty.

(God knows you’ve been trying long enough.)

At the end of the day, recovering from “feeling crazy around food” is about learning to face life’s toughest challenges head-on—rather than sit tirelessly in the delusion that you can diet your way out of them.

Weight Bias is Not In Your Head…and that’s probably not a reason to diet.

Isabel Foxen DukeDear Isabel,

I understand that a focus on “weight control” is what’s behind most restriction (and subsequent binge/emotional eating behaviors). For the sake of my own healing, I’d like to get on the body-positivity train, but it’s hard to let go of dieting in a society that *really does* judge people on the basis of size. I have a deeply set fear that if I get bigger, I won’t be loved, I won’t be chosen for jobs as easily, I won’t be noticed—how do I overcome this fear when I see it happening around me all the time? 

xo Anonymous

____________

Here’s the short answer to this question: 

Yes, we live in a highly oppressive world—towards all marginalized groups on the spectrums of race, gender, size, ability, age, class and various other factors.

Weight discrimination is not just “in your head,” and healing your relationship with your body may mean learning to navigate an incredibly violent and prejudicial culture without hurting yourself or causing yourself further harm.

That being said—I don’t know many people who are made happier, or healthier, by *participating* in their own oppression—by agreeing with, perpetuating, or acquiescing to the demands of cultural mandates that are fundamentally designed to oppress them.

It’s worth asking yourself the question—are you really happier trying to conform to a particular weight standard, than you would be rejecting those standards and being true to yourself—even in the face of judgment?

Are you happier doing the *constant* labor of harming yourself so you can look like something that isn’t natural to you? Likely without any long-term ‘success’ in these efforts anyway?

Are you happier suffering at the hands of restriction, food obsession, diet-binge cycling? Weight-cycling up and down?

Are you happier spending your numbered days on this planet trying desperately to conform at the cost of your own health, sanity, and freedom?

Yes, you may incur judgment by being your natural size—and given the long-term success rates of dieting, you’ll likely incur the same judgment whether you choose to diet or not,

but is incurring the judgment of some fatphobic people really *more* scary than living in a constant state of self-harm, with no promise of safety from that judgment regardless?

Like most people, I battled a deep fear of judgment when I first gave up dieting—but that fear seemed infinitely more manageable when I honestly considered my alternative.

At some point, it felt less scary to stand up to fatphobia, than continue pandering to bigotry, ignorance, and hate.

That’s the short answer.

Binge-Eating Recovery PODCASTS

In anticipation of my upcoming Master Class (which opens for registration on September 7th!), I’m doing podcast interviews all over the place this week—

get ready…it’s basically an IFD podcast extravaganza! 

Here are some new episodes to check out on your downtime (broken up roughly by category so you can pick and choose whatever sounds interesting).

#1. “What if I’m not dieting, but still binge-eating?” 

You can listen to me answer this all-too-common question on this podcast episode with Julie Duffy Dillon. This episode is short and sweet, and covers super important core concepts in my work—including,

the difference between “emotional eating” and “binge-eating,”
how diet-mentality destroys our best efforts at binge-eating recovery,
why judging ourselves for emotional eating is a common cause of binge-eating
and ultimately, why the
don’t-binge-eat dietdoesn’t work very well.  

It’s a great episode for new and long-term listeners alike. Here’s the link to check it out.

Also—not exactly new—but if you missed this epic interview I did with Jessi Haggerty a few weeks back, make sure to check it out. We cover my *personal* story recovering from restriction and binge-eating in depth (including major turning points and “aha” moments)—a critical interview for anyone who may have missed it. Here’s the link once more.

#2. As you may know, I think we all need to just calm the fuck down about emotional eating. 

I recently shared my story with Dietitians Unplugged, including why it’s essential that we calm down about emotional eating, what it meant for me to “hit bottom” in my relationship with food, and why it took so long to turn the ship around.

Notable quotes from this interview include things like: “eating food ‘just for fuel,’ is like having sex ‘just for reproduction’….it’s unrealistic and misses the point.” Check out this interview here.

I also discuss these topics in depth with Sarah Vance on the Reclaiming You Podcast AND this amazing episode with On Air with Ella. It’s raining podcasts!

Additionally, I get the most adamant I’ve ever gotten about the critical importance of de-villainizing emotional eating in this podcast episode with Christy Harrison. We talk about everything from how negative emotional eating narratives harm recovery to why spending your life trying to avoid illness may not be a life well spent. This episode definitely covers more advanced topics and uses some more advanced language, so if you’re new—I recommend listening to my earlier episodes with Christy first and then move on to this latest episode thereafter. You can find my first and second interviews with Christy here and here.

#3. Curious about my take on “food addiction?” 

Okay, so this one isn’t new…but one of my favorite interviews I gave this year was with the HOME Podcast about the stark differences between compulsive behaviors with food (and other biological necessities) compared with chemical addictions (like drugs or alcohol). Click here to check it out.

#4. What is “Fatphobia?” Why Size-Acceptance Activism? 

Katie Dalebout was one of the first people to ever interview me on a podcast 4+ years ago. This is a reunion episode for us where we talk about everything from the history of weight-bias, to dealing with food allergies in recovery, and much, much more. Katie’s also a Master Class Alum. Click here to check it out.

On a final note, I know this list is pretty exhaustive—so don’t feel any pressure to listen to every show. Pick one or two topics that resonate with you and enjoy those episodes at whatever pace makes sense for you.