How To Stop Dieting and Start Dealing with Your Emotions (4 Step Process)

The word “diet” gets a bad rep these days. I know that for myself, when I would hear the word “diet” I think of deprivation, low calories, cutting out carbs or fat, feeling deprived and weight loss that never seems to stay lost…

As someone who has lived with emotional and compulsive eating and come out of it the other side with newfound freedom, I want to share with you 5 steps on how you can get out of the diet mentality and begin to change your relationship with food.

First off, what is the diet mentality? This is a way of thinking that has been ingrained in us over the years through social media, magazines, and fad diets. The majority of people who have tried to lose weight in the past, including myself, often resort to this way of thinking.

It is common perception that certain foods are bad; that carbs are bad and we either eat them and gain weight or have to cut them out completely. It is also thought that to lose weight we have to feel deprived and go on a low calorie restriction. It is these thoughts around “diet” that keep us stuck in a cycle of emotional eating.

This “all or nothing” attitude is hurting us. Instead of seeing that we can have healthy complex carbs daily and still lose weight, we have labeled all carbohydrates “bad”. The thing is, while there are foods that are healthier for us, labelling a food as “bad” gives it a certain power. Food is a source of energy for our body and when we eat for energy, the food is doing it’s job. It is when we use food to deal with emotions and stress food becomes used in a way that it was never intended for. So we label it as bad.

A diet really just means a consistent way of eating. Your diet is personal and can be unique to your body and what it needs.

Below you will find my steps of how to get out of the diet mentality and start creating your own unique lifestyle diet. These are the first steps I take with my clients in my 12 week program.

1. Keep a new kind of food journal:

Not the food journal you are used to keeping on My Fitness Pal or any other app that counts calories and tracks what you eat. As emotional eaters, it isn’t about what we are eating so much as how and why. While eating healthier foods will help you with weight loss, it is still possible to overindulge in foods for emotional reasons and so never see results. In this food journal you will be paying more attention to why you are eating and how. Are you eating because you are hungry or because you are stressed? Are you eating slowly and mindfully or are you gulping food down to try and trick yourself that you didn’t just eat that cookie?

Re-read your food journal to see where you are getting stuck.

Now that you have written how and why you are eating for a few days, you will want to look back and see where over the last couple of days you felt confused with food.

Did you overindulge at work each day? Or maybe after a long day you noticed that you relax with a bowl of popcorn in front of the TV? Perhaps you are so focused on work that you skip meals and then find yourself ravenous and just grab the easiest and yummiest food you can get your hands on, overeating because you allowed yourself to get so hungry?

2. Tune into what your body is telling you and actually listen to it:

For years, I would eat dairy and then feel rubbish. I would get bloated and have headaches and other digestive issues. I would ignore these signs and just take tums or pepto to deal with the symptoms, never questioning why it was happening.

Questioning why would have meant that I would have had to look at how I was eating and that seemed overwhelming. When I finally learned I was lactose intolerant I continued to eat dairy despite my knowledge. When I finally cut dairy out and felt amazing, I started see there were many other areas in my life where I would just deal with the consequences rather than stop it from happening in the first place.

As you eat each day, pay attention to how your body reacts to food; when you are getting hungry, if you are eating emotionally, if you are thirsty, and so on. When you notice something, instead of popping a pill to take care of the symptom, look for the root cause by asking what could have caused it to happen. Often times this is due to something we are eat or drink – or not drink enough of, like water.

3. Create your unique lifestyle diet:

Now that you are aware of what your body is telling you, you can create the (insert your name here) diet. I don’t label myself by saying I am a vegan, vegetarian, paleo, atkins, or meat eater. I follow the Meaghan diet. One that I created over trial and error that suits my body and my needs.

I no longer eat meat or dairy, I still eat fish and eggs on occasion, most of the time I am gluten-free but sometimes I indulge, I don’t drink often but I do when I am out for an event or when I feel like it. By using a food journal I was able to come up with my own way of eating that I enjoy. I never feel deprived, I lost weight and kept it off, and I have tons of energy. So using your food journal create meals and choose foods that you enjoy that are also healthy, eat them within a normal portion size, and do step 4.

4. Learn to deal with emotions without reaching for food:

For some, this is a lot easier said than done. In a nutshell, you want to get rid of all the beliefs you have that food is bad, that you have to count and cut calories, and instead, adopt a new way of thinking that lifts all limitations (as long as you are not using the food to deal with an emotion).

So how do you do that? I suggest creating a list of healthy non-food related activities, like meditation, that you can do in times of stress, anger, sadness, and other emotions that will replace food. These aren’t to displace an addiction and attach it to something new, but to build upon healthy habits. Emotions will never go away, they are a part of us. Food isn’t going away either as we need it to survive. So the only other option is to learn to deal with your stress.

I have an entire 12 week program that I use to show my clients exactly how that is done as it has a lot to do with our beliefs at a fundamental level. But if you want to try on your own and start now you can by creating a list of things you enjoy doing. For example, a playing a sport or instrument, knitting, puzzles, reading, walking, playing with the pet or kids, pampering yourself, cleaning, journaling, listening to music, dancing… To name just a few.

Remember, changing how we think about food and our bodies is the goal here. If you have tried diets over and over again without seeing long lasting results than you know by now that it isn’t about the food as much as it is about how we use the food and why.

Meaghan mcelroen

Meaghan is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and NASM – certified personal trainer who believes that awareness and movement lead to a healthier life.

She is an avid hiker, a former emotional eater, and a self-love coach. Meaghan combines strategic fitness workouts with mindset to help women overcome emotional eating and make better food choices so they can feel sexy and confident!

Get a week of Free Workout Vides here! You can also download her free Emotional Eaters Food Journal!