The impact of dieting on physical and mental health is not neutral, it harms both. Yet diet culture sells only promises of health and happiness. The reality is a life of constant hunger, white- knuckling cravings and obsessing about food 24/7 and then ultimately disappointment and self- blame. So why do we set an intention to repeat this cycle at the start of every new year?

Diet culture thrives and generates billions of dollars (for someone else) by instilling a fear-based belief that the only way to be healthy and happy is to achieve a certain weight or body size. This is not true and research proves it. So while we know this in our heads why is it so hard to hear it in our hearts?

Why are you having trouble letting go of dieting when you don’t need research to tell you it doesn’t make you feel good physically or mentally? One powerful reason is that you are making a conscious choice to let go of a dream that over time became a purpose. A dream that weight loss will make so many things better. That at “that weight” you will be able to find happiness, fun, romance and success among a multitude of other desirable things. The reality is that you can do all of these things right now in this body. It’s easy to say of course but I know it takes lots of courage and faith to start experimenting with this until you really experience it as the truth.

If you are currently dieting and are terrified to loosen your grip it’s okay. Just notice that. It’s the fault of diet culture plain and simple. I spent many painful and exhausting years dieting, most of us have. My shift took time, experimenting and support. What you can do is ask yourself: What is your real dream showing up as need to lose weight and change your body?

Often sounds something like one or more of these- I CAN be active with my family, walk the stairs to my office, accept invitations without anxiety, feel good or at least neutral about my body, start dating, take that trip, stop comparing my body to other bodies, stop worrying about what others are thinking when I’m eating fries, feel like I am making positive choices for my health, feel like I am setting myself up for healthy aging with vitality. This is the heart of the matter and the real desire under the dream and diet.

I have shared tissues with clients as they’ve realized that the dream they’ve held for so long is not ever going to be realized through dieting. Dieting has never worked, at least not for long and based on their own experience will never work. It can be a distressing moment, and then it’s not. Relief sets in as they realize they can focus on something else, something that will add joy to their lives. What they are truly seeking. And then the exciting process of exploring what this is.

Of course the “food stuff” doesn’t just go away from having this insight. The process of restricting and being chronically hungry leads to binging which in turn creates a sense of not being able to trust your body or believe you can be in charge of your food decisions. This is another reason it’s so hard to imagine a life without dieting that doesn’t look like one long binge.

Eating without restriction or a detailed meal plan to end binge eating can sound like a pretty scary proposal. This takes courage, a bit of faith and support while you move in one toe at a time. The process quickly turns from scary to life-giving and exciting as life opens up.

Part of that support is discovering a nourishing way and pattern of eating that works for you as an individual. Eating in a way that supports the things you really want to do, is low stress and enjoyable. Feeling confident in your food choices because you know what feels good and right for you and your body makes eating fries in front of anyone a non-issue.

Ultimately it’s about self-care. A foundational part of self-care is knowing what you need and how to respond to that need in healthy ways that leave you feeling better, not worse. There’s nothing wrong with “emotional eating”, it’s a natural response that works until.. it doesn’t. Knowing when cookies are not the answer or feeling they have done all the can for you and you and knowing where to go from there to care for yourself is critical. We can learn and practice these skills until binging really just doesn’t make sense to us anymore.


Resolve to examine your dreams, and nourish your body and spirit so you can move towards those dreams.

Resolve to trust your body and allow your body to trust you again as you experiment with eating from a place of self-care.

Resolve to believe that you matter, that your needs matter and that meeting those needs with love and compassion is a top priority.

If you would like support on this journey I can help. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly you feel more freedom and in charge.

Wishing you health, happiness and good times in 2020.

Lisa Kehler, RD, Wellcoaches-trained health coach, Am I Hungry trained mindful eating facilitator, Heart Yoga teacher 200hr