Once you start dieting, you can’t stop thinking about FOOD, and all you want is EVERYTHING. Just name it and you want it:
- Pizza? Yes
- McDonald’s? Yes
- Fries? Yes
- Doughnuts? Yes twice
- Skittles? Yes
You don’t even eat these things regularly, but the second you can’t have them, they are all you want.
If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. Most of us do.
Starting a diet means that you are actively thinking about the food you are eating. Prior to starting the diet, thinking about food probably meant:
- I need to be healthy after that weekend, I’m gonna get a salad for lunch
- I’m feeling Chinese and pizza right now, is it gross to have two slices of pizza with an eggroll?
- Can you put avocado on my burger, please? I’m trying to be healthy here...
- Can you put a bagel in a panini press?
- Why does kale taste like a tree threw up in my mouth?
Most diets require planning meals or doing some sort of meal preparation. This means going to the supermarket, staying on the perimeter, buying plenty of meats and vegetables, and trying to prepare meals with some flavor.
This is a huge shift from what you are used to. And that’s precisely why you can’t stop thinking food.
It’s just psychology
Me when I don't have pizza
When you were a kid and you were told you couldn’t have a toy, the tantrum was inevitable. As a defiant teenager, if your parents told you not to drink or smoke weed, you went to a party and made it your mission to get hammered while eating pot brownies. In your twenties, you fall hard for the person who is either in a relationship or doesn’t pay you any attention.
What is the fixation on the forbidden fruit and why does it control so many aspects of our life? Apparently, our urge to go after the what we can’t have is in our DNA.
Psychological Reactance is a theory in psychology about the human need to feel free. If someone is made to feel they can’t have or can’t do something, it creates a reaction of heightened awareness and perceived scarcity.
Heightened awareness is exactly what it sounds like: you are now aware of what you can’t have, which draws attention to it. Perceived scarcity is not as self explanatory. This is when you perceive something to be in short supply (i.e. the thing you can’t have), so its perceived value increases.
The longer you are aware of something and cannot have it, the more valuable it becomes.
Bring it back to dieting
According to anthropologist Helen Fisher, levels of dopamine — the pleasure chemical in the brain — continue to rise the longer you must wait to fulfill a desire. So, in other words, your experience with something or someone is ultimately more pleasurable if you have had to hold out.
Let’s bring this back to dieting.
Once you start a diet, you now know that you can eat certain foods, but can’t eat others. This is the way most, if not all, diets work. This creates a reactance of heightened awareness and perceived scarcity. Everything that is on the “can’t eat” list is suddenly exactly what you want. Those same foods have skyrocketed in value. The longer you don’t have them, the more value they have.
- If you don’t have pizza for a week, then it tastes good when you have it.
- If you don’t have pizza for two weeks, it tastes REALLY good when you have it.
- If you don’t have pizza for a month, it tastes like HEAVEN when you do have it.
Besides tasting great, the second you have it your body fills with dopamine (feel good chemical), making the experience of eating pizza more than just pizza. It makes it prize or an accomplishment. You held out and now you can have it. But come Monday, you won’t be able to have it anymore. So you need to get in as much as you can!!!
The Rock eating five pizzas during a cheat day (totally normal)
This type of behavior is not only dangerous, but highly addictive. What you have essentially created is a subconscious association between feeling good about yourself and specific groups of food. The constant deprivation and reward cycle, while emotionally exhausting, is incredibly exciting and hard to resist. The longer you ride this roller coaster, the harder it is to get off.
Dieting is not about the food, it's about the mindset
The one thing I have learned is that you can lose weight eating just about anything if you learn to balance it. But there are golden rules to dieting if you want to succeed:
Lose weight at anywhere between .5-2 pounds per week
Try to lose weight fast (i.e. 10 pounds in 2 weeks)
Change how you eat slowly and gradually
Change what you eat overnight
Incorporate foods you like and already eat
Eliminate all “junk” food and only eat “healthy” food
Eat what you like by planning for it everyday
Use cheat days to eat what you like
Make small changes consistently
Make one huge change immediately
If you want to lose weight, you have to change how you approach dieting, not change your food, perse. If you don’t alter your mindset, eventually it will eat you alive. Mindsets are not changed overnight, they take time. Losing weight is not done overnight, it takes time.
I will say this over and over again: If you want to lose weight, you must change your mindset first, and the weight will melt off.
To learn more about my anti-dieting method of weight loss, start with the workshop below