3 Benefits I Received When I Stopped Dieting and Started Living

3 stuffed birds staring at their reflection in the lake
What happens when you stop dieting and start living?
Most people believe they'll get fat, but is that true?
Are you sick and tired of going on a diet?

Have you tried low carb, high carb, and everything in between?

Me too!

Over the years, I've tried dozens and dozens of weight-loss schemes, but nothing was sustainable. Eventually, I reached a point when I couldn't stand the deprivation any more, so I walked away.

Just like that, I stopped dieting and started living mindfully instead. The results have been amazing!

Did you decide to go on a diet because you've been told that restricting your food intake and increasing your activity will get rid of the excess body fat you have, reduce the chances of getting an obesity-related disease, and improve your overall health?

Medical authorities love to condemn fatties and try to make you feel guilty for walking around with a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Perhaps, you have experienced that.

You started out your weight-loss diet with good intentions, ignored the hunger pangs, and kept your eye firmly on your target weight because you just knew that this time, you were going to make the diet work. This time, you were going to keep the weight off for good.

But then someone brought in a box of donuts at the office. Your best friend wanted to go out to dinner. Your kids were craving chocolate chip cookies, and well, you didn't want to look like a bad mom.

Batch of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies
So you made homemade gluten-free
chocolate chip cookies for the kids, and had to test a few.

Maybe, it's not sugary goodies you crave. Maybe, you just want a hunk of soft, fluffy, homemade bread with your chicken-vegetable soup once in a while, or you'd really enjoy having a baked potato with that flat-iron steak for Sunday dinner -- instead of always having to eat broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce salad.

I can definitely relate.

While some people in the low-carb community claimed to have lost their interest in food and now see food as only fuel, I never lost my taste for sweets or starchy carbs. I loved them before I started dieting, I craved them while I was dieting, and I still love them.

None of that has changed.

What did change for me?

Once I stopped dieting and started living mindfully, I changed the way I plan out my day and the role that I allow food to play in my life. If you're sick and tired of dieting and are looking for a better way, the following three mindful eating benefits are what you can expect when you choose life over diet.

Pinterest Image: Gluten-Free Pizza

What Happens When You Stop Dieting and Start Living Mindfully?

Food is more than fuel to me, but I don't have to let it control my life.

Instead of always hanging out at low-carb forums and egroups, day after day, planning ahead and making sure I had lots of low-carb snacks in the house, I have started to listen to the urge to eat and consciously evaluate what those urges mean.

Staying aware of what the body, mind, and your feelings are doing at any given time is known as mindful eating and will make the transition from dieting to living easier and more productive.

For example, sometimes, urges are just tricksters.

The body's purpose is to defend its fat stores, so urges are often trying to get you to forget what you're doing -- forget your current purpose.

Instead of automatically running out and buying a bag of frozen french fries every time I start craving fat and salt, I now, simply – but firmly – tell the brain that I want to weigh 165 pounds.

At 165, there will be plenty of opportunities to eat french fries, if that's what I want to do.

Pile of fresh french-fry potatoes and catsup
Nothing is off limits if you are not on a diet.
Not even french fried potatoes with ketchup.

If the urge is a trick, it will rapidly leave, so urges to eat are nothing to be afraid of. But you do have to put in the effort to stay aware of them and decide whether to listen to them, or not. You have to be firm and remind yourself of what the number one value in your life is at any given moment.

If you don't wake up and watch yourself every time the urge to eat strikes, you won't know if you're really hungry, and you'll end up polishing off an entire bag of barbecued potato chips before you even realize you've put something into your mouth.

How you deal with temptation, once you leave dieting behind, depends on the situation.

Whatever you decide to do, decide to do it consciously and deliberately. Take personal responsibility for your choice and accept whatever the consequences are for following through on that decision.

Don't decide to eat something you consider less healthy and then make excuses for eating it afterward. Complaining or blaming yourself after-the-fact isn't to your advantage.

Do it because you believe it's the right thing to do at the time.

What I don't do anymore is eat whatever and whenever the brain tells me to. I always stop and evaluate what's going on first because the brain's purpose and my purpose might not be in harmony.

It can be helpful to realize that these urges are sometimes coming from the lower brain. They are not always habitual or personality defects. They can be quite sly, so you really have to pay attention to what you're doing.

The lower brain is the part of the mind that keeps all body functions going, so its purpose is survival. It doesn't understand dieting. It believes a diet is a famine, so those urges to eat are coming from a part of your brain that loves you very much.

This is why talking to it, and respecting it, will get you better results than fighting against it. There is nothing to fight about. If you're restricting your food intake, the brain believes you are in danger. To the lower brain, dieting is the enemy.

Making peace with the lower brain brought many blessings into my life that I didn't expect, so I'd like to share those things with you today. Here are the 3 greatest blessings I received when I stopped dieting and started living.

Benefit #1: I Stopped Constantly Thinking About Food

Pinterest Image: Menu with Kitchen Utensils
Mindful eating benefit: I am no longer obsessed with food.
I can eat or not eat, and still be fine.

Since dieting includes some sort of mapped out food plan, it can keep you constantly thinking about food.

This is especially true if you have to create your own menus and surf the web for new food ideas. Joining a group of like-minded folks can help or hinder your progress because you may become addicted to forums and groups.

Sitting around talking all day about food, recipes, and strategies to avoid food can actually make you more hungry than you would be if you were not dieting. Most of the recipes on the web come with tempting photos and highly detailed descriptions, which can be a constant reminder to eat.

Releasing myself from the diet crazies and constant food thoughts was the best thing I ever did for myself. Dieting doesn't make you feel better. It just keeps you thinking about food. If you aren't eating, you're talking about it, dreaming about it, or plotting your next meal.

Now that I'm no longer eating a very low-carb diet, but allowing myself to eat whatever I want to – within reasonfood is one of the last things on my mind. In fact, one of the best benefits of mindful eating is that I often forget to eat!

Giving up dieting and switching to a mindful lifestyle has freed up a lot of time to get involved in more creative projects.

Benefit #2: I Stopped Being Afraid of Carbs

Two Tamales Still in Corn Husks
Frozen tamales have 280 calories each.
Topped with sour cream and fresh salsa,
one tamale makes a quick lunch or dinner.

This was the most difficult challenge for me to overcome.

I first became aware of Dr. Atkins work in 1975. I lost the 40 pounds I needed to lose at that time in as little as 6 weeks! Since the Atkins Diet worked so well, I automatically assumed that all Dr. Atkins' theories and ideas about carbohydrates were correct.

Carbs and insulin were the enemy, instead of calories or fat, but I was still afraid of food.

The Insulin Hypothesis has been accepted by the low-carb community as fact for so long that it's a really hard concept to let go of. Insulin resistance is thought to come before obesity, due to a high-carb intake, but that's actually backward.

According to this Journal of Clinical Investigation article on insulin resistance, obesity actually appears first.

The low-carb community teaches that elevated insulin levels cause you to get fat and low insulin levels, brought about by restricting carbohydrates in your diet, will magically result in reversing your obesity. You don't count calories because carbs are believed to be more responsible for how much you weigh than how much you eat.

Insulin spikes are so feared that many low carbers are actually afraid of eating too much protein.

They mistakenly believe that all the protein you eat is turned into glucose, which will then give them diabetes and kick them out of ketosis. They often place protein foods on a par with carbohydrates.

None of this is real.

To lose the weight, you have to create an energy deficit, regardless of the number of carbohydrates you're eating. How you do that, doesn't matter.

I proved this concept to myself by eating chocolate cake.

Slice of Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake with Coconut Frosting
My 3-day personal experiment included 600 calories
of gluten-free chocolate cake.

During the process of letting go of my fear of carbs, I set up a 3-day diet that included a large slice of gluten-free chocolate cake every single day. That chocolate cake cost me 600 calories, but I fit it into my maintenance level of calories for the day.

If the Insulin Hypothesis was true, if carbohydrate is the bad guy and is making all of us fat, I should have gained weight eating cake. That cake should have send my blood glucose sky high.

Even though I wasn't overeating calories, I was overeating carbs. Overeat carbs, they say, and you'll get fat.

But I didn't.

As long as I stayed within my maintenance calories for the day, I didn't gain any weight eating chocolate cake.

If I added the chocolate cake to my maintenance calories for the day, I gained weight. Lots of weight, because when the body stores glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates) it also stores enough water to break it down into glucose later on. Glycogen and stored water can be quite heavy on the scales.

Now, the weight isn't body fat unless your glycogen stores are filled to the brim. Then, and only then, is those extra calories turned into body fat. As long as you don't go over on calories, you won't totally refill those glycogen stores, so I didn't gain anything.

That's when I first realized that everything I thought I knew about low-carb diets wasn't true.

Releasing the fear of carbs wasn't as easy as confirming that the energy equation was true. Avoiding carbs was quite habitual by the time I quit dieting, and it was much harder to give up the low-carb mindset than I thought it would be.

However, today, I can eat carbs with no fear attached.

Benefit #3: I Stopped Hating My Body

Hating your body is a biggie because most of us who are overweight or obese have serious issues with insecurity and feelings of inferiority.

If you don't hate your body, if you don't think others know better than you do about what's best for you, there would be no reason to diet or feel bad about your self.

One of the most important things I've learned since I stopped dieting is that dieting is the expression of a misconception, and I knew it was time to let go of that misconception.

Most people are blind to the real motivation behind the things they do, and dieting is no exception.

Do you know why you feel compelled to diet?

Medical authorities tell you to diet, so you'll be healthy and won't get sick. They fill you up with a lot of fear. Then, marketing agencies promise you that you'll be accepted and lovable. If you pull your self up to their standard of beauty, you won't be ugly anymore.

The emotional part of us doesn't really want to diet, but the inner critic insists, because if you don't diet, that critic believes something bad might happen to you. That's what those authorities told you.

Am I right?

If you don't diet, you'll never be happy. You'll never get to taste the pleasure of being thin, and you'll never escape the disapproval of others.

You'll stay ugly, because marketing tells you that you're ugly, and you'll spend your hard-earned cash on medical bills because that's what happens when you're fat. You come down with all sorts of disease states and conditions that thin people never do.

Even though that isn't true, it's what you believe, so you fall in line. You do your duty. You go on a diet and fail.

And when you fail, you blame the body. It didn't do what it was supposed to do. It should have given up its fat stores like you wanted it to, so you wouldn't feel bad anymore.

Do you see the misconception?

The pattern going on here?

The dream of thinness and what being thin is going to be like when you get there?

Thin Happy Woman Sitting and Enjoying Nature
Do you long to fulfill your dream of thinness?
What happens if your body doesn't comply?

I hated my body because it wouldn't let me fulfill that dream state. It wouldn't let me have my way! So I pushed it and shoved it, doing everything I could to try and control the outcome.

It didn't matter that dieting hard was abusing the body and forcing it to adapt to all sorts of harsh conditions. It doesn't matter that I was not supplying the vital materials for optimal performance.

All that mattered to me was the image of my future self that I was holding in my mind. A fantasy of what I believed being thin would be like.

I managed to force myself down to 145 pounds in 2008, after taking homeopathic HCG drops for 8 weeks and lowering my calorie intake to a mere 500 calories a day. But I wasn't able to maintain it. My maintenance calories for 145 pounds was less than 1,000 calories a day!

This revelation was quite shocking.

And it forced me to take a good look at my weight-loss goal and accept the reality that getting down to 125 pounds, and doing what it would take to maintain 125 pounds, would not be living.

Weighing 125 meant I would have to cut my calories even further, somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 calories a day to maintain.

So: I gave up the dream.

I stopped hating my body, started accepting myself as nature intended, and stopped trying to be a size 7. Instead, I have settled for a more comfortable 165 (a size 14 in Levi's) instead.

What Happens When the War Ends?

When you give yourself permission to stop fighting against life . . . When you stop complaining, blaming, and asserting your rights . . . When you set aside the need to be something different or to please others by living up to some artificial standard they have set up for you . . .

Dove of Peace with an Olive Branch in Its Mouth

You suddenly find yourself living in a totally different world.

You no longer run into the bathroom to weigh yourself first thing in the morning because it doesn't matter how long it takes for the weight to come off. You don't use the number on the scale to determine your mood for the entire day.

You also don't use that number to judge yourself, either, because the number has no meaning. It has no power to harm you -- any more.

In fact, I only weigh myself once a month now.

Instead of eating everything in sight, like you might have done if you were living in an off-dieting phase, it's easier to catch yourself making an inappropriate choice when that inappropriate choice isn't a matter of life and death.

However, the temptations are quite a bit different. I really don't crave crap like I thought I would.

I'm actually craving salads.

Another mindful eating benefit is that I'm not cramming in the carbs, either. I'm eating fewer calories than I was before, just naturally, and I'm enjoying what I'm eating.

There's no pressure to conform. No good or bad carbs, no good or bad fats, no good or bad foods. There's just food, and the body is quite capable of knowing what it needs to eat to repair my health.

I won't try to tell you that I don't eat ice cream and have started hating chocolate cake.

But it's different now. There's no feeling of urgency.

There's no rush to cram in all of the foods I want to experience before I have to go back to dieting again because I'm never going back!

My pantry is filled to the brim with gluten-free flours to make breads and cookies and cakes, but I have no desire to do that right now. I can eat them anytime I please, so there's no need to do it today. Or tomorrow. Or even next week.

When the time comes, I'll know it. I'll deal with it then.

For now, I can just sit back and enjoy moving toward the size I was always meant to be.


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  2. Great article. It is about time we nourish ourselves instead of trying to love up to unrealistic expectations. Perhaps overtime if we let our metabolism heal, the weight will come off on response instead of us punishing ouselves. Focus on the process and getting stoner and healthier. This promotes a healthy body image and example for our daughters. Thand for sharing. Love your blog!

    1. Thanks. I've been chasing diets since I was a teenager, and it's definitely time to retire. I appreciate your insights and comments. Eating for health is the best way to go.

  3. Thank you. I really needed to see this message. I think focusing on enjoying each day of being alive is more important than obsessing over every bite of food I eat or don't eat. I think I finally figured out that health does not automatically improve the lower one's weight is. Achieving a healthy, maintainable weight seems like a much better goal than striving for the lowest weight I can get to.

    1. I'm glad I could help and totally agree with your comments. Obsessing over food just makes us feel left out and miserable. My new weight-loss goal is just to get back to where I was before I got obsessive and ended up regaining because of it. I definitely was not any healthier when I at a lower weight, except that my knee didn't hurt as much.


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