To Abel there are even more ways a restrictive, “12 week” diet can hurt you, for example in the way it affects your sleeping patterns:
The quality of your sleep can affect the weight-control systems of checks and balances inside your body… This can become a vicious cycle. (Abel, 2015, p.124)
He goes on to state that many dieters experience problematic sleep, and deprivation is one of the main causes of disrupted appetite and appetite control, both physiologically but also psychologically in that you experience decreased will power (think of it being used as an interrogation technique for example). This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby sleep deprivation weakens your will, thus making you eat junk food which makes you put on weight, which makes you diet harder, affecting your sleep further and affecting your appetite to a greater extent. More than this, diets that tell you when to eat (as in eat after such and such a time of day) can make you go to bed hungry, this can affect sleep:
The presence of food affects brain chemistry and neurotransmitters that are calming and relaxing for you. Without them, and with an empty stomach you cannot force yourself to relax and go to sleep.
But with the presence of enough food and enough blood-sugar to cross the blood-brain barrier, you increase serotonin levels enough to relax naturally and fall asleep. (Abel, 2015, p.125)
But what about psychology? Abel notes that the diet-mentality is about self-rejection, and thinking you can overcome or conquer yourself and your ego, that for meaning and purpose to be positive in your life it needs to be “self-connecting and expressive” (p. 144). So that “being on the ball” with diet, that is to be consistent and good in your eating actually comes from your state of mind, and your self actualization, and no diet can provide the necessary substance for you or your life to ever be justifying enough for you to maintain a constant on the ball approach. More than this Abel notes that when you break your diet, you are actually reflecting back to yourself your own misgivings about your life and yourself, that is the reason you break your diet. The diet-mentality tells you a diet can fix these problems, it fools you into believing such, Abel asks when you enter a diet regime that you ask yourself two questions:
What are the intended consequences ‘for’ my diet undertaking?
What are the unintended consequences ‘of’ my diet undertaking? (mentally and emotionally). (Abel, 2015, p.145)
He asks that when considering the mental and emotion considerations of a diet that you consider your past influences, your upbringing, for any “current triggers”, for example he notes that some people with extreme eating behaviors/disorders and/or body image issues had overly critical parents or an emotionally absent parent (sometimes being an alcoholic or drug dependent). Extrapolating from this he states that current triggers under this scenario might be factors like ” a need to be noticed or a fear of being judged or “exposed” as being unworthy.” (p. 145) Abel notes that an intended consequence of dieting is a sense of control by focusing angst in areas other than on yourself and your life.
The planning and rules for dieting offer something else to focus on. You can “feel good” when dieting because you are proving yourself “worthy” and at the same time avoiding inner emotional conflicts. But then you become ‘externally focused,’ at which point the same old fears (past influences) that set all of this in motion just play out as “unintended consequences”.
You emotionally fear weight-gain, which now represents not being good-enough. It represents being judged; it represents feeling inferior. (Abel, 2015, p.145)
Abel notes these are all unintended consequences of the diet-mentality, and the fears don’t stop there, he goes on to say that you fear (your diet-induced) hunger, thinking you should be able to resist it, from here you label yourself as weak and unworthy, thus replacing your past triggers, turning that hyper critical analysis you received from your loved ones inward, most important and scarily:
YOU become both your own hyper-critical parent and the emotionally absent one as well.
And still you turn to dieting as a way out Abel notes, as a way to “measure and judge yourself within it”. The point being of course that this all becomes an exercise in avoidance, you never reconcile your current emotional and mental states and only intensify and deepen them while adding and losing (but overall gaining) weight as time goes on. To finish this blog series on the diet-mentality, before we look at how to get out of this hole Abel finishes up:
The lie of the diet-mentality is that you believe that ‘proving your body’ in weight-loss will somehow translate into soothing your soul, only it never does. The cycle repeats itself. (Abel, 2015, p.146)
Our next series will go through Abel’s ‘self-compassionate mind’ that is, how to repair the damage done by repeated dieting.
Abel, S. (2015). The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control. Scott Abel.