Toxic Dieting Culture — How To Undo It’s Harmful Effects

Dieting for me was never about becoming healthy or living the best possible life — it was always about body image. I believed that looking a certain way would make me happier, more prosperous and popular.

For most women, dieting has been a part of life since childhood. When I was eight years old, I received my first body-conscious jab — wanting to look like another female who had the perfect body, was not uncommon. Feeling inadequate because of how I looked would always haunt me throughout my school years & adult life. Losing weight had always been a goal I met for a certain amount of time and then struggled with for years. It was always about the number on the scale and the amount of commitment to achieving that. It didn’t always matter what I had to do or eat to accomplish this. Usually, dieting results in frustration and inner conflict about your body. It can also lead us to do things that may be out of character. For instance, skipping get together with family and friends or lying about what you’ve eaten. The list of excuses goes on and on. One particular thing is that this breeds a lifestyle of constant stress, disappointment and inevitably ill health. A  metabolism placed through the wringer for years can have a devastating effect on your mental and physical health. I know this all too well because, for about seven years, I suffered from this metabolic meltdown. Being a bodybuilder preparing for shows didn’t help the matter either. I was constantly on strict dieting, missing family gatherings involving food,  exercising way more than I should and lying to myself in the process. 

Here is a list of things that went wrong:

  • I didn’t have a period for about six months
  • I was always weak and lost a lot of muscle
  • My digestion took a beating from all the excessive protein
  • I never ate any carbs, leaving me with horrible cravings
  • When I ate carbs, it would instantly produce bloating and weight gain
  • I would binge eat — which I never did before comp dieting
  • After excessive dieting, I put on weight immediately, and it took me seven years to get back to normal

This could have been a whole lot worse, and I’m sure it was for many women in this exact situation.It’s an unpleasant and frustrating place to be, constantly thinking and worrying about your weight. There is no right or wrong regarding the ideal body shape we’re supposed to be. We are all governed by what we believe is perfect for us — and that’s fine, but it usually comes with a cost, if that ideal body is out of reach naturally. Not a day goes by when I am admiring those Instagram personal trainers with amazing bodies. Yes, I would love to look like them, but I probably won’t.Genetics plays a part, but do I want to be that strict on myself? I think I’ve been there and done that now, and there is no turning back. It’s not all a bed of thorns because I eventually lost the weight I wanted. I  probably won’t go back to a competitive bodybuilder shaped physique,  but now I enjoy good health for the first time, I can eat what I like,  and I’m also happy. Training is productive, and I no longer skip lunch propositions. It’s all about flexibility. 

What helped me?

Intermittent fasting! I know a lot of people have their theories, but the truth is, my problem was hormonal – now fasting every day fixes this.When we diet and constantly eat, our metabolism doesn’t have a chance to become a lot more flexible. We don’t allow our bodies to experience a  drop in insulin, and therefore, without that one part of the puzzle, we can’t use stored body fat for energy. Keto diets work well in conjunction with fasting — but carb cycling provides an excellent alternative for those who want to lift heavy and build muscle mass. This goes for both male and females. Fasting gives your body a chance to start being efficient again — you’ll never look back.Is any lifestyle plan perfect — well, no, but this one is pretty close. I  had exhausted all options and tried paleo, keto, raw and vegan. Nothing worked as well as fasting or kept the weight off for good.Will I ever stop fasting? Probably not — I think it’s the easiest way to watch your weight, and it’s pretty flexible too.I never get tired, moody and my workouts are almost always powerful. Our bodies take a little while to get back to baseline, so you have to exercise some patience with this — it’s not a race to the finish line.Perhaps if I had started fasting seven years ago, it would have been a whole lot easier — but I went through this journey as a self-exploration piece  — and for that, I’m forever grateful. I hope this helps you too.

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