In my 22-year career in PR, I was known for my sky-high standards and nit-picking perfectionism, settling for nothing less than 100 per cent in all aspects of our client work. As a health coach, however, I’m altogether more mellow. In fact, I spend a lot of time helping my clients detach themselves from their own quest for all-or-nothing perfection.
What hits me again and again is how incredibly hard people are on themselves, particularly women. I’ll often hear them talking about how ‘good’ they’ve been or not been in terms of eating. They’re locked in an ongoing, debilitating battle between what they ‘should’ eat and what they actually feel like eating.
There’s a rampant tendency to opt for extremes of self-deprivation and follow a set regime slavishly – for a while. That’s what keeps the diet industry booming. You can’t switch on the radio without hearing an advert for this or that diet. And if one fails, there’s always another to invest your faith in.
So many people fall into the trap of setting the barre unfeasibly high, embarking on all sorts of extreme diets or swearing to themselves that they will go the gym every day. But then it’s just too hard to keep up so they end up following a regime 100 per cent, 100 per cent, 100 per… oh, sod it. It’s back to zero and corrosive feelings of failure, guilt and shame. Not a recipe for health or happiness.
The truth that we so often overlook is that human beings are simply not wired to be perfect.
Counting calories and measuring portions is not only restrictive – it’s soul-destroying. Food is there to be enjoyed, not treated as part of a grim mathematical equation. Don’t eat this. Don’t eat that. The longer the list you give yourself of things to avoid, the more likely you are ditch the whole thing and beat a path back to the chocolate biscuits.
The weight-loss industry is a multi-billion pound sector that feeds off people who are constantly trying to lose weight. They run slick marketing campaigns to push their programmes; their heavily processed, additive-laden, nutrient-poor branded diet foods; their gimmicks and promises… over and over again.
Don’t be swayed by the smiling, slim-line celebrity whose face is on the advert – they’re being paid a small fortune to put their name to the product. Don’t be fooled either by certain companies trying to reinvent themselves by tagging on the marketing buzz words ‘wellness’ and ‘holistic’ to their offer. Beware of lipstick on a pig when it comes to the diet industry.
These diets will leave you starved for real nutrition and ultimately create an internal environment that puts the weight back on. And, what’s worse, you’ll revert back to eating the inflammatory foods that made you feel so bad in the first place.
So many people have been brainwashed by the diet industry not to trust their own bodies; instead, they’re duly trained to count calories, measure and weigh foods… and weigh themselves obsessively. The truth is that diets don’t work in the long-term – and the diet industry knows that full well. If everyone experienced lasting weight loss, there would be no one left to sell to. It’s a never-ending merry-go-round.
It’s time to stop chasing perfection and turn the tables on the diet industry. Focus instead on making small, manageable changes to your lifestyle that you can sustain. Above all, let go of beating yourself up and try treating yourself with a bit of kindness.
Over the course of several months, I guide my clients to a place where they eat real, fresh foods 90% of the time and then can actively enjoy whatever they want to the remaining 10% of the time – without plaguing themselves with guilt or worrying that they’re ‘failing’.
Are you one of the many people who veer wildly between the all of 100% and the nothing of 0%? If so, in what ways can you find a gentler route back to health?