You don't need me to tell you that dieting takes up a lot of your time. There's time spent on being unsatisfied with yourself. There's time spent reading articles and planning meals. And there's time spent being disappointed when you donâ€™t get the results you want when you want them.
Of course it's okay to want to lose weight. It's also okay to be working towards that goal in your everyday life.
However, it's been my experience that at the center of a dieter's mind is the belief that life hasn't started yet, that it will only begin when the weight comes off. There are psychological dangers in this kind of mindset.
Answer the three questions below to determine if your diet is a waste of your time.
1. Does The Number on the Scale Affect Your Mood?
Dieters have a tendency to define themselves by the number on the scale. I have often heard my patients tell me that the number on the scale first thing in the morning dictates whether they have a good day or a bad day.
Using a scale can be an important tool for marking your progress and even for maintaining your weight but not if it's a big downer. If you find that you can't step on the scale without it affecting you profoundly, you must learn to keep things in perspective.
You are not just the number on the scale. You are a person whose value is unquantifiable. To use the scale as a tool, pick one time per week to weigh yourself. Getting on more than that is a waste of your time.
2. Do You Have a Magic Number in Your Head?
Many people hold a magic number in their head: 110 pounds... size 12... under 200 pounds. Whatever that number is and whatever that number describes they believe that if they get there everything in their lives will change for the better. Relationships will come easier. Bank accounts will soar. Moods will be steadfastly positive.
I have had patients who were never going to reach the magic numbers they had in their heads and so having them was just a way to sabotage themselves and their success. A magic number can waste your time more than it can motivate you. It can keep your goal just out of reach so that you're constantly striving and never arriving.
Throw out your number and rely on how you feel to gauge your progress.
3. Do You Put Things Off Until You Lose Weight?
Do you tell yourself that when you lose weight you'll go to the beach, buy a new car, or start dating? So many people decide to postpone the beginning of their lives until they lose the weight they want to lose.
Yo-yo dieters have short periods when they live life fully. Then, if the weight comes on again, they go back into hiding. Eating well and exercising regularly are best when they're used to make the journey of your life more enjoyable instead of a means to an end. The more fully you live your life now, the easier it will be to eat well.
Is there anything that you're putting off that you could do today?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, your diet could be wasting your time. The more fulfilled you are by life, the less you'll be obsessed with food and weight.
By helping my patients bring their attention back to making their lives work more successfully, I help them to see that a scale is just a measuring tool, a certain weight is just a number, and food is just food.
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Dr. Roger Gould is one of the world's leading authorities on emotional eating and adult development. A board-certified psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and former head of Community Psychiatry and Outpatient Psychiatry at UCLA, he is the author of Transformations and Shrink Yourself. Dr. Gould is also founder of the Shrink Yourself online program, an effective, proven program that ends emotional eating.