beauty

"What I learned when I stopped dieting."

Keeping track of all the new “miracle” diets that burst onto the scene, gift-wrapped in the promise of a slim, Victoria’s Secret-calibre body, is a challenge.

We might have moved past the Israeli Army and cabbage soup diets of years gone by, but the ongoing popularity of eating regimens like Atkins, Dukan and even juice “cleanses” (don’t get us started on “detox teas“) suggest diets are far from extinct. And the image-centric nature of social media and pop culture certainly doesn’t help matters.

In honour of International No Diet Day, we asked women what they discovered about their bodies, their state of mind, and nutrition when they stopped dieting altogether. Here are their insights.

Happiness isn’t indexed to the number on the scales

“I learned that the key to the happiness I thought I would attain from weight loss was loving myself now, today, as I am.”

It’s OK for changes to happen slowly

“I dieted like crazy to lose weight for my wedding. Then life got in the way as I settled into married life and I put it all back on. I’m in the process of trying to lose it without dieting and just doing the good old fashioned ‘eat less junk and move more’. I’m making progress but so slowly and I’m learning that that’s OK.”

Watch: Those Two Girls celebrate No Diet Day in the most delicious way. (Post continues after video.)

You can’t just focus on one area of your life

“It’s not the be all and end all. It’s just one part of your lifestyle. So if you want to get certain results, you can’t do it on diet alone — you need exercise, sleep, etc.”

The effect on your mood just isn’t worth it

“I had a phase of completely cutting out food groups and while I lost weight, I was just a horrible, horrible person to be around. My mum ended up throwing a piece of toast at me and telling me if I didn’t start eating carbs again I should move out.”

Obsessing over food can make life miserable. (Image: 20th Century Fox)

Your body often knows what it needs

"You learn that you naturally seek variety in your diet, and that you don't necessarily feel like eating crap. I think you also learn that your body has a vague 'set point'; the size you're probably meant to be. And if you stop dieting and just start eating what you feel like, you don't deviate too much from that."

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Dieting and health are not synonymous

"As a young woman I would read about diets in magazines all the time and so assumed it was something I needed to do to be 'healthy.' Ugh. When I tried to cut out chocolate for a whole week as a teen to be 'health-conscious', I ended up devouring two whole blocks when that week was over (when I would've eaten about half in a week if I'd just allowed myself). Not obsessing about food means you can actually enjoy it." (Post continues after gallery.)

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Restrictive eating can mess with your mind

"When I left school I got obsessed with dieting and cutting out 'bad' food groups. Diets can totally mess with your mind if you are a perfectionist and it takes so long to reverse it. Sure, you'll get skinny, but there are so many other health problems that will arise that no one tells you about. It's not just you who it affects, but the people around you who love you.

Life is happier when you're not obsessing over food

"Cutting carbs turns you into the devil. I was waking up in the middle of the night talking about garlic bread in my sleep."

"The fact is that talking about food (what you can/can't eat) really isn't that interesting. Especially for extended periods of time. So when you stop dieting, you become easier to be around."

WATCH: Nigella Lawson on why our obsession with 'thinness' is damaging. (Post continues after video.)

Strict dieting isn't sustainable

"I love food, it's fun. I learned that eating 100 per cent 'clean' forever just isn't for me. I'd rather live my life and put up with a few extra kilos."

Eating should be joyful

"Eating can give you so much joy, why deny yourself of that? I feel like our bodies are smart and will gravitate towards the size they are meant to be if you eat sensibly without restricting yourself of anything."

Do you have any experiences to share?

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