Defining What Works


Client: Well [insert diet du jour] is what’s worked for me in the past.

Me: Define ‘worked’?

Client: I was able to keep the weight off longer than any other diet.

Me: And how long was that?

Client: About a year.

Me: And that’s what it means to ‘work’?

If you bought a car and it only drove for a year, would you consider that a good purchase? What if there was a wrinkle cream that made you look ten years younger, but all your wrinkles came back after a year, plus lots more. Did that cream work? Would you recommend it to a friend?

Let’s get real about how we define working.

If it’s giving you a metaphorical fish each night for a while then abandoning you to starvation it doesn’t work. If it gives you the physical changes you want but they are short lived and cost you mental well-being it doesn’t work. If it seems to work in the short term (and a year is short term, unless you plan to have a very short life), but is designed, in it’s DNA, to malfunction then it doesn’t work. What works is what is sustainable and supportive.

What works is what allows you to be you.

What works is what supports yourwhole well-being— mind, body, and spirit. Please don’t fool yourself into thinking this diet or that diet or the next diet or the diet of the moment or that ‘way of eating’ that’s popular right now and ‘has lots of community support’ is going to work.

Diets can’t work long term because you are not a robot.

You are a living, breathing, feeling, sensitive, and food-requiring human. Diets can’t work because they trigger very primal physical warning reactions that starvation is imminent. They deliver this warning to every system of your body and well, that sense of impending threat doesn’t make a body or heart or spirit happy. The good news is that diets are totally optional. You don’t have to go on one and you don’t have to go on another one ever again. You get to, instead, choose what works. Works as in the dictionary definition of functioning effectively.

What’s that?

That’s taking all the baby steps it takes back to a trusting relationship with your body. That’s treating yourself like you’re on the same team, not at war within. That’s choosing happiness over thinness. That’s reclaiming pleasure as your birthright and an essential part of being well. That’s getting clear about what you’re trying to feed when you eat when you’re not hungry. That’s learning to sooth and experience your anxieties in a different way than numbing through restriction or consumption. There is a way that works. I’m not saying that it’s not totally terrifying to give up the pseudo-comfort and false promises of the next diet. It is. It is scary as all get out. But I choose what’s scary and what truly works over what’s safe and fails every time (despite promising “this one’s different!”).

Here are a few actions that I know to “work”:

  1. Practice self-compassion with the same dedication that you brought to dieting.

  2. Work with an intuitive eating dietician and/or counselor to help shake off all those crazy food rules.

  3. Explore what it might mean to see yourself, in this body, with love.

  4. Take up a movement practice that’s rooted in joy instead of obligation, suffering, or fear.

  5. Read Intuitive Eating

  6. Buy clothing that feels good to wear in the body you inhabit today.

  7. Set the intention to talk to yourself as you would a your daughter or good friend.

  8. Unfollow on social media anyone or organization that promotes dieting, the ‘thin-ideal’, or just makes you feel crappy.

  9. Try to spend at least as much time having fun as you spend thinking about food and your body.