I know you’re thinking, “that’s not me, I don’t obsess over my diet.” But if you’re reading this post I wouldn’t be surprised if you are someone who pays more attention to your food than your personal life. It’s more common than you think. For the extreme, it’s got a name – Orthorexia, which is characterized by an obsession with dieting to the extent it interrupts your personal life, causes stress, and an unhealthy relationship with food.

Are you someone who has to stick to your diet to the T or else it’s as if the world has ended? Do you feel guilt after a treat and immediately start planning how to burn off the calories? Do you find yourself binging alone on a Saturday night with everything you can find that looks tasty? If so, you’ve probably taken dieting a bit too far. I should know, this was me just 2 years ago. It began with dieting for a Figure competition and ended [about 2 years ago] with a realization that my inability to “feel full” after a normal size meal was just not normal. How do you fix this though. It’s definitely not easy. Changing your mindset is the secret to changing anything in your life – and if you want something bad enough, you will find a way to have it no matter how long it takes. Even if you don’t take your diet to the extreme, these tips can help you avoid taking it too far.

1. Stop dieting. That’s right, I said it. Drop the word diet and the strict meal plan and you’d be surprised at the magic that happens. Set your mind free from restrictions and start eating healthy for the flavor, for the satisfaction, for the health of it. Once you let go of the idea that you have to eat a certain way to reach your goal or be a certain way, you’ll find that your body will respond even faster. I’m not telling you to eat whatever you want, I’m suggesting that you quit telling yourself (and other people) that you’re on a diet and allow yourself the freedom of eating for enjoyment. Trust me, it works. To this day, I can’t fathom going back on any kind of diet – I feel like it’s going to put me right back where I was miserable two years ago.

2. Eat foods you usually say no to. Cutting out entire food groups is not the answer to your dieting sorrows. In fact, it’s a symptom of Orthorexia. For me, I was so adamant that I couldn’t have fruit that I was missing out on nature’s candy. Everyone knows that fruit is full of fiber, nutrients and flavor. But because I believed fruit had too many carbs for my strict diet, I wouldn’t eat it – ever. Slowly I began putting fruit back in my diet by way of an apple here and there. Today fruit is a staple in my day. Maybe you eat fruits but you won’t eat fats, or grains, or protein. Add those foods back in – they are packed with nutrients your body needs and will open your options to so many delicious foods.

3. Find a hobby that has nothing to do with food. Keeping yourself busy with something you enjoy doing will take the focus off your strict meal plan. If you’re going to be out all day, bring a healthy lunch with plenty of snacks. Pack a variety of healthy foods you wouldn’t normally have. Keep the focus on your experience not on what you’re eating. And if you’re still hungry after you eat, have a piece of fruit or glass of water.

4. Slow down. Instead of exercising endlessly to lose weight, find the fun in exercise and workout to get fit and healthy. Say yes to that date Friday night and don’t obsess over missing the gym. You can always find time tomorrow to make up the workout you missed. Doing things to make you happy means finding time to socialize and have fun – in that case, the gym can wait.

5. Stop binging. Ok maybe you don’t binge. But if you do, you’ve got to stop. It’s just not healthy. The emotional roller coaster you’re putting yourself on is an endless cycle. Restricting your diet leads to binging. Stop restricting and stop binging. If it becomes too difficult to tackle on your own, you may need to talk to a professional who can help you get better.

6. Stop Obsessing. Eating a cookie or two is not going to cause you to gain any weight. Eating cookies all the time will. Keep your diet in perspective and enjoy foods when you want them. Remember that you have the power to make the right choices and giving yourself the freedom to enjoy life and food will lead you to the body, mind and life that you want.

Have you ever been on a diet? What was your experience dieting and how did it affect you mentally and physically?

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