When I was in college, it seemed like I had a paper due every week. So it’s a little surprising that one particular essay stands out so clearly after all these years.
I remember how the professor slid the graded paper over my desk. My eyes grew wide at the sight of all the red ink.
I could tell this wasn’t just circled commas and semicolons. But strangely, there was just one word written in red ink (though it was written at least a dozen times).
And that one word was scribbled at the end of nearly every paragraph I had written:
Um, because I said so? That’s why?
What did this mean, this why?
Well, to put it more bluntly than my professor did, it meant my arguments had no point.
I hadn’t explored my claims to their fullest extent and the core message of the essay was weak.
I carried that lesson with me through college, always taking the time to read each sentence and ask myself “Why? So what? What have I left unexplored?”
But what I learned after college was just how important it is to ask myself why in all aspects of my life.
The Real Reasons Why We Diet
With my lousy English paper in mind, let’s try a simple exercise: why did you start your last diet?
- Because it’s almost summer. Why?
- Because I want to lose weight. Why?
- Because I have no control around food. Why?
There’s nothing about summer that means you have to lose weight. Your body doesn’t care about the latest swimwear trends.
So why does the changing of the seasons make you want to start a cleanse and give up your favorite foods?
I don’t know your answers, but it’s the question that matters.
Find Your Why
Living in a diet culture, it’s pretty common to start a weight loss diet “just because.”
But doing so rarely leads to better health.
Roughly 90% of diets end in failure, maybe because we never take the time to find our why.
If we just give the question a surface-level answer, we aren’t able to make the best decisions for our health.
Because when the answer to why? is “to lose weight,” we accept that as an absolute and search for the fastest and most common solutions.
Without fully exploring your why, the same cycle of mistakes starts to repeat itself:
- Choose the wrong diet (or a diet you never needed to begin with)
- Burnout due to lack of motivation
- Feel like a failure
It’s a lot like the restrict-fail cycle of all diets, and it leaves us searching for the next quick fix (the one that will finally work).
But what if we took the time to dig a little deeper before making a lifestyle change.
What are we really chasing when we say “I need to diet” and “I have to lose weight”? And is it something that can actually be achieved by calorie restriction or dieting?
Let’s explore a few scenarios in which we keep pushing our why:
I need to diet…because I’m always tired and have digestion issues…and I want to feel better in my own body:
Great. So which solutions will actually address this? Adding a nutrient- and fiber-rich green smoothie to your daily diet or scraping by on 1,000 calories of “diet foods.”? Adding a little extra protein to your diet or giving up all carbs?
I need to diet…because I need to lose 20 pounds FAST…because I have a wedding to attend…and everyone will be talking about how fat I look.
Ok. I understand that you feel that way. Is a diet the right answer here? What will happen after the wedding? What could you try besides a gimmicky, overpriced “cleanse” that makes you so hangry and fatigued that you can’t even dance at the wedding? Maybe you could find a new dress that makes you look and feel awesome instead.
I need to follow a diet…because I don’t trust myself without one…because I have no control around food…because I am weak.
Are you weak or are you at the mercy of the diet industry? How has this diet mentality been working out? Have the diets eliminated your cravings or do they leave you running to the fridge at midnight and sneaking treats? Could you learn to really listen to your body and give it what it actually needs (instead of depriving it at every turn)?
When we dig deeper, we get more valuable answers. Even if the answers are hard to hear.
The why makes all the difference. And it can be the difference between being a chronic dieter who constantly obsesses over food or a confident woman who believes in nurturing her body at any size.
What is the message we send to ourselves (and other women) when our why is:
- So I’ll be lovable
- So I can finally be happy
- To prove my worth
Would your mindset and relationship with food improve if your why was:
- So I can have more energy
- To nurture my body (so that it sticks around a while!)
- To truly love the food I eat
Why Why Matters
Our why represents our current desires and our future hopes. I spent years ignoring those desires and focusing on the whys I observed all around me:
- I should stop eating carbs…because everybody else is
- I should try to be smaller…to look more like the women on Instagram
- I should keep counting calories…even though it’s taken the joy out of eating…to prove how dedicated I am
Don’t let someone else dictate your why. Keep checking in with yourself, listen to your body, and discover the joy you can feel by doing what’s right for you.