I met a wonderful women.  She has spent years of her life dieting and blaming herself when things didn’t work out.  She has wasted hours, weeks and months thinking about food.  About what she can have.  About what she’s not allowed.   About what she’ll eat next.  About what she shouldn’t have eaten.

But never once did she stop to ask herself what she wanted, or how hungry she was.  Or how full or satisfied she was.  You see, she didn’t know it mattered.  And worse, she had lost all trust in herself to make her own decisions about food.  Food called the shots.  Food dictated how she felt.  She was either on a diet, being “good” yet feeling strangely dissatisfied, or off a diet being “bad” and feeling guilty.

Despite the years of dieting, she still wasn’t happy with her weight.  She thought this was her fault.  She contacted to me to help her to lose weight.  But she needed to find something, not lose something. She needed to find her food confidence, she needed to find her ability to trust herself, she needed to find food pleasure, she needed to find a way out of diet culture.

She knew that finding these buried treasures would necessitate digging around in layer upon layer of diet culture mentalities. But she took on the challenge head on.  She was brave enough and honest enough to admit to the thoughts that dieting made her have.

And she was surprised when diet mentalities started to lose their grip, which allowed her to see that the quest for control that diets promise can be precisely what leads to a sense of being out of control.

And if all that wasn’t enough, she was selfless enough allow me to use her words. So they may help you.  Help you to see that chronic dieting causes negative experiences and damaging thoughts.  There is nothing wrong with you.  The fault lies squarely with dieting. So here they are.  The un-edited words of a reforming dieter (names changed, except mine!). It’s amazing what can happen within the space of 2 weeks….

19 November 2019

Lunchtime: Felt hungry. Ate last night’s leftovers. How do I feel right now? Satisfied. Thinking mindfully.  Saw a french fancy in cupboard. Do I really want it?  I can have it if I really want it. Not really. Surprised to realise that. Before I would have just reached for it and ate it without thinking. Moment has passed……..Keep telling myself. Relax. You can eat whatever you want. Baked potato and cheese for dinner with butter. Tasted amazing. Enjoyed it very much. Hesitated re the butter. But trusted Kate and went for it. Hey. I have a satiated feeling in my tummy. If I hadn’t had the butter I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much and wouldn’t have been satisfied. Adam cut slice of cake for me for supper.  I said I don’t really want that. He said sure the girl said you can eat what you want?** But I didn’t want it or feel the urge to eat it. Had 2 plain biscuits instead. But if I want the cake I can go back and have it. I didn’t.

**Side note from Kate – Adam is misunderstanding the point here!

20 November 2019

Breakfast. I love porridge. Usually make it with water then add splash of milk. Made it with milk. Plus banana instead of usual blueberries. And so enjoyed it. Shouldn’t eat bananas when on a diet? So I was really facing all my screwed up beliefs. Lunch: Adam gave me 3 slices of cheesy crusty bread with butter. He said the girl said you can eat this. I ate 2 slices slowly. Was delicious. He coaxed me to eat 3rd but I stopped to think. Felt I was content. So left it. I wouldn’t usually stop and think. Dinner. Adam made chicken and pasta soup with side of veg for me. Stopped after 3/4 to think am I full yet? I was. So stopped eating! And felt just content!  I always clear my plate. This isn’t a food diary like Slimming World Planner. It’s my thoughts about food. And I’m not planning. When you have to plan in such detail all you think about is food! And when I ate over the daily syn allowance I felt so disappointed in myself. Is this why SW never worked for me? The thought process it triggered in me?  I was in a battle with food and when I won I was ecstatic. I was a success, so disciplined. Such will power. I’m in control again….. but when the food won in this points equation I felt such a failure, weak, undisciplined, confused, beaten….again. A rollercoaster of contrasting emotions. Any wonder I feel permanently stressed? Never able to relax. Always needing to be in control. On top of this. And when I’m not on top of it I’m trying to get back on top!!!! I’m an intelligent clever strong woman who has coped with so much in  life and I couldn’t make Sw work for me? And yet a lot of people could lose weight on it. People who didn’t seem to be that clever or as intelligent as I am. Sorry if I sound pompous but I think Kate will get what I’m trying to say. Judy -v- food. Not to be enjoyed. To be controlled or food would win.  And what’s the worst that can happen if food wins occasionally? Will the world end? Does anyone care? Will I get sick? Will Adam not love me? That’s never going to happen. Not like ex husband who mocked me if I put on weight. Is this the final piece from the jigsaw of  past that  I’m now strong enough to face head on. Food aka as ex husband?  Is this weird thinking? He controlled me. Only control I had in my life was over food. I could put on weight. Go on a diet. Lose weight. Put it back on. Lose it again. Is this how this started? Kate, where has all this come from inside my head? Going to have a mini roll with tea later. If I want 2 I’ll have 2. See how I feel. I had 1.

21 November 2019

I haven’t eaten the ‘diet food ‘all week. But I am eating heartily and in a calm frame of mind. Mindful of my thoughts. But not obsessing and planning about should I eat? What should I not eat? Enjoyed dinner. Ate all of it tonight and was content. Even put pat of butter on the veg. Calories and fat content did cross my mind (old habits ) trust in Kate.  Made a conscious decision to close my eyes and taste the flavour.  Yummy. Had tea at 7.30pm. Usually have it at 9pm. At 7pm I wanted a kit kat. Didn’t want to wait till 9. So made the tea earlier and had 2 kit kats. Lol. Before this changed thinking I would have fought with myself. Wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about the chocolate. Till the panic started and the battle started and the negative thoughts started. Telling myself don’t do it. You can stick it out.  Only when I  finally gave in and couldn’t stick it out I had failed again. So feeling weak I would probably have another and another.  Then feeling so disappointed in myself my mood would drop and nothing else mattered except how stupid I am! Relaxed the rest of the evening. Felt less stressed and had peace in my head today. Kate: Adam hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about half the time. He has such a straightforward attitude to food and eating. He thinks you have said I can have something. So it’s ok. You allow me. He thinks this is another diet. I know this has nothing to do with you allowing me. I’m thinking and doing what I want. When I want.  How I want. But  this feels different somehow. I ‘m not trying to  control myself or food or anything else this time. Slowing my thoughts down. Surprised by some of these thoughts I’m writing down! It’s just me being me?

22 November 2019

Woke up feeling calm & rested. Not bloated. Tummy feels calm.  Thought “Am I not as ravenous as usual?” Strange…..Enjoyed breakfast. Not thinking about food so much. Bread and cheese for lunch. Long time since I had that. Thought about not having the butter but changed my mind. And it tastes wonderful! Home early on Fridays. Always have a cuppa. Had a few quality street. Because I want them. Used to be because I thought I deserved them. I deserve more than food and chocolate. I deserve to be happy and loved. To have peace. To not always feel stressed. To have a healthy body and healthy mind. To nourish and protect my body with food that I want to eat and enjoy. And to make my own food choices. Not to be dictated to by diets, irrational negative thoughts. I am strong and I will make this happen. For me. (I never got what I deserved. Until the day I met Adam. He gives me love respect consideration comfort security. Unconditionally.) Today I just wanted a few quality street with my tea. Deserving food means it is a reward. Where did I learn that? I have to think some more about this. Possibly I never felt appreciated for how I worked full time and brought my 4 children up with very little input from their absent father who lived with us.  I was on my own most evenings while he was out ‘working’. Did I reward myself with chocolate?  Something to look forward to. I think I was pushing the loneliness and sadness back down with food.  He never acknowledged until I left him that there wasn’t a better mother to their kids anywhere in the world.  Was I rewarding myself with food to replace the respect and love that he wouldn’t give me and I craved.  It felt good at the time then the guilt hit. Feeling ashamed. GUILT.  And SHAME.  Big words in my psyche. I’m good at guilt. (Discuss  with Kate ) I’m beginning to understand me. …….Because I THOUGHT if I was perfect he would treat me right. I had to be perfect mum, perfect wife, perfect home. Always on eggshells to please him so I could maintain the perfect home life for my children. Protect them from his moods and anger.   On a perfect diet to show him I wouldn’t let myself go and would have a perfect body. Never let him down.  And then when I couldn’t keep it all going. I felt weak, felt I was useless anyway. Pushed it all down with food. Coercive control. Emotional abuse. I still find it very difficult to let my feelings out.  Because I was everyone’s favourite little girl. Sweet. Clever. Polite. Kind.  I wanted always to please everyone. Liked that feeling. I got attention. Why do I overeat when I’m stressed?  Push the hurt down. Hide it.  What I do very well. Because I fear no-one would like me if I reveal too much of the real Judy.  The Judy who is human after all and isn’t always sweetness and light. …….Hey!  Because I’m just like everyone else! Darkness and light in all of us. Strength and weakness. Happiness and sadness. Love and dare I admit it ….hate. Strong word…..If I let my guard down. If I show I can’t cope makes me appear weak. Vulnerable. Then I might be a target to be bullied and abused again.   All irrational thoughts. Not true. Adam loves me totally. My children and grandchildren love me.  My oldest friends love me.  My newer friends love me. And Adam adores me. Healing started when I met Adam. Now I want to fully recover. This is what I want. I can have what I want. I can do this. I want to let the hurt go now.  Let it come up and out. No more pushing it back down and holding on to it. It won’t kill me when I let it out. I won’t die from it. I don’t fear it.  I’ve already let it out on these pages.  It’s out. Kate: how has food thoughts diary led me to this breakthrough? P.s. shared portion of fish and chips with Adam for tea tonight. Was sufficient.  And felt confident enough to share. I felt content and really enjoyed it. No negative thoughts at all. I  normally would  order  a full portion for myself and feel rotten physically and mentally after scoffing the lot.

23 November 2019

Had porridge made with milk and sultanas. The banned dried fruit with all that sugar in it! Didn’t phase me about that. I wanted sultanas in it and was the best ever! Grocery shopping for Mike. Looked at fresh cream cakes in Sainsburys.  And looked away again. I didn’t feel any reaction. Either good or bad. Tempted or not.  Just stayed neutral. And calm.  How come??? Straight home. Made a shepherd’s pie to take to them. Peeled potatoes for our dinner as that’s the one thing Adam hates to do. Peel potatoes. Had cheese sandwich and cuppa. All I had time for but I sat down and took my time over it. I had stopped eating bread a long time ago because of the carbs.  Sure it made no difference. I was still putting on weight. And I missed it. But didn’t realise. Fed baby. Changed him.  Settled him in moses basket. Let mum and dad have a nap. Tidied the kitchen. No time for food thoughts. Happy happy granny. Just thinking about wee Alfie and trying to relieve a little bit of pressure for a short time off my son and his wife. Grandchlidren the reward for having children! I was glad to get home to Adam. And our life.  Dinner was steak. Chips. Fried egg. Such a feast! Cooked by my lovely husband. Lit the gas stove. Watched a movie with Adam. Had a cuppa with a biscuit. Off to bed. No struggle with food today. Not much thinking about it. Just the thoughts about bread. And the strange non reaction to fresh cream cakes. A good day I think….

24 November 2019

I slept really well last night. Very relaxed about eating and food in general. It’s so less trying to eat the same food as Adam. I made home made vegeatable & lentil soup. We had some at 3.30 pm with bread & cheese. Wasn’t hungry at 6pm???? My usual eating time.  Before I started this food thought journal I would have made dinner anyway for 6pm and ate it. At 7 pm I sliced a pear for each of us. And had tea with small kit kat at 8.30pm. I’m not snacking. I’m listening to my body. If it tells me it’s hungry I eat till I’m satisfied. If I consciously stop and think and feel……if it tells me it’s not hungry, even though it’s my time for eating, I choose not to eat! All the restrictions and rules I made against myself around food had me so anxious and tired all the time. Always expecting to fail. Self – prophecy. Sabotaging myself.  Negative thinking. I told Adam I feel the best I have felt for so long. Calmer.  Thinking more positive thoughts. Happier. Food used to be at the front of my mind morning noon & night. Either eating it. Buying it. Planning it. Cooking it. Reading cookery books. Especially when on a diet. At the moment this isn’t the case.

25 November 2019

Busy day ahead today. Got Mike’s washing ironed as soon as I got up. Met Catherine & Rose off train at 11.30am. Lisburn shopping.  Tea & scone and chat. Drove down to Mike’s so they could see baby. Rushed back home. Adam had made dinner. Potato croquettes sausage beans. M&S. Catherine only eats very plain & basic food. Took them to gt vic st for train. Got home at 7pm. Absolutely exhausted. Drank 3 large glasses of water. I was so thirsty. Realised I hadn’t had any water at all. I usually drink water all day long. Why I feel so drained? Dehydrated. Mindlessly ate 3 quality street. Then a piece of swiss roll sitting on the plate. Mindless eating………..because I’m tired? Or thinking the sugar would give me energy? First time this has happened since I began this food diary!  Feel a bit confused and asking myself how could I be so stupid! Stop this. Falling into the old pattern here!  Stop stop stop! But I have quickly realised this has happened. Used to be all the time I did this.  This is positive.  Because I’m feeling so fatigued I slipped into mindless frame of mind which led to mindless eating. I’ve been caught out and quickly turned my thinking round. Discuss with Kate. I will still have my tea and kit kat at 9pm. Because I want it and I look forward to it all evening. This time it’s not because I’ve fallen off the wagon. Not all or nothing thinking. Well done Judy…..

27 November 2019

I feel so much less stressed these days. I didn’t realise how rigid and inflexible with food I was before I started keeping the journal.  Any wonder I felt so on edge and anxious and tired all the time. I was constantly shopping for food. Planning food. Eating food! Measuring portions. Checking fat content. Counting calories. How could I have enjoyed or gained any pleasure from eating.  Food is supposed to be enjoyed isn’t it? Not for me. It was just something had to be done and if I deviated off my plan then I felt guilty, disappointed in myself. If I managed to stay on plan I was good and felt happy but not satisfied. Might have felt full but not content. There’s a distinct difference which I now understand.

28 November 2019

Birthday buns in office today…..again. They’re not even a treat anymore. It’s becoming the norm in our office now. And I can have one if I want one. But I don’t. I took one and brought it home for Adam. I just didn’t want one today. Golf club for tea after work. The golf club chicken  goujons with pepper sauce and sweet potato fries is my very favourite meal. Recently I have suspected  that my appetite isn’t as big as I always thought. Think this is because if I was  eating ‘ normal food ‘ as opposed to ‘diet food’ I knew I was going to go back on the diet the next day and be deprived again. Didn’t know when I would next enjoy an actual ‘normal meal’.  So I didn’t stop eating. Till I was stuffed.  Also if it was paid for it had to be eaten. Wouldn’t waste money like that. Tonight I ordered a starter portion of goujons ie. x3 goujons.  Normal portion is 6. I knew this time x3 would satisfy me. And I was correct. Had sweet potato fries. Not salad as I sometimes had with it, just ‘to be virtuous’. I did eat the whole meal. And at end had a wee quiet think to myself. I was full and completely satisfied. I didn’t fancy a dessert at all. As I was so enjoying the content feeling in my tummy. Not stuffed or bloated. Just content.  Great not to be saying oh I shouldn’t have eaten that. I ordered what I wanted. And ate it. And thoroughly enjoyed it. Also happy that I was confident enough to know I only wanted the smaller portion. And I was right! Didn’t order a dessert. Adam had Xmas pudding with brandy custard. I wanted to taste it. Had 2 small spoonsful and stopped. That was enough for me. Just to taste. So good not to struggle with my willlpower re dessert. To give in and then beat myself up for being weak. And breaking the diet. Usually negative thoughts after meal out. Tonight I feel ok. Not down or up. On a level. No stress or anxiety. Content. Getting used to this contentment.

29 November 2019

Was at work in the morning. Took half day. Adam made lovely lunch of crusty bread, melted brie and ham. It was so delicious and lovely to have a couple of hours with him before I went away. He offered some crisps on the side. I ate a couple and left the rest. I thought to myself do I want them? Am I still hungry? The answer to both was No……..This is still surprising to me. My calm state around food that I previously prohibited. Unless I was off my diet. Now I don’t feel controlled by the food. If I want it I have it. If I don’t want it I don’t. Is it really that simple? Had a diet coke at the airport. Wasn’t hungry. Eventually got to Mary-Ann’s at 8.45pm. Just had a much needed cup of tea. A chat and bed. Exhausted. Not hungry …..? Think I was just too tired. Had been up and on the go since 6am. Usually when I’m dog tired I eat chocolate or biscuits. But…….because I can have them if I want them I don’t want them?????? What is going on with me?

30 November 2019

8.30 am. Out to watch Laura at football. Clark at tennis. Grabbed a banana on the way out. No time for breakfast. It was fine. I don’t feel so ravenous these mornings. Used to be I had to have breakfast before I even showered. Had brunch in Chelmsford in Jamaica Blue.  My fav green scrambled eggs i.e with chopped spinach through them on sourdough. Usually I’d say this was a treat with the bread but today in my mind it’s a delicious nutritious breakfast. Baked cupcakes with children. They spent all afternoon decorating the buns. Pizza for tea. Which I enjoyed. Put 2 slices on my plate then took another. And stopped. This stop button in my head is registering with my tummy or is it the other way round? Anyhow, this has never happened to me before until now. And it seems to be recurring more regularly. We all had tea and cupcakes and a chat around the fire. Special times sharing with my family. I always bake with the children making memories with them which I hope they always remember. Just like the memories my kids have of my mum cooking and baking with them. Feeling so calm, happy and not stressed or anxious. At peace? Just missing Adam.

1 December 2019

Laura got me up early to make our usual pancakes with bacon blueberries & maple syrup for breakfast. Went down a treat with everyone. Because I could have some I had one with bacon and berries. That was just enough for me……previously I would not have had the pancake and felt so deprived, which for me is a negative emotion that I am learning I most definitely do not need. As I can so easily spiral downwards after feeling a negative emotion. I’m learning to protect myself from this. Horseriding lesson afterwards. Then home to put Xmas decs  & lights up outside. We all missed lunch as the breakfast was so substantial. By 3pm we decided just to have tea and cupcakes around the fire. Then trees inside and indoor decs put up by others while Laura and I made our traditional Xmas puddings. We do this every year with my mum’s recipe. 6.30pm Don made a thai chicken curry with rice and naan bread.  I don’t know why I am taking smaller portions of everything . Has my appetite really shrunk?  Was delicious. I came to a natural stop and was aware I was full and satisfied. Someone mentioned mince pies about 8pm. I truly wasn’t interested. I wasn’t hungry. I don’t seem to be eating in between meals.

4 December 2019

Just a wee quick note. This afternoon out shopping we were discussing going in somewhere for a snack. I thought about it and said know what? I’m not hungry but I am very thirsty. Think I just want a bottle of water! So that’s what I had. Adam didn’t really want anything at all. First time I distinguished the actual difference between thirst and hunger. Adam made cup of tea at bedtime. He heated 2 mince pies each for us. I said I will eat one and see how I feel. I felt quite satisfied after one. And really enjoyed it. I waited for a few minutes. I didn’t want the second one. I know for a fact before I would have mindlessly just eaten both.  Adam said his tummy was too overfull. I said if I had eaten both I would have felt so bloated. Instead of calm tummy. Went to bed feeling I’ve really got this now….

A lifetime of dieting versus 2 weeks of non-dieting. Which approach seems most useful? Case closed.

I bet you’ve been on a diet. Or two, or more…

What have you learned from the process? That you lose weight when on a diet? And gain weight when off a diet? I’m afraid to say, that’s pretty much all you’ll learn. And along the way, your “relationship” with food will become warped and twisted. You will not trust yourself around food. You will become pre-occupied with either restricting food, or deliberately over-eating. And you’ll blame yourself for all of this is.

My fault, not yours

I’ll start with an apology. To anyone who I imposed a calorie-counted, portion controlled diet on in my early career as an eager but naïve NHS dietitian. Predictably, the plans got followed for a while and a bit of weight was lost. But almost inevitably, my carefully crafted meal plans got abandoned. My fault. Not yours. Please accept my apology.

So diets don’t work

This is not just my personal experience. It is well known in weight science circles that the majority of people (95%) who lose weight by dieting will put all that weight back on, with many ending up heavier than before they started the diet. I rest my case. It is not in the dieting industry’s interest to let you know this. You can’t un-know it now. But you’re panicking. If you’re not on a diet, you’re off a diet. When you’re off a diet, you eat foods you “shouldn’t”, far too much of them. You feel liked you failed, again. You eventually feel so bad about yourself that you think you have no choice but to diet again. You are trapped in a cycle of DIETING, which leads to NOT DIETING, which leads to DIETING…you get the picture. Overall, you’re getting nowhere.


Imagine a world where food is neither good or bad, right or wrong. Imagine that you are no more out of control around a plateful of biscuits than you are around a plateful of carrot sticks. Imagine that your favourite food gives you pleasure, not guilt. Imagine if you could taste food and decide if you actually like it instead of wondering whether it’s “allowed”. Imagine if you understood WHY you eat the way you do, and were able to improve HOW you eat. Imagine if you could learn to trust your body to guide you on hunger, fullness and satisfaction.

Stop imagining. Start making it happen. (Go back to previous page)

The countdown is on…both to Christmas and the ever popular New Year obsession with weight loss.  Through a series of quotes and proverbs, we’ll take a look at the wisdom of dieting, and build a case for a non-diet approach. 

December 1: There was only one occasion in my life when I put myself on a strict diet…and it was the most miserable afternoon I’ve ever spent (Denis Norden) 

What Denis lacks in perseverance, he makes up for in insight!

December 2: We learn from history that men never learn anything from history (Hegel)

How many times have you dieted, lost weight, regained it, but returned to that same diet even though it didn’t lead to lasting weight loss last time? Start learning from history!

December 3: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (Benjamin Franklin)

Do you give up on food control in December and surrender to weight gain, telling yourself you’ll deal with it in January?  Well you could do that, or you could eat the foods you want to eat and use the principles of fullness and satisfaction to guide quantity.  Yes, this is initially difficult for those with an ‘on diet/off diet’ mentality, but try it.  What have you got to lose?!

December 4: Enough is as good as a feast (Joshua Sylvester)

Have you ever had an enormous plate of food in front of you and thought “I’m not going to let this beat me!”  The Christmas turkey is already dead.  You’ve already beaten it.  Leave the competitive eating to the Americans – no prizes for heartburn and indigestion.  

December 5: Only dead fish go with the flow (Andy Hunt) 

Do you sometimes eat mainly because that’s what others are doing? Thinking about the office biscuits, boxes of sweets, trays of crisps, buffet lunches…you’ll likely to be exposed to all of this and more in the coming weeks.  You could use the “They’re eating it, so I’ll have some too” justification.  Or you could make your own decisions to eat and stop eating.  Don’t let the actions and decisions of others influence yours. 

December 6: If you don’t control your mind, someone else will (John Allston)

Have you ever had a meal in the company of others and found yourself going against what you really wanted? For example, chose salad when you really wanted chips?  Deliberately ate a small portion? Said “No thanks” to dessert even though you would have loved one? If you change your eating habits or food choices in company, this suggests that you think there is something wrong with the way you eat.  There probably isn’t….but thinking this way might just create a problem.  

December 7: Nothing is so simple that it cannot be screwed up (Anon)

“Eat less, move more”.  Simple right?  So why is it so difficult?  Because life is complicated.  People are complex.  There are no simple solutions to complex problems.

December 8: Minds are like parachutes.  They only work when open (Thomas Dewer)

Blindly following diet rules (“eat this, don’t eat that”) can seem safe and secure…initially.  But sooner or later, you’ll want to eat what YOU want to eat, not what you’re told to eat.  So you rebel, and overeat all the foods you weren’t previously allowed.  The irony is that if you paid more attention to what you wanted in the first place, you would have avoided this scenario. Open your food mind. You might be (pleasantly) surprised by what happens.

December 9: Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers (Lord Alfred Tennyson)

Experienced dieters know a thing or two about calories and portion sizes. But food wisdom is about how food makes you feel, and how your food choices affect your food actions. For example, you want a chocolate bar (200 cals), but that’s too many calories.  So you eat an apple (80cals), then a diet yoghurt (80 cals), then a rice cake (20 cals)…  No, not satisfied.  So you end up eating the chocolate bar anyway. Your knowledge led to you eating 380 cals, whereas if you had used your wisdom, you would only have eaten 200cals.  Who’s smarter now?

December 10: Ability is what you are able to do.  Motivation determines what you do.  Attitude decides how well you do it (Anon)

You have the ABILITY to lose weight. You use your unhappiness about your weight to MOTIVATE you to diet. But it is your ATTITUDE that will dictate how successful you are.  Weight loss is less about food, and more about your attitude to food. Get the attitude right, and you may find you no longer need the diet.

December 11:  Liberty means responsibility.  That is why most men dread it (George Bernard Shaw)

While there can be a safety and certainty in following diet rules, they don’t last for most people.  Food compliance is often followed by food rebellion, or eating without boundaries. Non-diet approaches to weight loss emphasise freedom to choose with no foods banned, putting you firmly in charge of your food decisions, but guided by principles of hunger, fullness and satisfaction.  You will feel liberated from diet rules, but you will also become responsible for your food decisions.  Is it for you? If you have previously lost weight and regained it following multiple diets….then yes!

December 12: You can always tell luck from ability by its duration (E.C. McKenzie)

Anyone can lose weight.  Diets exist for no other reason.  Diets help you avoid food.  But losing weight, and more importantly keeping it off, requires the ability to live with food, not avoid it.

December 13: If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst (Thomas Hardy)

Think about the way you eat when you are on a diet. Think about the way you eat when you are NOT on a diet. A non-diet approach to weight loss may not make sense to you IF you wrongly assume it resembles NOT being on a diet. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Your problems with food and the reasons you eat as you do are most evident when you are not on a diet – so this is where we start looking for solutions. The non-diet approach does not ignore your food problems. It deals with them.

December 14: When all think alike, no-one is thinking (Walter Lippman)

You like being part of a group.  The moral support, the incentive to attend, the craic..

Surrounding yourself with like-minded people means our thoughts and behaviours will be considered normal.  But what if these thoughts and behaviours are not helpful to you in achieving your goals?  Weight loss groups probably ‘work’ for some (although the evidence is mounting for their ineffectiveness for the majority).  Obsessing over weekly weights, weighing food, counting calories/points/syns, starving yourself in the days before your weigh-in, over-eating immediately after your weigh in – just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right. Choose your herd wisely.

December 15: “Arrival fallacy” –the false belief that reaching a valued destination can sustain happiness (Tal Ben-Sahar)

You tell yourself you will be really happy and life will be so much better when you are lighter, thinner, smaller…While a diet can change your body weight,  it won’t address the eating complexities that contributed to your weight in the first place. You lose weight, but you don’t lose the problems, so your control over your weight is fragile and liable to break at any given time. This is not going to make you happy. Focus on sorting out your food problems, and the weight loss will come.

December 16: Labels are for bottles (Smirnoff)

You eat.  Is it a snack?  Is it a meal?  Does it matter? Apparently yes.  A study gave two groups of people the same food (a pasta dish).  One group was told it was a meal.  The other group was told it was a snack.  Both groups ate exactly the same amount.  Both groups were then given bowls of sweets and savoury foods, and the amount they ate was measured.  The group who were told the pasta dish was a snack ate more sweets and savoury foods afterwards. Other common food labels are “good”, “bad”, “healthy”, “unhealthy” – the problem is that, as the study above demonstrates, labelling food affects our eating decisions, and most often in a negative way. Food is food.  Ditch the labels.

December 17: A lot of our problems are created by our solutions (Paul Watzlawick)

You start off a little overweight.  You go on a diet.  You lose weight, but regain more.  This cycle repeats a few times – and you end up heavier than you were before you started. Your solution (dieting) contributed to a bigger problem. If you look back now and wish you were the weight you were when you first thought you were overweight, the weight you were before your first diet, then the need for a better solution is clear.

December 18: You’ll know when a relationship is right for you.  It will enhance your life, not complicate your life (Brigitte Nicole)

When on a diet, do you become preoccupied with, maybe even obsessive about, food or constantly have food on your mind? When the diet stops, do you deliberately overeat while mentally beating yourself up? Does this sound like a good food relationship to you? Make food work for you, not against you. Food can, and should, be a pleasure, not a problem.

December 19: Insanity…doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result (Albert Einstein)

Or doing the same DIET over and over again and expecting a different result.

December 20: If at first you don’t succeed, try again.  Then quit.  No use being a damn fool about it (W.C. Fields)

How many times have you done the same thing to lose weight, but ultimately regained it?  Hard to say it worked.  Half a solution that doesn’t last is no better than no solution.  Quit what doesn’t work.  Try something else.

December 21: Strategy is better than strength (Nigeria)

You may frequently have summoned the strength to start a diet.  You have probably displayed enormous willpower in avoiding foods you would have loved to eat.  Your strength is not in question.  But add in life’s pressures and strains and even the strongest can fall.  You need strategies to manage food, not just strength to avoid food

December 22: The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it (George Orwell)

I shouldn’t eat it.  But I want to.  I’m not allowed it.  But it’s my favourite thing.  It’s so unhealthy.  But it’s delicious.  It’s so high calorie.  I DON’T CARE…gobble gobble.  Game over.  Diet over. Enter a war with food, and eventually you lose. Anyone for a peace treaty?

December 23: He who breaks a resolution is a weakling.  He who makes one is a fool (FM Knowles)

Start your diet on 1st January….how long does it usually last?
Play it smarter this year.  Ditch the diet resolution.  Sort out your food problems once and for all.

December 24: Many your troubles in the coming year be as short-lived as your resolutions (E. C. McKenzie)

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.


Your children depend on you to provide food to keep them healthy. The ideal position is to provide a varied diet of good nutritional quality, while limiting less nutritious foods.  Easy, right?

With childhood obesity in the media spotlight, what is the best way to try to ensure this happens? Is it better to take full control of food decisions? Or is there a case for allowing your child to have some food independence?

Parent Feeding Style – What’s yours?

You’re making spaghetti bolognese for dinner – do you:

A. Make it. Serve it. Expect your child to finish it. If they don’t, there will be a consequence (strict, or “authoritarian” style)

B. Tell your child you’re making spaghetti bolognese. Ask if they want the meat sauce mixed through the spaghetti or served separately. Ask how hungry they are and much they feel like. Then leave them to it. They either finish it or they don’t (flexible, “authoritative” style)

C. Cook some nuggets and frozen pizza as well because your child grumbled about having to eat spaghetti bolognese. Sure they have to eat something (soft, “permissive” style)

D. Change your mind. You can’t be bothered cooking at all. The kids can grab themselves a slice of toast (“negligent” style)

If you normally go for C. or D., these permissive and negligent parent feeding styles are consistently associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity.

What about A. the strict approach (authoritarian) or B. the flexible approach (authoritative)?

The evidence in a nutshell

Common behaviours associated with a strict, authoritarian approach are:

  • restricting foods (usually those considered ‘bad’)
  • pressuring to eat certain foods (usually those considered ‘good’)
  • using food as a reward (for example for good behaviour)
  • using food as a punishment or bribe (“you’re not getting a biscuit if you don’t finish your dinner”)

While all of these behaviours are very well intentioned, do they have the effect you want?

What impact does this approach have on your child’s long term relationship with food?

Unfortunately, evidence suggests that the strict parent feeding style may be counter-productive and is actually associated with an increased risk of obesity.

Restricting food:

  • Gives it ‘forbidden fruit’ status and makes children want it more
  • Makes your child less willing to try a wide variety of other foods
  • Plants the seed of some foods being ‘bad’ and others being ‘good’, which can persist in unhelpful ways into adulthood

Pressuring to eat food:

  • Fails to take in to consideration your child’s food preferences, likes and dislikes
  • Leads to future avoidance of that food

Using food as a reward or comfort:

  • Increases desire for that food
  • Is habit forming and likely to persist into adulthood
  • Associates with-holding of that food as being punishment

Using food as a punishment or bribe:

  • Can lead to overeating of the withheld foods when the opportunity arises (eg at parties or grandparents)
  • Associates provision of that food with being a reward.

All in all, a strict approach can do more harm than good. The irony is, well-intentioned parents with the highest degree of concern over their child’s weight are most likely to adopt the strict approach.

So this leaves the flexible, authoritative approach.

Give your child space to make decisions about what to choose and how much to eat, but under your watchful guiding eye. You will have to reduce control and increase trust. How?

Practical tips to getting flexible!

  • Have a wide range of foods available and let your child decide what they want.
  • Don’t label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Fruit is fruit, chocolate is chocolate.
  • Give your child mini food responsibilities – ask them what they feel like eating, and give them options. This will teach them independent food decision making.
  • Lead by example – let your child hear you say things like “I’ve had enough”, “I don’t feel like one right now”.
  • Include them in shopping decisions – “What type of fruit and vegetables would you like me to buy this week?”
  • When serving meals ask “How hungry are you?”

Don’t expect to get it right every time – your best guide is your child’s response. Have faith and let them surprise you!

Start from within

There is no doubt that navigating our current food environment is a minefield. But, if you want your child to grow up to be independent and confident in their food decisions, the training starts now.

If your child is overweight, NHS Choices website suggests “Be a good role model”. If your child is not yet overweight, but you have concerns about their eating, this remains sound advice.

To build your child’s healthy ‘relationship’ with food, you need to know how to be around food yourself. The role of food in your life, and how you use (or abuse) food will almost certainly have been influenced by how your food intake was managed as a child, and even by your adult experiences of dieting and weight control.

There are many parallels between the strict, authoritarian approach and today’s omnipresent adult dieting industry.

Evidence informs us it does little to help with childhood obesity – it has limited impact on adult obesity too.

Dieting experiences can diminish our ability to trust and conduct ourselves around food, yet we have responsibility for coaching our children. You may need to start by looking at your own relationship with food.

In time, you can learn to be a food and nutrition mentor, not a food dictator – and watch your child grow up comfortable around food and confident in their ability to manage it.

You know what happens when you look for love in all the wrong places – but what else are you looking for in all the wrong places?

The dieting industry continues to expand (pun intended).

There is only one reason you would choose to drink Slimfast, join Slimming World or Weight Watchers, start Lighter Life etc etc etc.

To lose weight.

And you will.

Just probably not for very long.


Because you’re looking for a solution to your weight problem in the wrong place.

Settle in for a story…

One dark night, Nasrudin is looking for something next to a lamp post in the street. A friend is going by and asks what he’s doing.

Nasrudin replies, “I’m looking for my key”

The friend decides to help and searches the ground under the lamp post.

Half an hour later the friend asks, “Are you sure you dropped your key here?”

Nasrudin replies, “Oh no, I lost it inside my house, in my bedroom.”

The friend screams, “Why in hell’s name, are we searching here?”

Nasrudin smiles and says, “There’s much more light here.”

Since Nasrudin allegedly lived in the 13th century, he probably wasn’t too troubled by our modern day “obesity crisis” (and I’m not sure he would have had a street light either, but let’s not get distracted from the point).

Nevertheless, his ‘wise fool’ story beautifully highlights the futility of using diets to deal with your weight problems.

Advertising and marketing keep the spotlight shining brightly on multiple ‘solutions’ to your weight problem.  But your struggles with food don’t happen under the spotlight.  They happen in private.

You won’t find what you’re looking for if you’re looking in all the wrong places.

Start looking in the right places – see Diet Dilemmas eBook

With Easter around the corner, and chocolate flying off the shelves, how many of you are packing your bags for your next guilt trip?

Picture the scene: 1 cake, 2 people.

Person 1 sees cake. Considers if they want some. Eats cake. The end.

Person 2 sees calories, fat, temptation, a test, a challenge, a risk. They feel in dangerous territory but they eat some cake. They’re not paying attention to whether the cake is delicious or not because the main thought in their head is:


But they have started now so they may as well carry on. They decide they will not eat cake again for a long time so it’s OK if they overeat it now. They can diet harder tomorrow.

So they continue to eat, still not really paying attention to the cake enjoyment because the niggling thought of doing something ‘bad’ lingers, and this grows into:


The damage is done now, they have lost the battle with the cake, and surrender to eating it with abandon.

If only that was the end of the story. Feeling guilty about their actions (eating cake) is bad enough. But then this happens:


They feel bad about themselves and decide they must be greedy, weak, lacking in willpower, a failure….and the scene is set for unhelpful eating for the rest of the day, maybe even the rest of the week or longer.

Brought down by a piece of cake

How can the same situation result in such a different outcome?

A study published in the journal Appetite in 2013 took a stereotypical ‘forbidden’ food item (chocolate cake) and compared ‘guilt’ eaters with ‘celebration’ eaters.

Those who attached guilt to eating had:

  • lower levels of perceived food control, and
  • were less successful at losing weight

than those who associated the food with celebration.

It all boils down to your ‘relationship’ with food, how you view food, and how you make decisions about what to eat and when to stop eating.

These are all changeable / modifiable factors, and working to improve how you feel about, and manage, food will have a major impact on how you feel about your food choices, which will go on to affect how much of it you eat.

The irony…

Many people can suffer from food guilt for many different reasons, but chronic dieters appear to be particularly susceptible because dieting mentalities are one reason for experiencing food guilt.

The point of dieting is to lose weight, but if people who diet suffer from food guilt, this can make keeping weight off very difficult.

If you feel guilty while eating, this is a warning signal, your head sending you a mental distress call, alerting you to a problem that needs to be fixed. Something has broken down in terms of your relationship with that food, a problem with how you view that food.

Add to that the fact that feeling this way often leads to ongoing eating and it becomes crystal clear that food guilt is a useless, pointless and destructive emotion.

What this DOESN’T mean

So what we eat and how much we eat is irrelevant as long as we don’t feel guilty about it? NO, NO and NO. You can’t eat your body weight in chocolate as long as you do it in the name of celebration. If only it was that simple.

Saying ‘Don’t feel guilty’ is not enough.

Food guilt is not healthy but telling yourself “I’m going to eat this and not feel guilty” is likely to be as effective as telling a baby to stop crying.

Thoughts, feelings and emotions cannot be switched on and off. Some are warning signs – food guilt is one of these. You need to take food guilt back to its roots, find its source, question the accuracy of your view, and see the problem for what it is – the problem is NOT food, the problem is NOT you, the problem is whatever has distorted your view of food.

How can I fight food guilt?

Since guilt stems from doing something you think you shouldn’t have done, eating without guilt requires you to:

  • Question where that thought came from
  • Stop making food decisions based on what you think you should eat, and start thinking more about what you actually feel like and want. Reclaim your right to make your own decisions about food.
  • Stop labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’
  • Abandon hard and fast food rules, and replace with boundaries (for example, move away from “I’m on a diet so I’m not allowed cake” or “I’m not on a diet so I can eat as much cake as I can”, and move towards “I will eat some cake if I decide I want some, and I will only continue to eat it if it is delicious and stop when I am satisfied” – yes, you can learn how to do this!)
  • Use more helpful cues to guide your eating – hunger, fullness, food pleasure and satisfaction are the major players here.


If you have a history of food guilt it’s not going to just disappear. But you can get help to understand and manage it, and in time learn how to celebrate food.

There’s only one reason to eat chocolate – pure food pleasure. If you’re eating with guilt, you’re missing:

  • the pleasure, and,
  • the opportunity to make your own decision about when to stop

Appropriate enjoyment of any food should never be followed by inappropriate overeating as a punishment for enjoying it. Food guilt is a weapon that has no place at the table.

I’m not a fan of diets. And until I came across a book by Dena Harris “Does this collar make my butt look big?” I was unaware that cats also experienced the same pitfalls.  As recounted through feline eyes, Dena explores the crazy world of dieting.  In honour of World Book Day 2018, here are some of the best bits.

First steps

The first step in any diet is to shift into a full-fledged panic the day before the diet officially begins and eat everything in sight.

Harness your motivation

  • My motivation for losing weight is:
    • I want to rock out a belly ring
    • Swimsuit season is upon us
    • To be healthy. Just kidding. It’s the belly ring, bikini, and REVENGE.
  • Find a diet buddy. Give him a paw smack whenever you stray from your diet, as he’s obviously not doing his job.
  • Use motivational notes and reminders. Hang a “Hot Kitty” calendar nearby to remind you what you want to look like.

What cat diet to choose?

South Beach Diet

The diet starts out with lots of restrictions, but the rules are simple: Don’t eat anything that tastes good. However, if you eat something that tastes like processed cardboard, you’re permitted unlimited quantities.

Blood Group Diet

The benefit is that once you know your blood type, you can eat accordingly, and the weight will drop off like a Pomeranian tossed off a bridge.

Paleo Diet

Listen to your body. You may skip meals if you’re not hungry. (We’ve never known this to happen).

Zone diet

Each meal to consist of 30% fat, 30% protein, and 40% carbs. This is all well and good, except cats can’t count. And even if we could, we’d count something much more interesting than carbs.


You may become convinced you’re starving. Should this occur, lie down, take deep breath, then call for Chinese takeout.


Hold off urinating for as long as possible, then make a mad dash for the litter box. Feel the burn.

Dealing with saboteurs

Confront those who don’t want you to change. And by “confront” we mean show them your butt.

Other top tips…in no particular order

Too little sleep can make you fat. Aim for at least twenty-two hours a day.

Track how hungry you are on a scale of 1 to 10. Any time you go above a 1, eat immediately, before fatigue and hallucinations set in.

Don’t skip the most important meal of the day, which would be…..You know what? To be safe, don’t skip any of them.

Whether you succeed or fail on this particular plan, we suggest you go ahead and tell everyone you’ve lost weight. Others will be impressed, thinking you have willpower they don’t, and will go and order a ten-taco special and gain twelve pounds, making you appear more svelte.

Enjoy the occasional cheat day and eat whatever you want. We suggest scheduling cheat days on days that end with a ‘y’.

Buy a low fat cookbook. Now shred it. Admit it – that felt good.

Don’t give up! Unless it’s hard. Or you’re tired. Or really hungry. Or it’s a Tuesday.

Do not reward yourself with food. You are not a dog.


Treat your diet the same way as you treat doorbells, vets, and Aunt Dorothy’s Doberman – get yourself the hell out of there.

Thanks goodness the cat came to its senses. Respect.

Remission (im)possible?

In Northern Ireland, over 71,000 people have Type 2 diabetes (Public Health Agency, 2015). There are likely to be many more as yet undiagnosed cases. Type 2 diabetes is characterised by high blood glucose levels, which will cause future health problems if left untreated.

Globally, over 80% of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight at diagnosis. It is widely accepted that increasing levels of obesity increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Therefore, managing weight is going to reduce your risk of developing diabetes.

But what if I already have Type 2 diabetes? Can it be reversed?

An on-going clinical trial called DiRECT (Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial) released preliminary results before Christmas, with impressive results.

Participants were recruited within 6 years of diagnosis, and all were overweight. They followed an 800 calorie diet of specially formulated soups and shakes for 8 to 20 weeks.

The study found that 86% of participants who lost ≥15kg (2st 5lbs) achieved remission (that is, blood glucose levels could be maintained at healthy levels without the use of medication).

Does this mean that I have a high chance of achieving remission?

Maybe. That’s not the conviction you might want but it seems probable that remission is most likely in the early years post diagnosis, and provided a significant weight loss is achieved.

It is important to be clear that the participants achieved remission, not cure. It remains to be seen how long the remission state lasts. It would seem plausible that if weight loss was the key to achieving remission, then keeping weight off will be a key strategy in staying in remission. However, this also highlights that taking action to lose weight to prevent Type 2 diabetes may be a safer bet.

Could a low calorie diet help me?

If you are affected by diabetes and want help determining if a low calorie diet may be suitable for you, contact me for a no-obligation conversation about the pros and cons of this approach. Do not attempt a low calorie diet independently, especially if you are using tablets or insulin to manage your Type 2 diabetes, or other medications such as blood pressure tablets.

Further information

The study is not yet complete so this dietary approach to achieving remission is NOT currently available on the NHS. Get more information at https://blogs.diabetes.org.uk.