When you have dietary intolerances or allergies, restricting what you eat to avoid those things makes sense. Total and complete sense.
However, when you label foods off-limits or as “bad” and restrict yourself from having them for other reasons, it can be a sign of dieting (yep, whether you’re actually on a “diet” or not).
As we’ve written before, diet culture is sneaky. And, the practice of dieting — and restricting — almost always backfires, because dieting — at its core — is driven by restriction. (Here’s how the cycle works.)
So today, we’re sharing some signs that you’re being overly restrictive with yourself, whether you know it or not. And it’s entirely possible you have no idea you’re doing it because restriction is so common and culturally normalized that it can be hard to even realize it’s happening. Seems crazy, but it’s absolutely true.
1. You have racing thoughts about food, your workouts, or your body.
Do you spend much of your mental energy thinking about your body, or your next meal or snack, or your workouts — especially in a negative and/or obsessive way? Do you know the calorie or macro count of just about every food, or how many calories different workouts burn? This is a sign that you’re most likely in a diet-culture mindset, and that you’re forcing yourself to adhere to unrealistic expectations when it comes to food, workouts, and your body.
2. You can’t stop weighing yourself.
Obsessed with the number on the scale? Does it dictate your mood for the day? Yep, also a sign that you’re looking to outside markers for internal validation. This mindset always values restriction/dieting and appearance over true health (which is never about weight or a number because real health doesn’t look a certain way).
3. The weekend is your “downfall.”
Find it easy to eat healthy and work out on a Monday … only to do the complete opposite on the weekends? That would be falling into the all-or-nothing mindset, which, again, is fueled by restriction and almost always results in the restrict-binge-shame cycle.
4. You have a general feeling of being out of control.
Do you feel like you need some sort of plan or group or challenge or accountability in order to be healthy — otherwise you’ll never make a healthy decision again? Do you have fear that even if you let go, even a little, that you’ll gain weight? Living in fear of weight gain — or fearing that, without weight to lose, you’ll have no control in your life — is a very common yet serious sign that you’re taking restriction too far.
5. Decisions are … difficult.
If you waffle greatly over whether or not to work out or what it is that you’re going to eat, this can be a sign that you’re being overly restrictive — especially if you go back and forth on what you “should” do versus what you truly want to do or what your body is telling you to do. (Note: this is not the same as, like, not being able to decide between two workouts you love or two ice cream flavors you want to try!)
6. You’re drawn to social media accounts that promote unrealistic body types.
Take a look at your social media feed. Is it filled with truly inspiring people who show that being healthy can take the form of all kinds of different bodies and experiences? Or, is it filled with weight-loss before and afters and unrealistic images of health, wellness, and fitness? These types of images — whether you’re consciously comparing yourself or not — can make it more likely that you feel the need to change or restrict or diet. Try following these instead.
7. You push away your natural instincts.
This one can be anything from ignoring your hunger cues to never taking a day off at the gym to feeling like you need to “beat” your cravings. Basically, if you regularly ignore what your body is telling you, you’re restricting.
If any of these hit home with you, we urge you to be super kind to yourself and begin to loosen those restrictions. Also, take this free screening tool. Often, the above markers can also show the signs of an eating disorder. –Jenn