How Diet Obsession Can Hurt Your Self-Esteem

Dieting can have a variety of different goals, some of which are beneficial: from losing weight by breaking down stored fat in the body, as is often the case, to building muscle to get fitter. In this sense, it cannot be said that carrying out a diet is in itself something negative.

However, when it becomes an obsession with healthy eating, alterations in physical and mental health must be taken into account. In this article, we are going to focus on one of the ways in which the constant need to control everything we eat can affect us psychologically: Decreased self-esteem.

How can diet obsession damage self-esteem?

These are the main ways in which the obsession with food and healthy eating can directly or indirectly damage self-esteem.

1. Obsession with the physical

Obsession with physical appearance is one of the first symptoms we can experience when we mismanage a diet or diet.

On the one hand, some diets surrounded by harmful marketing campaigns promise dramatic results that can make us focus more than usual on the physical and constantly look at ourselves in a mirror, which not only leads to disappointment, but also it directs us semi-unconsciously towards the search for faults in ourselves.

On the other hand, it can also happen that the problem is not in the diet itself, but in our expectations and the extent to which we want to carry out a plan to the millimeter to lose fat, define muscles, etc In either case, the person internalizes the routine of constantly checking their appearance and focusing too much on what they want to reverse.

2. Feeling guilty about being hungry

People who are obsessed with dieting often end up developing a great long-term sense of guilt whenever they feel hungry or need to break the strict diet they are following.

And that is what is associated with this obsession with leading a healthy life that often arises a moralization of physical appearance: we cling to the idea that human beings are responsible for their beauty and/or their degree of physical health through discipline, so the experience of being hungry is often experienced as a sign of weakness (a although in reality no one can control the appearance and disappearance of this sensation).

This feeling of guilt becomes more and more intense and the person ends up valuing himself less and less, so as not to consider himself “mentally strong enough” to achieve the desired lifestyle.

3. Rebound effect

The rebound effect is a phenomenon experienced by some people who go on a diet for the first time or when they are not very used to it. In this context, it arises when it is necessary to deal with the discomfort caused by an unsuitable diet, the person ends up indulging in food intermittently when she feels frustrated or under a lot of stress.

This is usually caused by a combination of hunger leading to strict dieting and a tendency to overthink food (or even avoid it). This combination brings the concept of “food” to the person’s mind constantly when looking for strategies to alleviate the discomfort they feel, even when it is not caused by hunger.

4. Social isolation

Diets can often help us feel lonely and out of place because it’s hard for us to find someone whose lifestyle allows us to get on with our own lives without constantly exposing us to unhealthy meals, the kinds of foods we we consider inappropriate (dinners with friends or dates).

These difficulties in being “in phase” with someone cause many, who have become obsessed with food, to adopt solitary habits, which generate an undesirable feeling of loneliness. And once that’s happened, it’s very easy for us to feel bad about ourselves, to have the false impression that no one wants to be around us (although what actually happened is more the reverse process, we have made it too difficult for others to gain access to us).

5. Affecting physical health

Following a strict diet, especially for people doing it for the first time and without reliable knowledge in this area, also has a direct and obvious impact on their physical health, leading to side effects. This can be due to several causes, such as lack of macronutrients (there are many harmful beliefs about the importance of avoiding fats and all kinds of carbohydrates), living under stress always trying to control what you eat. we eat and anticipate the ingredients needed to prepare meals during the week, excessive physical exercise as a mechanism of alleged “compensation” for the excess calories ingested, etc.

Of course, these health clothes it is reflected both in the appearance of the body and in the degree of well-being or physical discomfort, and such experiences affect a person’s self-esteem. If someone feels bad about what they see in the mirror or how they feel, they are more likely to value themselves from a pessimistic bias.

6. Frustration related to frustration

Frustration is also very directly related to the low self-esteem of many dieters, as it serves as a reminder that you can’t eat whatever the person wants at all times. And this fixation on food causes us to constantly wonder if the sacrifice made is worth judging by the progress made. The answer to this is, in most cases, a clear “No”, but the idea of ​​throwing in the towel generates great discomfort when you bear in mind all the effort and time invested in this process.

Thus, the combination of frustration and demoralization due to the relative lack of results causes the person to learn to link their value as a person to the need to overcome the obstacles they face and are unable to overcome for now. , who creates a vicious circle. The person who has become obsessed with healthy eating feels bad for not having achieved what was offered in terms of health or acceptance of their body, and at the same time can’t help but value their own “I “through this constant frustrating fight.

7. Eating Disorders

In the most extreme cases we find the appearance of an eating disorder. These conditions are mental health disorders that affect how a person relates to food, often from an obsessive need to control what is eaten to achieve a certain goal in terms of physical appearance, at the same time than a series of dysfunctional thoughts of the self. -perception arise. Anorexia and bulimia are the most common eating disorders, but there are other psychopathologies. that fall into this category, such as megarexia.

Moreover, because they affect such a fundamental aspect of health as diet, these disorders can lead to the onset of other serious diseases associated with malnutrition or undernutrition. And since they put the person in danger of death, it is important to consult a professional at the first symptoms.

Are you looking for professional psychological support?

If you would like psychotherapeutic assistance to overcome anxiety and stress issues, low self-esteem and/or eating disorders, please contact me.

My name is Paloma Rey and I offer face-to-face and online therapy sessions.

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