Done with Dieting Episode #82: Why Mainstream Diets Don’t Work for Women in Midlife

Mainstream diets

Hint: it’s not because you’re lazy or don’t have willpower.

When you purchase a product or service that does not work or even causes harm, you might blame the company, demand a refund, leave a bad review, and skip out on it next time. 

When that product or service is a part of the diet industry, you may blame yourself and return time and again to spend even more money on these services. 

Why is that? 

Well, unlike most other factors in our life, we consider our body’s weight and appearance to be solely a personal responsibility and, for some, a personal failure. 

Women are continually socialized to think that  WE’RE the ones who are wrong. That there’s something wrong with us – our bodies are ‘mysterious’ or weird. 

Women are not little men & so our bodies respond to food and exercise very differently than men. So we need a unique approach that’s specialized to address our hormonal profile in midlife. 

Tune in to learn how women have been set up to fail since childhood.

Are you loving the podcast, but arent sure where to start? click here to get your copy of the Done with Dieting Podcast Roadmap Its a fantastic listening guide that pulls out the exact episodes that will get you moving towards optimal health.

If you want to take the work we’re doing here on the podcast and go even deeper, you need to join the Feel Good Sisterhood - my group coaching program for women in midlife who are done with dieting, but still want to feel good! The Feel Good Sisterhood is open for enrollment, so click here to discover if group coaching is a right fit for you and your goals.

I am so excited to hear what you all think about the podcast – if you have any feedback, please let me know! You can leave me a rating and review in Apple Podcasts, which helps me create an excellent show and helps other women who want to get off the diet roller coaster find it, too.

What you’ll Learn from this Episode

  • The Reason We Keep Looking For That Next Diet. 
  • There’s one thing that the gurus, diet hackers, trainers, and the health & fitness industry can’t teach you that’s WAY more powerful than being disciplined.
  • Why traditional diets don’t work for women in midlife.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

All of those menopausal symptoms that you’re experiencing, those can be regulated through lifestyle change. The problem is that because we’ve been socialized as women, that thinner is better. Most women, zero in on the weight as being the problem. And we try to solve for that.

The weight isn’t actually the problem. The weight is actually a symptom, just like the other symptoms. But because most diet and exercise programs aren’t designed for women our age, using traditional weight loss strategies furthers exacerbates our menopausal symptoms because they don’t take our hormones into account.

You are listening to the done with dieting podcast. The podcast for women in midlife, who are done with dieting, but still want to lose weight and feel good in your clothes.

You know that diets don’t work long term. But you feel like there’s this secret that everyone else knows that you just haven’t figured it out yet.

I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman. And I’ve helped hundreds of women get off the diet roller coaster, change their relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies.

Through this podcast, my goal is to help you too.

Welcome. Let’s get started.

Hello and welcome to episode number 82 of the done with dieting podcast. Now, before we start today, I have some such exciting news for you. We are finally in our house, and I could not be more excited. Y’all, it’s been 20 months since we broke ground and it’s been just over two years since we signed the paper to gain ownership of the land. It’s been a long process.

And so, we’ve been loving living in the house. It’s been just a few weeks now. And Ugh, we’re just over the move. We have just this beautiful house. If you’ve been on social media, you’ve probably seen me take pictures all over the place. I’m just sharing everything that I can with everybody. And so, a lot of things have happened at the end of July. As I’ve talked about, I batch my podcast episodes.

And so, I haven’t recorded an episode since I think June or sometimes. So, a lot of things have happened since the last time I record it. And if you receive my emails or if you follow me on social media, you know that I just finished launching a brand spanking new, an improved version of the Feel Good Sisterhood.

The program is now a year in length and it’s just to set up a little bit differently. The feedback that I heard from folks who’ve been through the program before is that there was so much great and incredible information in the program. But they felt like they were drinking from a fire hose that they needed some time to apply the materials that they needed to basically have a life. And that the course materials were just taking up a lot of time.

So, what we did is they voted. They said, we don’t want you to take away anything, we just need more time. And so, that’s what I did. I created the program, I extended it to make it a year. And so, the other thing about it is that it’s not a cohort like it used to be. What that means is that you can actually join at any time throughout the year.

So, there are going to be people coming and going. And I think that that’s really going to be an amazing thing for the group dynamic too. So, if you are new to the podcast and just learning about it, it’s not too late. Head over to and you can learn all about the Feel Good Sisterhood.

It is by far the best group coaching program out there. Especially, when it comes to health and wellness. So, I will put it up against anyone’s. And if you are someone who wants to be done with dieting and you are tired of beating yourself up and have that negative voice inside your head, this program will solve those problems. I’m telling you; I have a guarantee. I have two guarantees. I have a service level guarantee and I have a money back guarantee.

The other thing that happened at the end of July was that I finished my advanced certification in feminist coaching. And that is so super exciting. Now, I’m not technically certified yet because as part of the certification process, I had to create a final project. And what I submitted; I could not be more excited about.

It’s a three-part master class and it’s all about diet culture. How it shows up, why it’s harmful, and then what to do about it. And there’s a workbook that goes along with that. Now, if you are a client of mine or if you’re in the Feel Good Sisterhood, all the materials for that masterclass are part of what you get when you work with me.

And so, today in our podcast, I’m going to talk a little bit about that work. So, a lot of really amazing stuff is happening over here. And I could not be more excited to be with you today, because I feel like I haven’t been with you in forever.

Now, chances are. If you are a woman in midlife, you grew up reading popular magazines, like seventeen, or health, or Cosmo.

And so, as a result, we’ve learned a lot of myths about what we should be eating, how we should be eating, or exercising, and what we should look like physically. What our bodies should look like.

We live in a society that values thinness and attractiveness and youth. And if you’re anything like me growing up in the seventies and eighties, you probably noticed that as a young girl, that other people, whoever it was. Like teachers, parents, just general people, like the store clerk, praise, weight loss, and thin body shape. No matter what the cost.

And so, as young women, we’re socialized to believe that being attractive is way more important than anything else. Right? Like I remember I used to walk down the street and some random man would tell me to smile, as if that was my job. Okay.

But you probably also noticed that the rules are different for women than they are for men. Like no one would tell a man to smile, right? Instead for men, instead of the priority being attractiveness, the priority for men is success. Attractiveness is a bonus for men. That getting a good job is really super important for them. And then, the other piece to that is marrying a beautiful woman.

I remember learning at some point on my own that if I wanted to compliment a man, I should tell him that his wife was very beautiful, and I would watch him puff up. Because society has also taught us that our greatest achievement would be to marry well. Right? We’re told that as young women.

What that means is that when we marry well, we should marry a man with a good job. But the rub there is that in order to do that, we need to achieve that societal level of beauty, which we also equate with thinness.

So, it kind of makes perfect sense then. That as young women, we pursue diet after diet to fit that ideal, no matter what the cost to our health or financial. And here’s some really crazy stuffs. Things are actually getting a lot worse. There are a few statistics.

So first of all, 80% of 10-year-old girls have already tried dieting. I mean, 10 years old, I was still playing with Barbies. 80 to 91% of women based on the study that’s reporting it. Report being dissatisfied with their bodies.

One study notes that 46% of the people who responded to the study would rather give up a year of their life than be obese. That’s almost half those people who answered their study. And 15%, one five, would rather give up a decade of their life than be obese. That’s huge. 15% of people would rather give up a decade of their lives than be fat.

So as a result, most women in midlife don’t have a great relationship with food, exercise, or their body. And the thing is that everyone around us has this same weird relationship with food exercise in her body. So, we don’t even know anything different, right?

Like we can sit around and pick apart that food is bad, this food is good. You got to stay away from carbs, getting old is bad. And we all just buy into it. We’re all just in this pool, swimming around in these disordered thoughts.

Have you ever used exercise as a punishment for overeating? So, after a night of overindulging, or if you go on vacation. Maybe you hit the gym harder, or you start running, or you double up on your fitness classes. I used to do that all the time.

Do you have good foods and bad foods? So, things like pizza, French fries, burgers, pasta, depending on which diet you subscribe to, those all go in the bad foods list, right?

And things like apple, spinach, chicken, breast broccoli, those go in the good foods list. The thing about these lists is that these lists aren’t even yours. They’re someone else’s. Someone else put these lists into your brain. Maybe it was weight Watchers. Maybe it was a personal trainer that you used to go see. Or maybe it was just a random person that you met on a plane, and they mentioned an article that they read in some magazine.

We take this stuff in.

Have you ever ignored your own intuition about the health and safety of a strategy because you heard the result was too good. Right? So, some examples of that might be H C G, fen-fen. Do you remember that maple syrup diet with the Cayenne pepper and lemon juice or the cabbage soup diet? I did that.

Or do you remember those potato chips made with olestra? If you ate too many of them, you got the sh!ts. That’s not good for us and yet, we did it.

How many diets have you been on that have left you feeling lethargic or lightheaded, but you continue doing them anyway, because the guru said you have to stick it out. Right? That’s pain. Pain is weakness leaving the body.

Have you ever ignored your hunger signals because you ate all of your allotted calories for the day and then you weren’t allowed to eat more? Yeah. When logging your food in my fitness pal and the numbers turn red and you try to be good.

But then, maybe you get too hungry and then you finally give in and then you’re like, ugh, I’m just going to eat it all. I’ve already screwed up the day, I went over my calorie budget. So therefore, I’m just going to eat a tub of ice cream, cause if I’m going to be over a hundred calories, I may be over a thousand. What’s the difference?

Do you find that you’re unable to stop yourself from eating off limits foods? Like I used to have a cheat day and my coach told me that I couldn’t really do much damage, but she had no idea. I would calculate during the week; I would write down a list of all of the things that I craved. And then on Saturdays I would eat it all.

I would go to bed, sick to my stomach, wondering why couldn’t I stop myself? Why couldn’t I eat what I thought a normal person ate like?

So, all of these examples, all these questions that I’m asking you, these are examples of disordered ways that we’ve been taught to manage our weight. And they come with a ton of shame. It doesn’t help that when we go to a nutritionist, a doctor, or personal trainer that they all give us the same Googleable advice, right? That falls into one of the same three buckets.

But wait a minute, I’m getting ahead of myself. So, I’d like you to imagine a triangle or a pyramid. This triangle, this pyramid has five different layers on it. At the top of the pyramid are things that are easy to implement, but they don’t really create a lot of lasting change.

And at the bottom of the pyramid, these are things that once we do them, they’re ingrained in our being, and they just become part of who we are. But the things at the bottom of the pyramid are really difficult to do. Okay.

So, starting at the top, the top layer is environment. Now, our environment are those things that are physically around us. And one of the questions that we hear gurus asking us; is your environment set up for success?

So, the things that would fall into this environmental category might be kitchen pantry makeovers or preparing all of your food on the weekend so that you can just grab your lunch from the fridge and head out in the morning.

Now, your environment is super important when it comes to your health habit. Because you will eat what is around you. And if you live in an area that supports walking or biking, you’ll be more likely to do that. So, does that make sense? Have you experienced that before?

Now, next week’s podcast episode, I’m interviewing Marisa Mckool and she is a coach. She helps folks who work in public health. And so, this environmental layer really ties into the conversation that we’re having next week.

So, if this stuff that I’m talking about today is interesting to you. I really want to invite you to come back next week and listen to that episode with Marissa.

Now, the next layer down. Layer number two is habits and behaviors. Now, we’re constantly told that habits are where it’s at, right? I mean, James Clear wrote an entire book called atomic habits. And there are tons of different books, all about habits. The general advice when we’re talking about habits, or if you want to build a habit is that we peg one thing that we want to start doing to something that we’ve already have established as a habit.

So, an example of this might be if you wanted to start taking vitamins, so you put your vitamins next to your toothbrush or your coffee cups. And that way, when you go brush your teeth or you grab your coffee, you’ll be reminded when you see the vitamins to take ’em. Okay. Now, we’re sold on the idea that we just need to make our new behavior a habit, and then we’ll be home free.

So, I used to tell folks this all the time when I was a personal trainer. And I now look back at it and I realize not how wrong I was. I think that there was a lot of it that I did myself, but I was just so young and knew at that point. Because there’s also this myth out there that it takes 21 days to build a habit.

And if you’re anything like me, you’ve done the 21-day thing, hoping that it will stick. And you may have even done something for a year or longer or five. And then, one day just stopped. So, habits aren’t really the answer to lifelong behavior change either. Okay.

Now, the third layer down is skills and abilities. These are where things get a little bit more sticky, and things can really range though. So, skills and abilities might look like, can you cook? How are your knife skills? Can you read a nutritional label so that you can compare two similar products and make the best choice for you?

Can you read a restaurant menu so that you can make a choice that’s tasty and filling? Are you able to exercise on your own? Are you able to design your own workout? So, can you just start exercising without anyone telling you what to do?

So, you can see here that as we’re moving through these layers of the pyramid, that the stages get a little bit more complicated. Or I shouldn’t say complicated, complex.

And I’d like to take a minute and mention that when I was working solely as a personal trainer and nutritionist, I was parroting these same tried and true advice. I focused mostly on these three areas. These three areas that are the three buckets that I was talking about earlier that personal trainers, nutritionists, and doctors focus on, that diet books and gurus will tell us to do.

But there’s a problem when we focus on just these parts. The thing is, is that they all require maintenance and free will. So, let me explain what I mean by that.

Let’s say that you go on vacation. When you return from vacation, it’s Sunday night. And when you return, there’s no food in the house. You have to work on Monday morning. So, already, your environment isn’t set up for success. Therefore, because you’re working, you need to scramble to figure out how to get food in the house so that you can be successful with your lunches and dinners. Right?

But you’re behind the eight ball because you’re working, and you’re still trying to exercise and do all of your other health stuff on top of it. Sure, you can go to lunch or pick up dinner and have something that’s healthy. But that requires free will.

So, even if you know how to read a menu, even if you know what the restaurant has, you have to decide that you want the healthier option. Which sometimes in the moment, we don’t want to do that.

Now, chances are that other programs that you’ve been doing. So, other approaches have also been focusing on these three aspects., environment, habits, and behavior, and skills, and abilities.

So, when I started out as a personal, I believed that I was going to be so incredibly buff and lean. I mean, how could I possibly not? Right? I had the environment; I had the skills. I was so so on consistency. And I hadn’t really built up the habit, but I thought that just being in the environment in the gym would make me motivated. Guess, what? It didn’t.

Even after my body building competition, I was inconsistent at best for exercising. And it wasn’t until I started running and I competed my one and only half marathon that I became consistent. Crossing over that race line, something changed. I’ve talked about this before. I immediately believed that I was a runner, that I was an athlete.

So, I’m going to come back to the fourth stage in just a second. But the bottom layer of the pyramid, the fifth stage is identity. Now, identity is how we identify ourselves. We wear lots of labels and those labels directly influence how we think about ourselves, how we view ourselves. Also, they influence our values and beliefs and everything else in the pyramid.

So, I had a client who said that she grew up as the quote unquote fat sister. She was constantly self-sabotaging herself. And once we unrooted that identity level belief, everything changed for her. So, the fourth layer is beliefs and values. And these are really tricky to uncover. What are my beliefs?

Some of them we might be able to identify. But for the most part, they just seem like truth. Like facts. Like my client who used to say I’m the fat sister. I used to believe that I was lazy, that I was just a procrastinator. I believed that I was not graceful. I believed so many wrong things about myself.

Because when we say something enough times or we hear other people say it to us, it becomes part of our fiber. It becomes a belief system. And the truth is that it’s not even objectively true.

But as women, we’re also socialized to believe many things about who we are, what we’re capable of and what we should and shouldn’t be doing. Like I mentioned earlier, if we’re socialized to believe that we’re supposed to look like a certain ideal, and we don’t look like that ideal. How do you think that that impacts what we believe about ourselves?

And these beliefs about ourselves bubble up to the skills level. Earlier, when I mentioned about skills, I mentioned the hard skills. But there’s a whole host of other skills that you need in order to achieve and maintain weight loss.

So, for example, some of the things that I’ve talked about on this podcast. The skill of being able to ask for what you need. We’re taught that we need to do for others. This comes at the expense of our health. We also need the skill of creating and enforcing boundaries. We’re socialized to not say, no. That saying no to someone’s request of our time and attention is rude. Right?

And women are constantly taught to doubt ourselves. We feel a lack of authority in our lives and therefore look to others to tell us what to do. And what happens with many women is that we become people pleasers. We do for others. But self-trust is a skill that we can reawaken in ourselves. We can learn it and we can apply it.

Now, what’s super important about this identity level and the beliefs and values is that when those shift, everything above it shifts. So, when you believe at your core level, that you’re an athlete, you are going to hold the beliefs and values of an athlete. You are going to gain the skills of an athlete. You’re going to have the habits and behaviors of an athlete. Your environment is going to support that as well.

When you believe at the core level that you are worthy, that you are enough, asking for help will become easy. Well, maybe not. But it’ll become easier as will setting and enforcing boundaries. Because all of those things come from a place of love for both yourself and the other person.

The other pieces that we no longer have to worry about maintaining our environment because it’s easy. We no longer have to think about our habits or choose to order the healthy thing off the menu because it just becomes the new normal.

So, after I ran my half marathon, I had that shift. I immediately became a consistent exerciser and I no longer had to pretend. I no longer had to force myself and schedule it. It was something that just happened to me.

Now, at the time, I didn’t intend to shift my identity. It shifted. But you can see how being intentional about this could support the rest of these levels. Right? Sometimes identity levels happen in an instant but more often than not, they’re gradual.

And so, when I work with my clients, we intentionally examine our identity and our beliefs and what we believe about ourselves in the world around us. The tools and framework that I use with my client in my coaching, I’ll address this from a very gentle standpoint. And I chuckle about that because I think that when we hear that, we think that we’re going to have an identity crisis, that it’s going to be terrible.

But it’s not. It’s not going to be like this shocking, terrible thing. It’s not going to be traumatic; I promise.

So, there’s a lot that you can do through lifestyle behaviors to manage your menopause and menopausal symptoms and the weight gain that goes along with that. What, how, and when you eat. How much you move and when, what type. How much sleep you get and the quality, how you manage your stress. All of these things, influence your hormones and your hormones in turn influence your physical symptoms.

So, we’re tying it all together here. Your hormones then impact your insomnia, your energy fluctuations, your weight distribution, your brain fog, and your mood. So irritation, anxiety, depression, those types of things. And then, also whether you have cravings or not and how strong of an appetite you have. The list goes on.

So, all of those menopausal symptoms that you’re experiencing, those can be regulated through lifestyle change. The problem is that because we’ve been socialized as women, that thinner is better. Most women, zero in on the weight as being the problem. And we try to solve for that.

The weight isn’t actually the problem. The weight is actually a symptom, just like the other symptoms. But because most diet and exercise programs aren’t designed for women our age, using traditional weight loss strategies furthers exacerbates our menopausal symptoms because they don’t take our hormones into account.

What we want to do instead is focus on the other symptoms and the weight will come along. Once we have our diet, our exercise, our sleep, and our stress dialed in. All of those things will start working together.

Now, you might figure this stuff out on your own, but chances are that it’s going to take a long time. I really wish that I’d had a me when I was going through this process. And eventually, I did find the coaches that helped me. And my results started to 10X, and they became a reality so much faster.

It’s not that it’ll just take longer, but you almost need the accountability and the support of someone else to be able to point out your blind spots to you. I still have a coach because when I’m in it, I can’t see the forest from the trees.

So, it’s really hard to go through a change of concept on your own. And so looking at the levels of change framework, everything that you see in those first three layers of the pyramid, the environment, the habits and the skills and abilities. You can find those out through Google or YouTube university, right?

But you already know all the things. And I’m going to ask you like, how far has that gotten you to this point? If you’re listening to this podcast and you want to lose weight, probably hasn’t gotten you very far. You already know everything that you need to know. Knowledge only gets you so far. And then, you have to start examining, why you’re not doing the things that you know will make you feel better.

If you only focus on the behaviors, and the output. Then, you’re only going to get the same results. It takes a deeper level of examining your identity and understanding your beliefs about food, exercise, your body, and how you fit into the world around you. It’s all connected. The question is how you change your behavior so that it becomes easy.

And in order to do that, you need someone to help you get to the root cause. The limiting beliefs that cause you to self-sabotage. It’s very hard to do that on your own. Of course, if you want to get rid of those limiting beliefs, I’m always going to recommend that you work with a coach. We can’t see our own BS, but coaches can spot it a mile away.

If you want to be done with dieting and really understand how you’ve been socialized to have all these beliefs that aren’t even yours, that you didn’t even have a say in. I’m going to invite you to specifically work with me.

I have a unique skill set that no other coach has. Where I can coach you around health, your metabolism and hormones, feminism, and patriarchal belief systems, as well as all the other problems in your life that prevent you from practicing self-care.

Go to, to schedule some time with me to understand how I can help you break free and start living the life you desire. That’s all I have for you today. Have a great week, everyone. Talk soon. Bye-bye.

Hey, Thanks for listening. If you’re done with dieting and would like to work with me as your coach, I’d like to invite you to reach out to myself and my team to ask about programs and pricing.

Go to to get started today. I can’t wait to hear from you. See you next week.

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