Ditch the Diet

Smiling young African woman sitting at her kitchen table in the morning using a digital tablet and eating a healthy breakfast

Over the years, I think I’ve been on every diet out there. Low fat, low carb, high protein, low-calories, cleanses, shakes, and even appetite suppressants. If it was a weight loss promise, I’ve chased it.

I am a reformed dieter and someone who has done a lot of work to unlearn some destructive diet habits.

I’m not saying I didn’t lose weight with dieting over the years and I’ve managed to keep most of it off. But, the yo-yo-ing, feeling of restriction, the guilt and sense of failure when I went off track were all things that I hated.

About 5 years ago, I decided to stop restricting and to start listening…to my body. I started to tune into how food made me feel (physically and mentally) and how it reacted when I had too much or too little. I started following cues and eating when my body said it was hungry. I STOPPED designing my diet around what society says is right and listened to science. 

And, guess what? My body has reacted in a very positive way. No deprivation. No energy highs and lows. No pressure to eat at a certain time or a certain way because it’s something my friend/relative/coworker is doing.

It’s not some kind of complicated program. And, it doesn’t require much more than observation and mindfulness.

It’s called intuitive eating and it is a healthier way to approach eating.

Intuitive eating is simply listening to your body’s cues and letting them dictate when and how much you eat.

I know it seems overly simplistic but it really is that SIMPLE.

Most of us rely on our environment for our cues (when to eat, how much, and what kinds of food, etc.). That can lead you to constantly get caught up in whatever current “trendy diet” is hot right now. Eat fat, not carbs! Eat protein, not fat! Eat plants, not animals! Eat animals, not plants!

It’s no wonder people are completely confused. I’VE BEEN CONFUSED and I know nutrition! When you rely solely on “what’s out there” for guidance, it leads to an endless cycle of guilt, restriction and disappointment.

Intuitive eating simply means slowing down to LISTEN to your body – and then making decisions based on THAT.

—> It means eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you are comfortably full.

—> It also means paying attention to which foods help YOU feel energized and healthy. 

As a result, no foods are “good” or “bad.” Yes, I’ll say it again…no foods are good or bad!

It allows you to enjoy foods you love and have more peace of mind that you are giving your body what it needs, when it needs it.

If you’re not used to eating that way, it also can sound a little scary not to have specific guidelines. I loved the guidelines of a diet. I felt like I had control, even if I was miserable. With intuitive eating, you have to relearn how to eat. Not the physical act of eating but the psychological side of eating.

Over time you will learn what foods make you feel energized and which ones leave you feeling depleted – and how much food your body actually likes to eat before it feels too full.

So … how do you get started? It’s pretty easy. There are no guidelines other than:

1. Wait for your body to TELL you it’s hungry

2. And then enjoy your food, until your body tells you it’s full.

And, guess what? This way of eating will improve your health. Even with the favorite foods and so-called indulgences. Studies have linked intuitive eating to healthier psychological attitudes, lower body mass index, and weight maintenance. And, it’s better for your mental health. Participants in intuitive eating studies improved their self-esteem, body image, and overall quality of life while experiencing less depression and anxiety*.

Sounds like a win-win, right? Are you willing to give it a try? What do you have to lose by honoring your body and listening to its cues? Stress, anxiety, guilt?  And, you have so much to gain, like a healthier relationship with your body and food. 

Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2212267213018960

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