If You're Fed Up With Diets and Just Want to Eat What You Want, Make This Lifestyle Change
When I was preschool teaching and eating lunch at the tiny tables, a 5-year-old girl said to me, "I'm not allowed to drink juice because it'll make me fat." Five years old! As young women, we are sent a strong message to look a certain way and to fear fat, and it drives us to start dieting. If you can relate to being on one diet or another for most of your life, it's time to ditch dieting forever in exchange for intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating is a philosophy developed by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in their groundbreaking book from the '90s called Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. "It's a way of eating that provides a path toward healing from disordered eating and creates peace in one's relationship with food and body," said Heidi Schauster, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and the author of Nourish: How to Heal Your Relationship With Food, Body, and Self.
"When we aim to nourish and respect our bodies and not fix or shape them, we enter into a more nurturing, caring relationship with them, no matter what the outcome is around weight," Heidi said. Registered dietitian Brenna O'Malley, creator of the health blog The Wellful, added that this time of year is so saturated with diet culture and "black and white thoughts about health and weight - don't get sucked in! Freeing yourself from guilt around food and getting off the dieting cycle to tune in to your body and figure out what works and feels good to you is the best gift you can give yourself this season."
When you commit to intuitive eating, Evelyn and Elyse say, "you will be released from the prison of yo-yo weight fluctuations and food obsessions." It brings you back to when you were younger and you had no issues obsessing about food and your weight — back when you ate the foods you loved and were able to self-monitor how much you ate in a healthy way. Here are the 10 principles of intuitive eating . . .
Reject the Diet Mentality
Physically get rid of anything that speaks about unsustainable or restrictive diets or losing weight quickly or easily. Ditch the magazines, unfollow the Instagram accounts, and lose the diet books. "Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight," Evelyn and Elyse write in their book. "If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating."
Honor Your Hunger
When you're hungry, eat! Keep your biological needs in mind, offering your body enough calories, including carbohydrates. If you don't honor your hunger and you wait until you're excessively hungry, you'll likely overeat. Honoring your hunger will allow you to rebuild trust in your relationship with food.
Make Peace With Food
Allow yourself unconditional permission to eat, including when and what foods. Telling yourself a food is off limits will lead to feelings of deprivation and will just make you crave it more, which can lead to binging and, ultimately, guilt. You don't need that kind of negativity, so stop the fights you have with specific foods.
Challenge the Food Police
No more telling yourself you're "good" for eating minimal calories or "bad" for eating a piece of chocolate cake. This refers to the "food police" inside your mind, which monitors the unreasonable and unsustainable "rules" that dieting creates.
The food police shouts out negative comments, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking statements that just make you feel bad about yourself and about food. "Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating," Evelyn and Elyse state in their book.
Feel Your Fullness
It's important to be aware of the "I'm full" signals your body gives you. Know when you feel satisfied and comfortably full but not painfully stuffed. It may help to stop in the middle of your meal to recognize how your food tastes and whether or not you're hungry for more.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
In our obsession to be thin, we overlook the importance of feeling pleasure and satisfaction in the experience of eating. "When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content," Evelyn and Elyse say in their book.
By giving yourself this positive experience, you'll be surprised, but it will take much less food to feel like you've had "enough." Food is meant to nourish the body, yes, but it can also offer nourishment and happiness to your soul.
Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food
If you find you're an emotional eater, find other nonfood ways to comfort, distract, and resolve your issues. We all experience anxiety, loneliness, boredom, stress, and anger, but food will only offer a short-term fix.
Eating in response to your emotions can actually make you feel worse, because you'll still have to deal with the source of your emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating. Write in a journal, call a friend, go for a walk, lift some heavy weights: these are all great ways to get your emotions out.
Respect Your Body
You can't expect a person who has a size eight shoe to fit into a size six pair of Nikes. And it's "equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size," Evelyn and Elyse say. Respect your genetic blueprint so you can feel better about who you are. "It's hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape."
Exercise to Feel Good
Lose the idea that you need to punish yourself with intense exercise in order to burn calories or to change how your body looks. Shift your focus to loving how exercise and moving your body make you feel.
Do you feel more energized, stronger, more confident, or happier? Do you sleep better, and have you made amazing relationships at the gym? If you exercise only with the intention to lose weight, you won't enjoy it as much or feel inspired to stick with it.
Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition
When you choose food to eat, make sure it's both good for you and tasty. Your diet doesn't have to be perfect to be healthy. You won't suddenly develop a nutrient deficiency or gain weight because of one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. Remember that "it's what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress not perfection is what counts," Evelyn and Elyse say.
Eating with less rigidity will allow you to honor your cravings as well as what foods make you feel your best. You'll feel more satisfied, so you won't have the need to binge.