Are you tired of dieting? Each time you try a new fad diet, do you think to yourself, “This will be the one! I will finally lose weight and feel good about myself!?” Then, when the diet fails you yet again, you just feel more discouraged, wondering what is wrong with you? You are not alone. We belong to a culture that places a high value on weight, driving people to take drastic measures through diet and exercise to achieve those unrealistic goals. Yet when these methods do not work, we are still not happy with our bodies. So what is the problem?
Diets do not work! Not only do they not work, they actually are great predictors of further weight gain. A University of California, Los Angeles study in which researchers analyzed 31 long-term dieting studies found that dieting was a consistent predictor of weight gain, so much so that two-thirds of the people dieting gained more weight than they lost by dieting. This is a powerful example of how dieting is not working. If dieting is not the answer, how are you going to approach eating then? Here are three ways to start eating intuitively, rid yourself of discouraging diets and feel better in your own skin.
Reject the diet mentality
You must first learn to recognize and reject the voice of the diet mentality. This can be challenging at first because it is absolutely everywhere in our culture. It is in the movies, books magazines, and social interactions, as well as everywhere on the web. I doubt you could go one day without encountering a comment from this worldview. The diet mentality dichotomizes food perpetuating the concept that some food is “good,” while other food is “bad.” Try to recognize this when your mind goes there or in others’ everyday language. The diet mentality is quick to say which foods should be forbidden and which are permitted. We need all kinds of foods, and we cannot categorize foods in black and white.
Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full
Intuitive eating is all about listening to your body’s hunger and satiety cues, tuning in and believing that your body knows more about what it needs that what you think it does. You can trust your body. Eat when you feel hunger, no matter what time of the day it is. Stop eating when you are full, even if your plate is not clean. You can always eat again when you get hungry.
Eat to feel good
When you eat to feel good, you learn to tune in to how various foods make your body feel. By paying close attention, you will also eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full because it will make it much easier to go through your day without being uncomfortable. You will choose foods that help you to concentrate and perform, rather than foods that will make you feel terrible and restrict you from enjoying your daily activities.
The above tips will help set you on your journey to intuitive eating. The shift does not happen overnight. Rather, it takes time and practice. The next time someone asks you, “Do you want to go get ice cream?,” you can check in with your body, assess your hunger, push aside any negative thoughts, and decide if you are truly in the mood for a frozen treat.
Lauren Cash is pursuing her MS degree in Nutrition Science combined with a Didactic program in dietetics at California State University, LA. She plans to start a nutrition private practice after graduation.
Photo Credit: FBM