If you have been following my channel for a while, you probably know that I am an ex-chronic dieter. I spent many years struggling with my relationship with food and body, and was forever on a new diet in attempt to lose weight, change my body composition, and get healthy. It really wasn’t until I gave up dieting, which actually happened when I got pregnant the first time, that I was able to end my constant struggle with dieting and find freedom and peace in my relationship with food and body. Might I add, this is definitely not an overnight fix, and an enormous part of that equation was learning to eat intuitively. For me, intuitive eating is the polar opposite of dieting. Dieting is when we take external cues, rules, and ideas about how we should be eating, and allow those rules to dictate what we should be eating regardless of what we feel.
On the other hand, intuitive eating invites you to shut off your brain, reconnect to your body, and use your body’s cues and signals to determine what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. Intuitive eating connects you to your instinct and intuition, while dieting promotes us to disconnect. While weight loss can be a byproduct of intuitive eating, the main goal is to create a kind and nourishing relationship with your body, with your food, and with yourself. Begin to rebuild trust with yourself and your body. When you are constantly looking for information externally, you are disconnecting from the one place all of your real answers live.
“As one of my favorite mentors says, most of us are on HIGH-FACT diets, meaning we take in so much information that we lose connection with our deepest source of knowing ourselves.”
Keep in mind that while every principle we will cover is simple in theory, they each take some practice, so offer yourself some grace and kindness. Intuitive eating is not a diet; there is no right or wrong; you can’t pass or fail. This is a learning experience. Step one is going to depend on your willingness to be kind, easy, compassionate, forgiving and understanding with yourself. There’s no doing this perfectly. Sometimes we eat when not hungry; sometimes we eat past full; sometimes we eat emotionally; and that all has to be okay. That’s all a part of being in relationship with food. My desire for you is that you grace yourself the space to see and understand this for yourself without the impatient desire to change it all yesterday.
A diet mentality is an all or nothing approach to healthy eating and/or losing weight. It’s the false hope sold to us by the diet industry that losing weight quickly and easily will make you happy, fulfilled, and valuable. When we sign up for this broken system and put all of our energy into shrinking our bodies, we also shrink our entire selves and our entire world. Rejecting diet mentality starts with recognizing and rejecting the diet culture, which of course starts with educating yourself about diet culture. The diet culture wants to tell us what we should weigh, what our bodies should look like, and that all of our value lives in the aesthetics of the body; if we could just reach a certain image, we will then be happy, fulfilled, and valuable. As long as the diet industry has you believing that they have something you need, they get to continue perpetuating this billion dollar industry that depends on you believing. But they are selling us a faulty product, because diets never work. Between 96-98% of all people who have lost weight on a diets gain it back within a year. Those who do manage to keep it off are more often than not ganged in disordered eating, an obsession with food and/or body.
When you approach health or weight loss by restricting your food and depriving yourself of pleasure, your amazingly insanely wise body goes into reservation, or starvation mode. It adapts to less calories; it adapts to protect you! The body is designed to REJECT a diet. And so inevitably, as soon as it gets the chance, it will come back into balance. When you do eat a reasonable amount of food again, the body will hold onto the extra weight because it has now adapted to serving on less. It is a vicious cycle that is hard-wired to fail. Think of it like a pendulum. You are not a failure. I am not failure. This is not a conversation about morality, discipline, willpower, or self-worth. This is a conversation about a faulty system that we are bombarded with all of the time from every angle.
“Diets are hard-wired to fail and yet we still blame ourselves.”
Begin to recognize diet culture and the diet industry and say no thank you! Allow yourself to feel angry with this faulty system. Some of the negative side effects of dieting include: slower metabolism, increased desire to binge eat, pre-occupation/obsessing with food, feelings of deprivation, sense of failure, decreased sense of willpower, and risk of developing an eating disorder. 1 in 4 dieters will develop an eating disorder. Dieting is the gateway drug to eating disorders.
The first principle is rooted in giving up any attachment to the very toxic diet culture. I know first-hand that for anyone who is used to dieting, the idea of not dieting can be scary because our identities become wrapped up in it. Even though diets don’t work, they are familiar, they are comforting, and they offer us a false sense of control which can feel very scary to let go of.
Some common fears of letting go of dieting include:
- FEAR: If I stop dieting, I will eat all the food!
- Reality: Dieting is the trigger for over eating .
- FEAR: I don’t know how to eat when not dieting.
- Reality: Practice getting in touch with inner signals.
- FEAR: I’ll be out of control.
- Reality: There is nothing to control in the first place.
When you listen to your body, it will guide you to your body + your weight range. Not all human beings are supposed to have the same size and shaped body. You can be fit and healthy in any shape and size. You can be bigger and very fit and healthy, or smaller and unfit and unhealthy. Let your feelings be your guide. Dieting becomes a way of thinking. It’s rigid; it’s all or nothing. It’s afraid, unforgiving, and it doesn’t leave any room for the natural ebb and flow of life. Dieting creates a viscous cycle: feel fat, want to lose weight and start a diet → restriction + depravation → weakened self-control or loss of self-control → over eat, binge eat → feel fat, want to lose weight→ start the whole thing over again. The ONLY way to stop is to STOP dieting. It can be very socially uncomfortable to step away from dieting because it is so woven into the fabric of our culture. It has become kind of normal for people to chat about food, weight, body, etc., as if it’s all the enemy and that it’s fine to talk against yourself. Know that while you are healing this relationship, you have permission to create space from any thing or person you need to.
Here are the three steps to rejecting the diet mentality:
Step 1. Cultivate self-compassion, ease, understanding, and forgiveness.
This is not a practice that you bully yourself into. This is a willingness to see the big picture and begin to operate yourself from what you’ve been fed, so that you can identify and create your own thoughts, ideas and opinions on how you want to move forward. Notice the internal conversations you have with yourself. Are you being kind and compassionate, or are you being judgey and critical? Notice your tone. Be easy. Remember: just because you think something, doesn’t mean it’s true. Be a detective in your own mind. What thoughts do you want to keep and which would you prefer to leave? Journal it out.
Step 2. Evaluate your dieting history.
What have you tried in the past? Really think back. Did any of it actually work? Was any of it sustainable? How did these attempts affect your inner world? Are you willing to give up dieting? To break up with it? What are you afraid of?
Step 3. Detox your environment.
Anything that is in your peripheral, your space, your environment, your world that encourages cutting calories, dieting, restricting, depriving, getting smaller, anything that makes you feel less than when you read, see, or consume it, GET RID OF IT! Be willing to challenge what you see. Have the courage to create an environment that supports your desire for health, wellness, social connection, movement that feels good, pleasure, play etc. Health is not just a size. Give yourself permission to broaden your horizons.