Principle 1 of Intuitive Eating – Ditch the Diet Mentality
It might just be time to reject diets once and for all.
If you’ve been going through diets, one after another, in the hopes of attaining your ‘goal weight’, you might be feeling resentment, frustration and shame. Every day, I get calls from women like you. They’ve been on and off diets for most of their lives, watching their weight go up and down and right back up. They feel uncomfortable in their bodies, like they are addicted to their forbidden foods, and they don’t know where to turn. Can you relate? There is a way to make peace with food and your body: by becoming an Intuitive Eater.
Intuitive Eating is your golden ticket out of the diet prison of restriction, bingeing and self-loathing.
When I work with clients to help them find joy in eating and their bodies, one of the first things we discuss is rejecting diets.
The first Principle of Intuitive Eating, Rejecting the Diet Mentality, is often the hardest.
(If you need a reminder on the basics of Intuitive Eating, read this article: What Is Intuitive Eating?)
So, What is the Diet Mentality?
The Diet Mentality centers around the belief that there is one perfect body type that all can achieve, and the path to perfection occurs when we follow a set of rules that tell us what, when, where and how much we can eat. It is rigid and externally-focused, meaning you’re paying attention to things outside your body. You’re either ON or OFF. There is no middle ground.
What about Clean Eating and Whole 30?
Aren’t they Lifestyles, not diets?
I hate to tell you this, but companies have gotten quite clever in disguising diets, as more and more people try to break free from the harmful effects of dieting. But we are smarter than these companies and authors, right? You can help remove the veil from these hidden diets by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do these lifestyles allow all foods?
- Quick answer: No.
- What happens if you eat something not permitted?
- In Whole 30, you must start your 30 days all over again.
- Clean eating just gives you guilt and shame for eating something not deemed acceptable by the food gods.
Any way of eating that does not allow ALL foods is a diet!
Why is it so important to reject dieting?
Because if you are still tied to diets and all their external measures (weights, body fat percentages, carbohydrate grams), it is really hard to start paying attention to what is going on inside YOUR body. And tuning in to your body is your key to freedom from diets.
Perhaps you’re starting to realize that dieting doesn’t work but you are just terrified to quit dieting. You might be plagued by the “what ifs.”
- There is actually the magic diet out there?
- I start eating my forbidden foods and can’t stop?
- My weight skyrockets?
Do those questions sound right? If so, it’s because I hear them so frequently when I speak with potential clients.
My answers to those questions are:
- You don’t need a magic diet because you really do know how to eat for your body, if you listen. Intuitive Eating works because your journey is unique to you. And what feels good in your body often isn’t the same as what feels good in mine, or your spouse’s or your trainer’s. You are the expert of you!
- The reason you crave and are fearful of your forbidden foods to the point where you fear addiction is because you have denied them for so long. Or perhaps you deny them and then binge on them before you start your next diet. Your body is stuck in a deprivation mindset, which can only be reversed by allowing all foods.
- When you start Intuitive Eating, 1 of 3 things will happen with your weight: It will go down, it will stay the same, or it will go up a bit before plateauing. If you have been restricting, there is a chance that your weight may increase. However, statistics show that 95% of people weigh more after a diet than they did before. In this case, allowing your weight to normalize with Intuitive Eating is the most practical thing you can do with you’re here-and-now body.
Still not convinced?
Here’s an exercise for you that many of my clients find helpful.
Fill out the following chart about your dieting history, starting with your first diet – even if it was a long time ago. Add more lines if needed.
|Year Started||Starting Weight||Name of Diet||Ending Weight||Feelings after diet|
Do you notice any trends, food fears, or feelings that have arisen within your dieting history? What does the trend look like in terms of your weight? Do you find in looking back that you fell off and went back on many diets?
Diets: the sad statistics of why diets fail.
Did you know that research shows that diets have a 95% failure rate? That’s right, only about 5% of dieters are able to maintain their weight loss for 5 years. The rest often end up at a higher weight than when they started.
Yet, many chronic dieters continue to blame themselves for their inability to lose and maintain their weight. It’s crazy, isn’t it? Could you imagine consenting to a surgery that had a 5% success rate? Would you ever feel like it was your fault if it was unsuccessful?
Yet, dieters who “fail” – and that’s most of them – are portrayed as lacking willpower, and being lazy. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Dieters subject themselves to restrictive plans that people living in smaller bodies could never imagine.
What if we looked at it from a different angle, given what research shows us?
The problem is not you. The problem is diets.
Let’s face the cold, hard truth: Diet culture sucks. It’s like that bad relationship that you know you need to get out of, but you keep feeling pulled towards.
- It robs you of any trust you have in your body;
- it tells you to distract yourself when you are hungry outside of approved eating times;
- it makes you feel like you aren’t worthy of nourishing your body;
- and it morphs in order to sneak its way back into your life. Have you noticed how diet companies like Weight Watchers have recently changed the language around their program? With a market of 3 billion in 2017, commercial weight loss programs can’t afford to tell the truth. If they did, they would destroy their businesses!
If you’ve been on a few or more diets, much of this is probably making sense of you. But, if you’ve spent most of your life on a diet, you may be wondering:
“If I’m not on a diet, how will I know how to eat?”
I’ll be the first to admit that after years of dieting, it can seem utterly frightening to even consider eating without rules. Some people find they need support on their Intuitive Eating journey.
Sometimes I hear people tell me,
“I’m afraid I’m going to mess up Intuitive Eating too.”
You see, after years and years of dieting, where you are either ON or OFF the program, it’s only natural to fear failure in your next endeavor.
The beauty of your Intuitive Eating journey, is…
You can’t fail at Intuitive Eating!
Because every single experience you have is one more piece of knowledge on your journey of healing.
Are you thinking it might be time to start rejecting diets and begin your Intuitive Eating journey?
I work with women like you every day to help guide them through an amazing transformation. In the end:
- they are able to eat any food they want, without fear or anxiety;
- they are able to trust of their bodies to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full; and
- they have a respect for themselves and their bodies that they previously thought was impossible.
Interested in what your Intuitive Eating journey might look like?
Contact me to schedule a complimentary call so we can determine how your needs might be best met.
Stay tuned to the blog over the next few months, as I explore more about Intuitive Eating.
If you’re looking for additional ideas to help your eating habits, please click the link below to download my free e-book, 7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating, with suggestions to help you manage emotional eating.
Want to read more about Intuitive Eating?
Check out my intro article on Intuitive Eating here: What is Intuitive Eating?
You can learn more about the other principles of Intuitive Eating here:
- Principle 2 of Intuitive Eating: Honor Your Hunger
- Principle 3 of Intuitive Eating: Make Peace with Food
Disclaimer: While Intuitive Eating is often the end goal of an individual with an eating disorder, it is NOT appropriate during earlier stages of recovery. If you have been diagnosed with, or suspect you have, an eating disorder, I would be happy to discuss working together in coordination with your therapist and primary care provider.
Kelly Abramson MS, RD is a dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who works with clients in Alexandria, VA and virtually via telehealth. She guides women as they break free from dieting to find joy in food and their bodies. Kelly blogs regularly at NpowerYou.com and has created a free e-book for download, “7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating.”