New Year’s resolutions, 10-day diet plans, quick fixes, no carb diets and the list goes on. For so many people, trying to eat right and manage their weight seems to be a juggling act. They go from one diet plan to another, making promises over and over to find a plan that works for them. Ultimately, they are often left back where they are started, and at times worse off. It seems for many people the so-called “battle of the bulge” becomes an addiction to both foods and dieting. Perhaps it is time to take a new approach to getting healthy and achieving weight loss that works.
Time to throw out the diet plans you have ripped out of magazines and forgo the gimmicks you have overheard from friends, and start focusing on what is called intuitive eating. The intuitive eating approach focuses on sustainable healthy eating and body acceptance. Intuitive eating takes the idea of diets out of the equation and provides a more realistic and successful approach. This approach allows one to learn to trust their own intuition and instincts, and recognize signals of hunger and fullness that come from their very own body. As one starts to focus on this positive approach, they can begin to feel healthy in both their mind and body. Weight loss that results will be one that comes from a happier journey that heals at the same time. Admittedly, it takes time and practice but with some patience you can be successful once and for all.
Put these principles of intuitive eating in place and start making peace with food and leading a healthier life.
Say Good-bye to Diets - Forget thinking you are on a diet and start thinking about lifestyle. It is about not researching and following the latest fad, but instead thinking about living your life healthfully. Keep up positive feelings of how this new journey will help you feel better inside and out, and ultimately this will help support your efforts to lose weight.
Don’t Be Afraid of Hunger - Pretending not to be hungry or pushing if off, only makes it worse, causing you to overeat. Learn to appreciate your hunger and feed your body with the right balance of energy to keep you satisfied. Get rid of the guilt surrounding eating and own being hungry. Protein foods tend to satisfy hunger, so use healthy varieties of these to feed your body.
No Forbidden Foods - Once we declare foods to be on the “do-not-eat list” we already feel deprived. We start to feel resentful and wonder when we can work them back in again. The focus becomes about deprivation not about fulfillment. Instead, teach yourself that there are no bad or forbidden foods. Learn to give yourself permission to eat the foods you desire, while trying to lean in towards all of the different nutrient dense foods you can nourish your body with. By not forbidding yourself from eating any one food, you will be less likely to have overwhelming cravings for them down the road. You will then naturally begin to learn to eat them in appropriate portions.
Read Fullness Cues - Stop and think about your feelings of fullness and satisfaction. Pause during meals to determine how you are feeling rather than at the end of a meal, only to discover you may be too full and uncomfortable. Remind yourself that it takes 12 to 15 minutes for your brain and stomach to catch up, so pacing yourself as you eat, and pausing intermittently, will give this message a chance to be delivered.
No Guilt - It is okay to sometimes choose a food based on your social setting, your environment and what food is available. Sometimes you eat based on what food might be served or what others with you are eating. This should not evoke feelings of guilt or that you failed, but rather embrace, accept and enjoy it.
Learn to Nourish Yourself Without Using Food - This one is not always easy, but it's one of the most important principles to achieve. It is important to not turn to food to fix feelings, whether it is sadness, anger, boredom or anything else you might feel. It is important to learn to realize that food will not fix problems in the long run, and by overeating you might even feel worse afterwards.
Accept Your Body - We are not all of the same body type and that is a fact. We can wish all we want but “you get what you get and you can’t be upset.” Accepting your genetics is a great place to start. That is not to say you can’t improve your body by eating right and exercise but you have to be reasonable in your expectations. Stop criticizing your body's flaws and find ways to love yourself.
Just Move - There is no race to the finish. It is about trying to be more active then you currently are. Don’t treat exercise as a punishment but treat it more like something reasonable and enjoyable. Focus on what activities make you feel happier during and after you do them and make them a part of your life.
Following these principles will allow you to eat in a way that will provide you with a healthy relationship with food and your body. It takes work and it's a challenge, but it's worth the effort.
M Mittler, MS Registered Dietitian