Perhaps you’ve been hearing all about intuitive eating these days and you’re considering ditching your diet at last. Excellent decision!
It should be no surprise by now that dieting is harmful. But in case it is, here is a quick recap: Most people (up to 95%) regain some, all or more weight than they lost in the first place. This is really the least harmful effect of dieting, because it’s your body saving your life from starvation.
The more detrimental effects are:
So if you are sick (maybe literally) and tired of the terrible diet cycle, here are just a few reasons to quit dieting forever.
You know all that thinking about food you do when you’re losing weight or maintaining weight loss? That’s because you’re hungry. Or because you feel bad about eating certain foods. Both physiological and mental restriction cause a feeling of deprivation, which your brain and body want to solve by eating everything. Once you start eating to appetite and honoring hunger and fullness cues, that food obsession will disappear and you’ll have so much more time to think about other things. It can take some time and practice to come into alignment with those cues, so don’t try to rush this process.
Without any foods off-limits, you’ll start to actually enjoy the food you eat, which can now be any food. Wouldn’t it be nice to kick back with a delicious pizza and just relax and enjoy it? Have some ice cream without feeling bad the rest of the afternoon? Yes, you will learn to do that. And you’ll eat them in amounts that are right for your body because you’ll be listening to your body.
Food is what gives you energy and you will have more of it when you are eating intuitively! Especially when you include more carbohydrates! Thanks to the disastrous low-carb/no-carb trend of the past 20 years, most dieters skimp on carbs all day. Many of my clients blame their energy depletion on weight gain. But when they start to eat enough again, they stop feeling so exhausted. Imagine what you could do with just some of that energy!
Intuitive eating and eating competence are both validated models that show that people are healthier when they eat this way. Over the long term, as people really settle into normal, sustainable eating patterns, we see improvements in most health markers. For conditions that require some gentle nutrition, that can be accomplished more easily when you’re eating enough food.
This one happens with intentional work. Basing your worthiness on your ability to attain thinness leads to fleeting self-esteem at best. Instead, you can develop body appreciation and recognize that weight stigma, not your body, is the problem. You can base your worth on the person you are, not what you look like. This is the reason I also include body image coaching in my work.
Gaining weight over a lifetime is normal. But a wildly ping-ponging weight due to dieting has been shown to be detrimental. Stable weights are typically correlated with lower mortality rates. Without weight cycling, the changes will more likely be smaller and incremental compared to the weight change that happens with weight cycling (aka yo-yo dieting).
On a diet, you might spend a lot of time managing and obsessing about your food. When food becomes just another piece of routine self-care, you’ll think just enough about it to get yourself fed well. Then you’ll have leftover time to plan and do the things you want in life. Active body image work will help you to stop waiting to be a certain size to really live life fully.
Let’s face it: dieting makes no one happier or healthier in the long run. It doesn’t work and it harms your health. It’s time to ditch the diet. With a little effort, you’ll see the benefits are worth it!
If you want to explore what a life free of diets could look like for you, book a free consultation now and we’ll talk.
Does the idea of eating to satisfaction confound you?
If you’ve struggled with being on and off diets, the idea of feeling “satisfied” at the end of a meal might be really hard to grasp.
Because the concept of satisfaction in itself is nuanced.
You can be full, but not satisfied.
(think of eating a huge salad when what you really felt like was a cheeseburger)
Or, you can be satisfied, but not necessarily full.
(think of a really rich food you enjoy that you find you can’t eat much of all at once*)
And sometimes, you can be both full AND satisfied. It’s a nice, comforting feeling.
But here’s the problem: you can really only experience satisfaction if you aren’t starving all the time.
If you are trying to limit how much you eat to control your weight, you are more likely to swing between always-hungry and too-full. And if you are coming off the diet, you may spend a LOT of time in too-full mode.
What to do?
First, make sure you are well-fed. Adequate nutrition isn’t about eating as little as possible (in fact, that’s called “poor nutrition”). Make sure you’re getting regular, filling meals throughout the day. Find your hunger first and honor it. Then you can practice listening for satisfaction.
It may prove elusive at first, but with enough time and practice (and no judgment), you’ll begin to learn to eat with satisfaction. It’s a delicious feeling!
*if you are actively dieting, you may not be able to experience this right now
Let’s talk about the lie that fat bodies are inherently unhealthy.
The whole, complex and nuanced truth is: fat bodies can be unhealthy or healthy. Thin bodies will be unhealthy or healthy.
In our current society, however, we will blame poor health on fatness, and good health as a result of thinness.
This is called weight stigma.
Janet Tomiyama’s research showed the uselessness of BMI in determining health status. BMI as a diagnositic tool dramatically over-diagnosed fat people as unhealthy and under-diagnosed thin people as unhealthy. Clearly, using BMI helps no one at the doctor’s office.
Fat bodies are often under attack from childhood. Chronic food restriction, over-exercising, weight cycling and the effects of weight stigma are harmful to health. Studies that correlate illness with fatness rarely consider the effects of chronic dieting and weight stigma. These are confounding factors.
Behaviors (such as exercise) — more than size — have a greater impact on health, and the evidence is clear on this. That means eating well and fitness and taking care of the various other parts of life can support our health. Many people can do this. Many can’t. As always, health is not a measure of anybody’s worthiness.
Let’s remember: Health is complicated and means different things to different people and is not always 100% within our control.
Ignore the lies of diet culture that tell you fatness is inherently unhealthy and cause you to do worse things for your health (like dieting). Do your best with doing healthy things (which do not include restriction) and leave the rest — like size and shape — up to your personal biology.
Wondering where to start with working on “health?” If years of dieting has left you with a chaotic relationship to food, that’s the place to begin. The Peaceful Eating Jumpstart small group coaching program starts September 6 and is filling up fast! Come and join us if your eating needs help! Details here.
“If I give myself permission to eat anything, I’ll only eat ice cream, cookies and cupcakes forever!”
This is a fear I hear from clients wishing to eat more normally but still unwilling to trust that they contain within them the ability to make wise decisions with food.
When I talk about giving yourself permission to eat all the foods, I really mean all the foods.
Of course, I still want you to focus on giving yourself satisfying meals regularly so that you are getting enough. Enough is important because on diets no one ever eats enough.
So when a client says, “But I’ll only ever eat ice cream for the rest of my life!”…
I say: Okay, let’s try it. Just eat ice cream for all your meals.
Most people think about this and recognize instantly this is not actually appealing. They already see how bored of ice cream they’ve gotten in the few moments of thinking about it.
But sometimes we need to see how this goes. Sometimes someone has to feel it for themselves, in their bodies. We focus on them giving themselves true permission when they eat the food. We make sure they have enough of this food so they won’t run out quickly. I suggest putting the food on a plate, or a bowl, and eat without distractions like the TV or phone (this last one is hardest).
In the many years I have been doing this work, I have never seen anyone eat only sweets for the bulk of their meals the rest of their lives.
Bodies don’t actually like that. Bodies crave a diverse array of foods.
And it doesn’t mean they never eat sweets either. That’s not the goal. The goal is to enjoy the foods they want in quantities that feel good for them.
And they do this.
And you can too.
This is exactly the kind of thing we focus on in my small group coaching program, The Peaceful Eating Jumpstart. Next group starts September 6 and is filling up fast! Come and join us if your eating needs help! Details here.
One of the very seductive tactics of the weight loss industry is to convince us that we need to diet to not only “look better!” but also that it is necessary to lose weight to improve your health.
This is not entirely accurate. (especially when we know that diets don’t work very long for most people)
In fact, there are many many things you can do to improve your health without having to go on yet another diet. This might look like:
⚡Eating meals regularly throughout the day
⚡Not skipping meals
⚡Aiming for some balance in your plate (protein, fat, carbs)
⚡Exploring ways to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet
⚡Finding exercise that works for YOU and is not focused solely on “burning calories”
⚡Listening for and honoring your hunger and fullness cues
⚡Giving yourself permission to eat as much as you want of all the foods you love
Doesn’t pursuit of health sound SO achievable? That’s because it is!
Except when…diet culture has wreaked havoc on your relationship to food and your body. When you are so convinced you must lose weight to be healthier. When you remember all those negative messages you’ve received about larger bodies.
Yes, then pursuing health becomes more difficult. Then you cannot start with nutrition…instead you must start with healing the eating relationship.
The good part is, developing a healthy, all-foods-fit relationship to food IS healthy. Why? Because this gives your body and brain a chance to hear its natural inclination toward health.
I love seeing the light go off for clients when they suddenly realize they can trust their bodies to make wise choices for them. All it took (and sometimes this takes A LOT of work) was to turn down the critical noise and turn up the trust. And they do get healthier, too!
So no, the drudgery of a weight loss diet isn’t necessary to improve your health! There is a better, more achievable, sustainable and most importantly, enjoyable way.
Are you struggling to get to this place of gentle nutrition or peace with eating? You’re not alone. My Peaceful Eating Jumpstart Group Coaching Program will be opening for enrollment soon and is designed to bring you relief from emotional eating, binge or overeating or just plain chaotic eating quickly. Stay tuned for more details coming soon (my email list will be notified first – get on my list by downloading my free guide).
We are born with the innate ability to learn how to trust ourselves with food.
This process starts in infancy.
To learn how to eat well, there had to have been enough food, provided regularly and reliably.
People who were forced into diet culture at a young age had this learning process hijacked. Diet rules which take over the child’s role of deciding how much to eat halt the internal learning-to-eat process.
Food restriction or coercion in childhood feeding takes away the child’s ability to learn to regulate food intake internally. In other words, to build trust in oneself when it comes to eating.
Even if you happily got through childhood with this process intact, an adult lifetime of diets will erode your trust in your ability to make wise decisions with food.
And by wise decisions, I do not mean “only eat healthy foods.”
(and “healthy foods” is a loaded term and means different things to different people, to the point that it has no useful meaning that applies to everyone)
By good decisions, I mean eating enough of the foods that are enjoyable to you.
Enjoying a variety of foods.
Experimenting with new foods on occasion.
Being flexible when it is needed.
Paying attention to hunger and fullness but not so rigidly that you can’t enjoy food when you sometimes aren’t hungry.
Providing meals to yourself reliably.
Making do with the food you have when you don’t have something more exciting.
If right now you aren’t at a place where you make wise decisions with eating, you can get there. Even if this wasn’t learned in childhood, it can be learned in adulthood.
It is a joy to watch my clients learn to trust themselves with food.
You can do it too.
The great thing about learning to eat normally and feel relaxed about eating is that there isn’t just one way to do it.
Intuitive Eating is fantastic and it was one of the books I read early on after quitting dieting for good. It’s one way to learn to eat normally – meaning, listening to your gut (literally) when it comes to knowing when to eat and when to stop, feeling relaxed around food, and feeling confident that you are eating what is right for your body. (It is not a way to lose weight. Losing weight generally does not involve anyone feeling “normal” around food.)
Intuitive eating is one of the ways to learn to eat normally, but it isn’t the only way. There are several other models of non-diet eating, but for now I’m going to talk about my absolute favorite, Ellyn Satter’s Eating Competence model. This was the model that really clicked for me personally and now I use it professionally as well.
Like intuitive eating, this model also trains you to eat according to internal regulation cues, but focuses on the discipline of providing yourself (and your family) rewarding meals at regular times, and the permission to eat as much as you like at each meal. Both IE and EC reject diet mentality and weight manipulation and embrace body diversity, both use internal signals of hunger and fullness to regulate eating. But EC relies more on meal structure to make sure you are eating while IE puts honoring hunger and fullness cues at the forefront of the work. This is useful for my clients who don’t feel hunger signals after years of dieting!
Most importantly, this model hinges on unconditional permission to eat – whatever and as much as you like. Beware of impostors that try to take away that permission, with rules like “eat a vegetable before the rest of your meal,” “fill up on water so you’ll eat less” or “sit and chew your food slowly.” No “tricks,” just permission. If you find yourself making rules about how much to eat that don’t involve how much you actually want to eat, always try to come back to this statement: “I can eat as much as I want.”
If you’re struggling with intuitive eating, you have some options. There isn’t just one way to do this non-diet thing, which is a great thing!
When we think of eating disorders, we so often imagine someone who is younger and struggling. After all, aren’t we supposed to have our lives completely figured out by the age of 35?! (spoiler alert: no)
Meg Bradbury joined us in this Dietitians Unplugged podcast episode to discuss her experience of having an eating disorder and orthorexia as an older person.
Meg Bradbury is a Certified Body Trust Provider®, anti-diet nutritionist, Accessible Yoga® Teacher, and registered Yoga Alliance yoga and meditation teacher. Meg is in private practice working with individuals, groups, and families, advocating for body acceptance, eating disorder/disordered eating/body shame recovery, freedom with food, joyful movement, and stillness/breathwork. She also co-leads the Elderqueer project, an online gathering space for 40+ queers to connect and build community through conversations about aging in body, relationships, emotions, transitions, trust, and cultural relevance. Meg’s practice is fat positive, weight neutral, and LGBTQIA+ affirming.
In this episode, we discussed:
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Aaron and I reached out to you from home during the global COVID-19 pandemic in this episode of the Dietitians Unplugged podcast. This is clearly a time of stress and fear for everyone, and it can really bring up a lot of distress around body image, food insecurity and scarcity, and eating in general.
Virtual meal support on Instagram: @covid19eatingsupport
Article: Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure – great advice for dealing with traumatic times
Headspace is offering free support during the global pandemic
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Welcome to food freedom! Dare to Not Diet LLC is owned by Glenys Oyston, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Therapist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. It's time to feel good about eating, your body, and your health.