Diets. I just can’t get behind them. And I can tell you right now, I will not recommend dieting to you if your goal is weight loss.
Diet fads are just not sustainable. And they lead to binge eating, labeling foods as “forbidden,” and yo-yo dieting which can be more dangerous than staying at a slightly unhealthy weight in the first place.
Instead, I recommend finding a plan you can follow for the rest of your life. One that does not require denying yourself certain foods. One that encourages eating as a way of feeding your body well. Below, I’ve outlined 7 reasons to learn to eat “intuitively” instead of following a diet…
- Our bodies were built for it. Babies cry when they’re hungry, and stop eating when they are full. But somehow our culture distorts these cues and we end up eating not only when we are hungry, but when it seems socially acceptable to do so. Think about how we organize our get togethers around food and end up in the kitchen when we entertain. I believe it is possible to reconnect with our instincts and get back to basics in terms of listening to our bodies for hunger cues. And obeying those cues by putting healthy foods into our bodies. At your next social gathering, remember that it’s ok to snack with friends if you’re hungry. But if you’re not? Don’t eat just to be polite.
- It is possible to eat joyfully. Just as we should listen to our body for hunger cues, we should also obey our body’s cravings. In an article in the January 2020 issue of Real Simple, author Sharon Holbrook suggests we adopt this mantra, “There are no good or bad foods. I can eat whatever I want. If I listen to my body’s signals, I will eat the right foods for me.” So, go ahead, enjoy that piece of birthday cake, but don’t feel like you have to eat the whole thing. There will always be more cake. Often we can be satisfied with a bite of a decadent dessert without wasting calories by finishing the whole thing.
- You are what you eat. It’s a funny phrase that’s been around since the 1920s, but there certainly is truth to it. The nutritionist, Victor Lindlahr, who was a strong believer in the idea that food controls health, once wrote, “Ninety percent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat.” And don’t we know it. When fast food seems to be the only option on busy nights, our digestive systems let us know we didn’t make the best decision. The important thing here is not to get stuck. Make sure your next meal has plenty of “real food”–fruits and veggies, and lots of water.
- Sometimes you’re thirsty, not hungry. Next time you feel yourself jonesing for a snack, try drinking an 8 ounce glass of water. Oftentimes, our brain sends signals to our body that we need a little something to satisfy a craving and it’s not that we are actually hungry, but thirsty. And since the average person does not drink their daily requirement of water, chances are you’ll feel better immediately when you get some water in your body. If after you drink a glass of water you are still hungry, go ahead and have that snack.
- Denying only leads to binging. It is important that you do not ignore signs of hunger. Working through lunch when you are on a deadline or skipping dinner because you know you’ll be snacking at book club later can lead to overeating and eating too much of certain foods you should limit (think salty snacks and sweets!). I try to follow the six- meal-a-day rule. Six small meals works for me because I never allow myself to get ravenous, and I can control the amount of fruits and veggies I get by choosing healthy snacks.
- Snacking is a great way to get your fruits and veggies. Preparing healthy snacks that are easily accessible means planning ahead to eat foods that are good for you. Think about what you can add instead of what you need to subtract. Instead of reaching for the goldfish, grab an apple. It helps to prepare snacks in advance. When the most accessible item is a handful of chips or a cookie, for sure you’ll grab that. So try thoughtfully preparing a few snacks for the week when you get home from the grocery store. Wash, cut up fruit, and put snack sized portions into containers for your next snack. Put a handful of almonds in snack sized ziploc bags and stash a couple in your purse or your car. The goal here is to never be caught without a healthy snack to satisfy a craving.
- It shows your body the ultimate kindness. Treat your body like a temple (in the words of Jimmy Buffet), and consider each item you put into your body as something that will nourish you and give you energy to be the very best you can be. When you consider your food this way–even pausing to use your senses to appreciate the food, you will choose the foods that give your body what it needs. When you eat, remove distractions, such as your phone or the tv, so you free up mental space to really listen to your body. Check in with your body to find out if you are starting to feel full. And remember, it can take up to 20 minutes to feel full once you start to eat. So, slow down. Savor your food. And remember that you can always finish it later. It’s not going anywhere. You might find that you enjoy those leftovers at your next mealtime a lot more than you would if you stuffed yourself with them just to clean your plate.
In keeping with my nerd status, I took a minute to look up the word intuitive. Webster’s defines intuitive as “using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning; instinctive.” I love the idea of going with your gut (no pun intended) and going on instinct as to what and when you should eat. Our bodies and our minds are amazing creations and we should trust them. Try intuitive eating for a couple of days and let me know how it works. I’d love to hear from you.