I hate dieting. I detest counting calories or fat grams or carbs. I already find it difficult to squeeze grocery shopping into my hectic schedule so just the thought of adding any more time going label by label through the store, makes me seriously cranky. The minute I add a diet to my intentions, I find myself anxiously binging on my favorite foods in anticipation of their loss. And a few days into any diet, I swear I would mug a Girl Scout for her cookies! However, I am quite overweight (we call it plump in my house) and diabetic; my doctor is always on me to loose weight. What is a person to do?
I really do NOT want to be hassled with the dieting frustration, but the anxiety of not taking care of myself, the encouragement from my doctor to drop even five pounds, the unintentional (or otherwise) pressure of friends and family who are all dieting, add up to unbelievable amounts of guilt. In an overture to alleviating some of this guilt, I recently attended a nutrition seminar during one of my lunch breaks. I must confess that I really had no intention of starting yet another exercise in proving just how little self-control I have, but I went.
Everything the nutritionist said I’ve heard before. I know it all by heart. Blah. Blah. Yadda. Yadda. And then towards the end of the hour, she mentioned a book she highly recommended called Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. In the material she distributed about the book, it had the catch phrase, “Free yourself from chronic dieting forever.” Well! That did catch my attention. I went back to my office and ordered the book.
It was an excellent purchase. As it turns out, I am hardly the only person completely fed up with being guilt-ridden into diets that only serve to undermine my self-esteem and crank my weight up a few more pounds. And I discovered that some of what I considered my weirder eating habits are actually quite common.
The Problem with Dieting
- Increased binge eating
- Decreased metabolic rate
- Increased preoccupation with food
- Increased feelings of deprivation
- Increased sense of failure
- Decreased sense of willpower
So what do the authors suggest? Some plan with menus and shopping lists available for download? Pre-packaged meals? Another burn-weight-while-you-sleep pill? No! What they suggest is oh so simple. Intuitive eating – eating as we were biological programmed to eat. “Intuitive eating focuses on nurturing your body rather than starving it, encourages natural weight loss, and helps you find the weight you were meant to be.”
Principles of Intuitive Eating
- Reject the Diet Mentality – “Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you the false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently.”
- Honor Your Hunger – “Keep your body fed biologically with adequate energy and carbohydrates.”
- Make Peace with Food – “Give yourself unconditional permission to eat.”
- Challenge the Food Police – “Scream a loud, ‘No’ to thoughts in your head that declare you’re ‘good’ for eating under 1,000 calories or ‘bad’ because you ate a piece of chocolate cake.”
- Feel Your Fullness – “Listen for your body signals that tell you you are no longer hungry.”
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor – “In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence – the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience.”
- Cope with Your Emotions without Using Food – “Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food … Food won’t fix any of these feelings.”
- Respect Your Body – “Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect realistically to squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size.”
- Exercise: Feel the Difference – “Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference.”
- Honor Your Health: Gentle Nutrition – “Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good.”
Does It Work?
I’ve now been bouncing around the other principles learning and exploring. Even though I read in the book that many people are out of tune with what hunger really feels like, I was surprised to realize that I was confused about my body signals. For example, I have now learned that my stomach gets rumbly and noisy from indigestion too.
I’m also discovering that by fulfilling my cravings and giving myself permission to eat whenever and whatever I want that I don’t actually want some of the crap I think I do. The other night I made a run to McDonald’s at 9:30 at night. I ended up throwing most of it away. As it turns out, fast food is rather nasty when you are eating slow enough to actually taste it.
I haven’t yet lost any weight, but I haven’t gained any either. For about three weeks now I’ve been eating stuff I love – cookies, hamburgers, French fries, steaks … Oh and wonderful taco salads with the tortilla bowls. I even made twice-baked potatoes last week to the joy of my whole family.
For me, the most important thing is that I am really -- no messing with you! -- I am really accepting that I am always going to be on the round side. I am never going to be the 105 pound, hard body like the 18 year-old college students I see every day. I’m good with that. Yes, I need to loose a few pounds for my health, but I am just fine being curvy.