If you are feeling diets and diet advice are coming at you from all directions, they are. We have the very prescriptive, but popular Keto and Paleo diets. There are diet books, supplements, advertisements and news to sift through while you hope you can find the one diet with a painless answer to weight loss. Unfortunately there isn’t a “fix it now” answer and many diets are missing important nutrients. What it really comes down to is how you think about and choose food, your insight into your own way of eating, paying attention to hunger and fullness cues and managing emotional responses to eating.
Deciding to change habits and thoughts about your eating and food requires asking yourself a few questions. Am I willing to do the work to change the way I eat? Do I see myself making a lifelong change? Is this something I should do or want to do? “Should” thoughts are outside suggestions coming from people, maybe your doctor, or information you see and hear. “Want” thoughts come from inside you and are more powerful in the sense that they have much more motivation behind them.
If you “want” to make changes in your approach to eating and food without dieting, you might consider a concept called “Intuitive Eating”. This well researched and successful program, developed by two dietitian-nutritionists, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, has helped people conquer eating disorders, lose weight and regain health without dieting. Up front it takes effort and commitment and is not a quick fix, but it does work.
Tribole and Resch promote 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating.
- Reject the Diet Mentality: Let go of the desire to have quick success and distraction from “new” and “better” diet promises.
- Honor Your Hunger: Learn to listen to your body and honor hunger signals and feelings of being satisfied with enough food, but not too much.
- Make Peace with Food: Give yourself permission to eat, even food that feels forbidden. Allowing any food prevents overeating and guilt from eating too much of the foods you think you shouldn’t eat.
- Challenge the Food Police: Negative thoughts about good and bad eating lie deep within and charge us with guilt, hopelessness and failure. Not a good setup for success.
- Respect Your Fullness: Listen to your body signals that say you are no longer hungry. Pause during the meal to think about how being comfortably full feels.
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor: Find pleasure and satisfaction in the eating experience. Eat pleasantly and intentionally. This means not in your car. Give “thanks” before you eat. Gratitude is especially powerful.
- Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food: Watch how you use food to comfort and distract yourself from life’s challenges. Food may fix things for the moment, but never for the long term.
- Respect Your Body: Accept and respect your body shape as part of your genetic makeup. Not everyone was designed to be petite or tall and thin. Unrealistic thoughts about body shape mess with your approach to food.
- Exercise-Feel the Difference: This does not mean a crazy effort to be physically fit. It means move more. Find activities that give you pleasure. Feel your body become more fit as it burns calories and uplifts your spirits. Fitness builds on itself. As you practice fitness, over time you become more fit. Give activity priority.
- Honor Your Health: Make food choices that nourish you toward health. If you have a day of eating poorly, this doesn’t matter as long as you have consistent healthy eating habits over time.
If this approach feels like a fit for changes you want to make, consider The Intuitive Eating Workbook: 10 Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
Tip for Intuitive Eating: Setting the table nicely (it doesn’t need to be fancy) at least once each day, honors your meal, calms your spirit and makes eating pleasurable giving you an opportunity to practice some of the principles of intuitive eating.
Written by: Mimi Cunningham, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Diabetes Educator
Mimi Cunningham is a dietitian-nutritionist living in Eagle, Idaho. Her nutrition specialty is diabetes education and management. She loves writing about embracing healthy eating as fun plus a route to good health. She serves as a member of the Idaho Foodbank board of directors addressing food insecurity as a challenge to good health for Idaho children and adults.
On behalf of Smart Strategies for Successful Living, our sincerest appreciation goes to Mimi Cunningham for her contribution to our community website and commitment to healthy living and aging.