By Saba Zahid, RD
Patient Experience Manager, Unidine Corporation
With a new year, people have traded in their holiday shopping list for a list filled with ambitious resolutions to improve themselves and their lives. According to survey results published by Inc.com, 71 percent of the respondents have set a goal to diet or eat healthier. A close second is exercising more, followed by more than 50 percent who vow to lose weight. (1). While these resolutions are admirable and perhaps even warranted, research suggests a mere eight percent of people will be able to achieve their goals. You’ve probably seen plenty of articles on how to set realistic goals, why resolutions don’t last, and what people can do to keep resolutions, however - this will not be one of those articles. Instead, I want to tell you about the benefits of not going on a diet.
In the food and nutrition world, the "anti-" of going on a diet is to not go on a diet. Rejecting the diet mentality is one of ten principles of an approach known as Intuitive Eating. It is an evidence-based, mind-body health approach created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, in 1995." (2)
Intuitive eating is not to be confused with the trending concept of mindful eating. Mindful eating is about being present during your eating experience and paying attention to the details (sight, smell, taste, feel) of what you are eating, without judgment. Intuitive eating is much broader. It encompasses the idea of mindful eating but also includes principles such as exercising to feel good rather than just to lose weight or burn calories; giving yourself unconditional permission to eat; challenging the food police; and listening to hunger cues (3).
Ditch the Guilt
In a time when many foods are vilified for causing our health issues, it may be alarming to hear the phrase “unconditional permission to eat.” Additionally, phrases like “healthy eating,” “clean eating,” “sustainable food,” and others seem to indicate that there is a right way to eat. And yes, it is true – there are food choices that are better than others. But as many dietitians know, one food, one meal, or one day is not going to derail your health. So it’s ok to enjoy that occasional cheese danish for breakfast and not feel guilty or stress about burning off the calories. I know I don’t!
So this year, ditch the diet resolution and consider following the 10 principles of intuitive eating. Remember that food is something that can be enjoyed without guilt. Food is the fuel that your body needs to accomplish all the other things that you set out to achieve. For help adopting an anti-diet mentality and applying principles of intuitive eating, schedule an outpatient nutrition counseling appointment with one of our registered dietitians at Shore Medical Center. For more information, contact us at 609-653-4600, opt 5 or visit our website at www.shoremedicalcenter.org/nutrition-counseling.
10 Principals of Intuitive Eating
- Reject the Diet Mentality - Throw out the diet books that offer false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led to feeling like a loser every time a new diet failed and the pounds lost were gained back. Forget the diet and open your mind to intuitive eating.
- Honor Your Hunger - Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise, that excessive hunger can trigger a primal drive to overeat and any intention of conscious and moderate eating is gone.
- Make Peace with Food - Call a truce, stop the food fight and allow yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings.
- Challenge the Food Police - Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The food police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created and their headquarters lives in your psyche and shouts negative barbs and guilt-provoking indictments.
- Respect Your Fullness - Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry and comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
- 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. When you eat what you want in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure derived will help you feel satisfied and know when you have had enough.
- Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food - Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, but food won’t solve the problem.
- Respect Your Body - Accept your genetic blueprint. Not everyone is a size six. Respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
- Exercise–Feel the Difference - Forget militant exercise and just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calories burned with exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm.
- Honor Your Health - Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.