Why Ditching Diet Plans Can Save Your Sanity and Your Waistline
Are you a clean eater? Ditched your diet for a meal plan because you know that diets don’t work? You might fool yourself into thinking it’s a lifestyle change, but if you are restricting, controlling and avoiding certain foods, it’s still a diet. Unfortunately these methods, just like diets, are doomed to fail. You may desperately want a diet to work, but no matter how hard you try or how committed you are, you are unlikely to succeed in the long term. 95% of people who attempt to lose weight will gain it back within 3-5 years, plus more.
You see dieting teaches you nothing about appetite, about what your body needs, about how to satisfy hunger, and about what foods work for you. Not only that, but dieting can make you feel miserable, may negatively impact your self-esteem, and can set you up for a life-time of yo-yo dieting, which is so harmful to your mental and physical health.
Clean eating trends can lead you to label foods as “good” or “bad” and can lead to dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours regarding food. There is some evidence that when people begin to restrict their diets in these ways, that they begin to show the obsessive thinking commonly seen in full blown eating disorders. Meal plans, even flexible ones, can create stress and worry because you have to meet a particular number goal. They can dominate your life because you have to weigh every single morsel of food you eat and it can make eating out anxiety-provoking rather than pleasurable.
Meal plans and diets require you to give power and control over to some external set of rules. By telling you what, when and how much to eat, diets impinge on your personal boundaries. Whether you feel coerced by internal pressures like guilt and shame about your weight, or the external pressures of diet rules, you will naturally tend to rebel as a way to restore your autonomy. Which is why diets inevitably fail in the long term.
Can you be healthy in weight, body and mind without counting calories, dieting, or sticking to meal plans? Intuitive Eating offers an alternative approach. In a nutshell, it proposes that healthy eating does not require restricting food you enjoy. Healthy eating is not about following rules or restricting your calories for weight loss. Healthy eating is about giving your body the nutrients and energy it needs in a way that is satisfying to your body and your mind. If your so-called healthy eating regime has you anxious or preoccupied with food, or results in a feeling of loss of control around food, then it’s not actually healthy.
When I began Intuitive Eating I was able to find my natural groove with food and can now include all foods into my life. Sometimes I will eat more on some days than I do on others. I don’t have to finish everything on my plate, but I also don’t have to only eat half if I need more to be satisfied. Sometimes I drink Diet Coke and other times I drink regular Coke. Sometimes I buy full-fat milk, other times reduced-fat milk. Sometimes I eat out, other times I’m eating fresh organic home cooked meals.
I am able to moderate myself in this balanced way, because I am connected to my body’s internal cues of hunger, fullness and satisfaction. As a result I know what feels right for me. There are no rules or plans to deviate from and so there is nothing to rebel against. As an Intuitive Eater I don’t follow food rules. Instead I listen to my body and allow this to guide me while choosing foods based on their pleasure and satisfaction factor
Telling yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that turn into uncontrollable cravings and, often, binge-eating. When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in overeating, and overwhelming guilt. Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat what you want, when you want, and how much you want, means you are more likely to be satisfied with all aspects of your eating experience (i.e. taste, pleasure, and quantity).
If you are tired of the diet plan merry-go-round, then you may like to try Intuitive Eating. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.
- Honour your biological hunger and eat when you feel hungry, as this helps you rebuild trust with yourself and food.
- Tune into your body and notice when you are satisfied. Practice pausing during meals to notice how your food tastes and your level of fullness.
- A nourishing and energising way to eat is to choose foods that are satisfying to you. These food choices are based on your personal preferences and what you need at the time.
- Move your body in a way that feels good for you. Focus on activities that are energising and uplifting. Physical movement has so many benefits beyond burning calories.
While there are many diets, eating plans and rules around food and eating, YOU are actually the best expert when it comes to your body and appetite. Intuitive eating, eating the foods you enjoy when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied, will rebalance your metabolism and make your body work efficiently. It is your body’s inner cues of hunger and fullness, plus your intuitive food choices which will take care of your nutrition requirements.
Listening to your hunger, eating the foods that you really like, and paying attention to your body are the best way to maintain a healthy body and mind for life.
About the author
Amanda is an Intuitive Eating Coach, an Ambassador for the Body Image Movement and former Professional Group Fitness Instructor. Her experience in the fitness industry and her own personal journey with body image has honed her passion for supporting other people to create healthy relationships with eating and exercise.
Amanda works with people to help them understand their own negative beliefs and self-sabotage. With her guidance, her clients develop the skills, knowledge and awareness to end the guilt and negative feelings connected to eating and form a positive mentality around their body and food.