Ditch the Diet Mindset

Did you know that dieting is ineffective at best and counterproductive at worse?  With up to two-thirds of dieters regaining more weight than they lose, isn’t there a better way to eat healthfully?

One option is intuitive eating, which forgoes dieting and focuses on driving long-term improvements in your relationship with food. Intuitive eating is the ability to read, interpret and follow your internal cues regarding the right amount of food for your body.

  • Get Rid of the Diet Outlook

Despite what the aggressive and oftentimes misleading diet marketing would have you believe, food restriction doesn’t work for most people long term.

Action Plan. There is no end point when embarking on a diet. Whatever you do to lose weight, whether it’s counting carbs or juicing your food, that behavior must be maintained, and usually amplified, to keep weight off.  Weight regain and yo-yo dieting are associated with loss of muscle tissue and an increase in visceral fat, which adversely affects our health and metabolism.

  • Make Peace With Food

When we tell ourselves we “can’t” or “shouldn’t” have a particular food, it often backfires with feelings of deprivation, uncontrollable cravings and bingeing episodes. Restricting specific foods often leads to overconsumption when those foods become available.

Action Plan. Give yourself permission.  Explicitly state that no foods are off-limits or bad.   Ask yourself, “What happens when I eat this food?” or “What do I notice feeling before? After?”

Many people wonder, ‘Won’t I gain weight if I allow myself to eat whatever I want?’  The short answer is, probably not. That’s the funny thing about forbidden foods—once they’re fair game, eating them becomes innocuous, and consumption typically goes down.

  • Focus on Satisfaction

Many people aren’t used to having pleasant eating experiences.  When you eat foods that satisfy you, it takes much less to feel you’ve had enough. When you focus on satisfaction, you find that it isn’t truly satisfying to overeat.

Action Plan. In Intuitive Eating, think about the three S’s of satisfaction: slow, savor and sensual. By slowing down and savoring, you can notice the enjoyable qualities of food and recognize when you’re comfortably satiated. Focusing on the sensual experience of eating—tastes, textures, temperatures, smells and the filling capacity of food—can allow you to enjoy what you’re eating and help you feel satisfied with less.

  • Cope With Emotions Without Using Food

From meals at family holiday gatherings to celebration dinners with friends to a bowl of rocky-road ice cream after a stressful day, food has meaning far beyond its nutritional value. Because we give food such significance, we often eat to manage emotion, and emotional eating is highly related to binge eating and weight issues.

Action Plan. Rather than beating yourself up over this coping strategy, use it as a learning opportunity. When you struggle with emotional eating, notice all thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, relationships, and environmental contexts and cues that arise. Foster self-care, which can include meditation, walking, taking a bath, connecting with friends or any other activity you find comforting. These habits can help you learn to recognize and soothe emotions without turning to food for comfort.

For more information on intuitive eating and ditching the diet mindset, contact Maurie Cofman, CMES, CES, TBMM-CES, Personal Trainer, Certified Medical Exercise Specialist, Health Coach and Corrective Exercise Specialist in the St. Louis, Brentwood, and Clayton, MO area.