“Screw it, I will focus on my health later”
- Sound familiar?
When life gets overwhelming it is easy to say “screw it, I will focus on my health later”.
Have you ever been there? Are you there right now?
Many are in that time frame between holidays where we are indoctrinated to think that we are only supposed to be givers. And it is the social norm to put ourselves on the back burner. You could be overwhelmed with kids getting ready to be out of school for a few weeks. Or maybe you have end of year deadlines stressing you out.
Whatever it is, if you feel overwhelmed, this blog is for you because you are starting to get bombarded with ads to start the next best diet which only adds to the overwhelm. Because of the overwhelm and because this is how you have always managed, you are likely thinking “I will think about my health goals in January”. These “so-called helpful ads” also highlight in our face that we have not yet met those goals from before. (Insert guilt & shame spiral).
As you already know, this is something that has likely happened year after year without results. But yet you hope that maybe this time it will be different. Maybe you have even tricked yourself into making goals now so that it won’t look like you are just starting in January like everyone else.
Starting a new diet or a new health plan or the ever so sneaky wellness plan in January (or really any other time) is a broken strategy. And I am here to offer you a new strategy. A strategy that comes with life long benefits including never having to be on the diet hamster wheel again.
Drum roll please…
Let me introduce you to intuitive eating, if you have not yet heard of it.
Intuitive eating helps you not only understand your eating on a deeper level, but it also allows you to be the master of your body and live a life full of satisfaction and love. I like to think of intuitive eating as the opposite of the traditional diet mentality! It doesn't restrict you by avoiding or banning any kind of food at any given time. It makes you the master of your body attunement by simply handing over your treasured choices and giving you back control over making your eating decisions from a place of love, not punishment.
Intuitive eating has been around for more than 25 years, during which time it has evolved just as the research has. According to an insurmountable amount of research, the benefits to those who eat more intuitively are far beyond anything diet culture could ever promise. The benefits are quite extensive, but here are just a few:
Decreased rates of disordered and emotional eating
Less dietary restrictions
Less confusion on what to eat
Improved cholesterol levels
Diminished stress levels
Increased satisfaction with life
Intuitive eating is also linked to psychological advantages as well! These advantages include, increased body satisfaction and appreciation, a better understanding of the body's internal cues, and a higher willingness to reject unrealistic societal appearance expectations. People who practice intuitive eating daily are more likely to respect their bodies for what they do, be more aware of their overall presence of self, and have greater self-esteem and general happiness, as well as decreased levels of despair and anxiety.
Sounds good but I don’t think I could do it
Women I speak with often share that they have a lack of full trust in their bodies, feelings, and emotions, and because of this, many have a harder time trusting their hunger and satiety cues. This is normal at the beginning and with practice you will come to trust your body and yourself, unconditionally.
Many also question if they can eat intuitively without gaining weight or ending up needing to go back to a restricted diet. This is also normal, which is why we talk about this topic regularly. Through the process of intuitive eating, it is perfectly fine if you see some people lose weight, gain weight, or maintain the same weight – you're not in competition with them. In general, if you practice intuitive eating for an extended period, your body will gradually settle into its set-point weight range.
Each person is so unbelievably unique and has extremely different life experiences leading up to this moment in time, that I in no way, shape, or form can tell you how your body is going to respond. What I can tell you is the more rigid dietary rules you can let go of and let your own physical cues drive your eating patterns, the more likely you are to discover your healthiest, happiest self (which includes your body).
Rejecting Diet Mentality
The first step is to break up with diet culture or at least create some awareness around just how pervasive and damaging it is.
I started my intuitive eating journey with this, and let me tell you that it is an essential principle among all; you can say that it is like the first step towards your new eating journey. Actually, it's that simple; in this, there is no pattern or set of rules to follow at all. You become your own best expert.
I know that can feel scary and that your nervous system may be lighting up in fear right now. But rest assured, take a breath, and get curious about where this will land you if you like to experience food and body freedom, once and for all.
To start, get rid of your diet books and magazine articles that promise you will lose weight rapidly, effortlessly, and forever. If you have apps on your phone helping you to track this, that, or the other, delete them. Also unfollow any influencers that are telling you to do exactly what they did.
Next, make a conscious decision to put weight loss on the back burner. I have become enraged at how diet culture encourages weight loss as a primary goal above all else. As well as, the lies that have made our society believe that being thin is the only way to be healthy. Allowing even a glint of good faith that a new and better eating routine or dinner plan is not too far off will hold you back from fully discovering your own inner attunement.
Lastly, start to become self-aware of your own diet mindset.
What’s the Diet Mindset?
What exactly is the diet mindset? It's not only the extreme diets and "quick fixes" that we hear about all the time in the media. It's also the nagging voice that says, "modest, lasting improvements may help me lose weight." Because when something goes wrong (e.g., someone does not lose weight as quickly as they had hoped), the message or concept that they are doing something wrong or not trying hard enough is more damaging than the reality that they did not lose weight.
Have you ever tried to diet before? Think back to those times… you likely were excited and hopeful at the beginning, but then quickly became exhausted, suffering, ashamed? There are so many negative mental (and physical) effects that dieting can have on us.
Did you know that when you ban certain foods, you can end up craving them even more? The outlawed food effect is created by psychologically reducing your food intake and making particular items outlawed in your diet, causing you to overeat or binge instead once you naturally decide to feed yourself (because your biological primal desire to eat will always overcome the willpower of outlawed food). This cycle causes emotions of helplessness and remorse, which also prompts a renewed commitment to avoid prohibited items and “do better” next time thinking.
And so, the dieting cycle goes on- and you will be in this vicious loop as long as you try to control your body through food or as long as you think losing weight would make you happy and healthier.
In my opinion, all externally driven food restrictions obstruct your capacity to look within, to fully listen to, and honor your hunger and satisfaction indicators, as well as your psychological and emotional food demands.
Something helpful to remember is… intuitive eating is not about winning or losing. There will be some days that feel like a victory, and some that you will learn from!