'Not dieting' can sound very simple in some respects. But it's more than telling yourself I'm not going back to Slimming World or WW.
It's often more than not looking at food labels for Calories and fat grams. It's typically more involved than saying I'm trying just to focus on my health, rather than my weight.
Now these are all helpful steps and ones that are very much part of the journey of moving away from dieting. But what often comes up when we consider taking the bull by the horns, are questions around nutrition and the reality of our food worries.
When I refer to dieting, I'm addressing the most common meaning which centres around food restriction with the focus on weight loss. If you've ever attended group slimming classes, have a substantial collection of low Calorie cook books or like to track your diet on MFP, it is likely you have created and allowed eating rules to help you feel more in control of your eating.
You may still be holding onto certain beliefs about food and your body without realising it; in your subconscious.
In other words, you don't have to be on a diet to be dieting.
If you’re unsure if you have an unhealthy relationship with food, check this list:
🔹Restricting food to lose weight
🔹Cutting out food groups in the name of health (not medical necessity)
🔹Ignoring your own hunger to control your body
🔹Believing there is only one weight your body can be healthy at.
🔹Believe there is only one weight you will be happy at.
🔹Feeling a failure if you can’t get to that weight.
🔹Feeling you have to compensate for eating through exercise.
🔹Feeling like your success as a human is dependent on your weight.
If you say yes to any of these, your relationship with food, exercise or your body has some unhealthy aspects to it.
I’m here to support, guide and help when you’re ready.
And I get that this desire for control feels safe. You have boundaries to 'keep you on track'. You may well feel on top of your eating and oblivious to having a diet mentality at all. I mean, you're just weight and food conscious for health and that's good right?
Until those rules and beliefs (and all the mental gymnastics that go with them) cost you your emotional and physical health.
When you decide to stop the rules and really explore your thoughts and behaviours around food, it's not uncommon to feel scared about the prospect of 'letting go' of those boundaries.
You may hear a voice that says 'but you'll never stop eating, you'll become the size of a house!'
Fear of overeating and further weight gain is really common for people who are first learning about non-diet nutrition. IE encourages you to use your bodily sensations of physical hunger, cravings, fullness and satisfaction to drive what you eat (instead of rules).
If you've been restricting (even lightly) for some time, you may have no idea what hunger really feels like. Not the subtle signs anyway. Or have any idea what comfortable fullness feels like; what foods fill you up and satisfy you and feel confident with your eating.
Beginning IE can bring a feeling of liberation as your body takes advantage of the new freedom you have given it. You may well discover how much your body has been restricted (which is actually experienced by your body as starvation) and you may feel uneasy with the associated feeling of wanting to eat more.
One of the principles of IE involves giving yourself unconditional permission to eat.
Not being familiar with what's really involved in IE means people can assume intuitive eating is 'just an excuse to eat whatever you want'. That it's 'unhealthy' and 'lazy' which couldn't be further from the truth. It's much more nuanced than that. And at it's heart, IE is about body respect and self care.
Contrary to popular belief, giving yourself permission to eat a food whenever you want, invites all foods to sit on a level playing field. There is no good or bad food. It's just food. There is no judgement or hierarchy. It holds no power over you. And guess what happens..... the foods you used to say were 'off-limits' become less interesting. You don't want them as much. They become no big deal.
If you've restricted what you eat, you may well recognise that telling yourself you can't have something triggers a strong desire to eat exactly what it is you are saying you can't have. You can't stop thinking about that food so it becomes a 'when' will you give in test, rather than a 'if' you give in.
Typically, your indignant self saboteur will rear it's ugly head and before you know it, you've removed all food limits, because you can. I call this the 'restrict, rebel, repent' cycle and it can feel as if you are literally stuck on a swing moving from one end to the other. It can also feel impossible to break.
This is where Intuitive Eating can be so effective. I’ve explained the 10 principles of IE that you can read about here)
We know that traditional (restrictive) diets, that focus on weight loss as an end goal are not sustainable in the long term. They encourage weight cycling (yo-yo'ing) that is associated with many negative health effects - read more about this here.
IE is not a diet and it is not intended to be used as a method for losing weight (although I am seeing this happen on social media). If you see this. RUN AWAY!
It is not possible to predict how a person's body will respond to IE. If someone has been restricting for a long time, they may see weight changes and possibly weight gain when they become more attuned to what their needs are. Some amy stay the same. Some may lose.
BUT Intuitive Eaters are less likely to weight cycle which means their body will find their natural weight and be able to stay within a relative range with ease.
IE has been shown to improve people's relationship with food - they are less anxious around food, have fewer body image concerns and lower levels of disordered eating.
There's also another misconception, that IE isn't for everyone. I disagree here because anyone can benefit from just some of the principles. It can serve as a sub-current, helping you to become more self aware, think more about your eating experiences and your body, regardless of your own food story.
If you have certain chronic health conditions like PCOS, diabetes, coeliac disease or fibromyalgia, IE can provide a really useful framework that can be applied to any medical condition.
Over time, IE gives you a natural desire for a whole range of foods. You will have faith in and trust your body that it knows what to do (it really does if you let it). Without guilt.
People who practice IE (and it IS a practice, not something you can just 'do'), they find a balance. They learn to respect their body's needs and desires as well as their taste buds without it taking up all their head space.
IE reconnects you with your body which enhances more than just your physical health. It certainly changed my life and now I’m helping others to change theirs. Oh and it's never too late to learn.
If you're interested in trying IE with support and guidance, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's have a chat