I hope you had a great week! I’m back for the second post of the Intuitive Eating Series here where I try and shine a practical light on intuitive eating and what it means to me in real life. Again, if you would like to follow along click here for my affiliate link to Intuitive Eating on Amazon so you can read week by week and perhaps offer your own experiences in the comments.
*I also want to note that the information in this series is just a summary of intuitive eating. It is in no means a substitute for answering personal questions and personal diet or medical history with a trained professional. Hopefully this can just be a jumping off point for anyone reading this.
So the first principal of intuitive eating is “Reject The Diet Mentality”. What is a diet mentality? It’s the mentality that “this next diet is the one that’s going to work”, or “I can’t have this because it will cause x pounds of weight gain”, or “I’m doing a juice cleanse to “detox” after what I ate this holiday season”. What it all boils down to is false hope or shame that stems comes from the diet industry made to make us think we can’t trust our bodies or there is always something more to fix. Basically, that we aren’t good enough how we are.
I found that rejecting this mentality was so much more doable once I really knew what was going on when one diets. I created a little graphic for you to help show you what I mean and what the research supports.
Ironic huh? The very things dieters want to not happen, happen. Dieters want a fast metabolism, weight LOSS, and increased feelings of self worth. Research shows the total opposite happens. Ugh.
I also find that’s it’s helpful to define what a diet is because dieting is so normalized in our society it often goes unnoticed to the untrained eye. Here are some examples. (Please note that I am not speaking to those individuals who have been prescribed a way of eating for medical reasons. Example- Celiac or NCGS for a Gluten Free diet)
Whole30, Paleo, Ketogenic, Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Atkins, Low Carb, Juice Cleanses, Cookie Diets, Master Cleanses…
Other more sneaky examples of diet behavior are- denying hunger to “save up” for a meal, relying on the clock to tell you what time it is and what you can or can’t eat, labeling foods “good” “bad” or anything of the like, suppressing hunger with liquids like coffee or water, eating a plate of veggies before “real” food, and cutting out large food groups because of fear mongering messages. Dieting behavior can also be compensating for food eaten with exercise or restriction following the eating event.
Sadly, the next diet is beautifully packaged and ready to lure you in, promising you that THIS, this is the one that works, and there we go again on the nasty diet cycle that CAN be broken. We just have to come to realize that all the diet industry has to offer us is a place to spend lots of money, time, and effort, and receive nothing but false hope in return.
I want to tell you that you are so much more than your body. What you look like on the outside has nothing to do with your self worth or your ability to accomplish things in this world! You are WORTHY.
The process of coming to realize the sham that is diet culture I think has two parts. Acceptance and realization. Acceptance of our bodies at their natural, set point weight, however that appears. Re-learning intuitive eating can lead you to a number of body changes. Your body may get bigger, smaller, change proportions, or stay totally the same. It’s different for everyone and that’s the beauty of it. At first we might not want to accept these changes. Heck, we may even loathe these changes. Our clothes might fit differently, or we may be scared people won’t accept us. Let me be the first to tell you though that my clothes no longer fit me properly upon settling into intuitive eating and I then bought new clothes. Clothes that fit my current body, my body that ate and lived intuitively, and moved on. This process is hard and it takes giving yourself so much grace, but it is a worthwhile challenge. I then realized that if anyone wanted to comment on my less than perfect body in a negative way, in a way that judged my self worth, then they weren’t someone I really wanted to have in my life.
The other part is realization. Realization of what dieting actually does to the physiology of the human body, the fact that there is no long term research to show that weight can be kept off, and that weight is certainly not an accurate determination of health. Realizing this in the middle of my RD schooling was a huge wake up call to me. I always tell people- once you know, you can’t un-know. I can’t see myself as a future practitioner ethically prescribing any diet that doesn’t have a medical need (like a renal diet for someone on dialysis, for example) because I know it does more harm than good. I’m a firm believer in that. I have seen first hand what the diet mentality does to social lives, to families, and to self worth. It crumbles them and leave just pieces of a human there. Intuitive Eating is the opposite. It embraces the whole human, a human that lives a full, healthy life. Physical, emotional, social health, all of it. I would much, much rather change the conversation to healthy behavior changes and reaching a healthy relationship with food.
Just in case you like “hmm what do you mean weight is poor determinant of health” check out this research. Tomiyama, Hunger, Nguyen-Cuu, & Wells (2016) 2005-2012 NHANES study found that “29% of obese individuals, and ~16% of obesity type 2 and 3 individuals” were metabolically healthy and “30% of “normal” weight individuals were found to be cardio-metabolically unhealthy”. The NHANES is a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. The survey is unique in that it combines interviews and physical examinations.
The above quote basically conveys that a good percentage of those who have a BMI in the “overweight” category were actually healthy, per blood work and physical exam standards, however a percentage of the “normal” weight people were not by those same standards. Most likely those in the “overweight” category received some encouragement to go on a diet (and we know the consequences and low success rate of those) just because of their weight even though for all we know they could have been leading a healthy lifestyle. Those in the “normal” category would probably not have received that same suggestion to change some behaviors and maybe would have benefited from a conversation on that. When health care professionals rely on weight they miss the awesome conversation of behaviors and the potential for change there, regardless of outside appearance. That conversation can help us get in tune with our bodies regardless of weight rather than perpetuate weight stigma in our society.
Intuitive Eating is awesome because it offers the same behavior changes to everyone! You can find those principals in post one and explained a little more in depth in the following posts. Intuitve eating looks different on everyone on the outside and that’s ok.
So, if you are stuck in the diet mentality, try asking yourself some of these questions.
What has dieting done to my mental health, social health, and physical health?
Have I gained anything form dieting?
What rules did dieting tell me that I absolutely hated?
What foods were off limits that I really would like to enjoy?
What are some positive things I like about myself and others besides their physical appearance? Do I think others see this in me?
After writing some life experiences out maybe you might begin to see the ways dieting has negatively affected your life. If you are ready for a change then ditching the diet mentality is a great first step. Congrats- you made it through this post! If you want to learn more I would encourage you to pick up a book and read with me 🙂
Tomiyama, A., Hunger, J., Nguyen-Cuu, J., & Wells, C. (2016). Misclassification of cardiometabolic health when using body mass index categories in NHANES 2005-2012. International Journal of Obesity (2005),40(5), 883-6.