Not to burst your bubble, but dieting does not work and there’s research to prove it. Long term studies that followed dieters and their progress have shown that by and large dieting – the way that most people do it – is ineffective and it may even be counterproductive. Only 5% of dieters are able to maintain their weight loss after 5 years. A 2007 study showed that the majority of people who followed a restrictive diet ended up gaining back more weight than they lost. And, a 2012 study linked dieting to higher incidences of depression, body dissatisfaction and poor self-esteem.
So, despite what the mass media and marketers would have you believe, paleo, vegan, low-calorie, low-carb and all the other fad diets out there will not lead you to lasting weight loss. Then what’s a person to do? Experts say that if you want to lose weight and keep it off, the key is to listen to your gut. They’re calling it intuitive eating (IE). It’s about changing people’s relationship with food and helping them view food as fuel for their bodies. IE encourages people to base their eating on hunger and fullness cues rather than on a restrictive list of good and bad foods.
With IE there are no food lists or forbidden foods. And while you might think that without “rules” people would overeat, research shows that those who follow IE are actually better able to maintain a normal body weight and have a healthier relationship with food. Camille Finn a nutritionist with Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University conducts ongoing research on people who are effortlessly slim. “We found that many of these effortlessly slim individuals make food decisions based on feelings of hunger or physiological desires for certain foods, rather than based on restricted diets. If their inner cues tell them to eat a lot, they know that it is right for their body at that time. Moreover, they don’t feel guilty, because they believe their body will moderate its desires later.”
If you want to give intuitive eating a try, here’s how to start.
Forget everything you know about dieting. Let go of any delusions you have about quick weight loss and steer clear of magazines, social media and other misleading sources that promise a fast and easy way to get slim.
Start really listening to your body. Many adults have forgotten how to tell when they are hungry and when they are full. The hunger-fullness scale is a useful tool to help you get in tune with what different hunger levels feel like. Use it before, during and after every meal or snack to become more conscious of how your body feels.
Let go of your schedule. Your body may be conditioned to eat at certain times just because that’s what you’ve always done. You might think “I need my post workout protein shake” or “It’s noon, time for lunch” when your body doesn’t necessarily need food. Instead use the hunger-fullness scale to gauge when it’s time for you to eat.
Ask yourself what you want to eat and eat it. Choose to eat foods that taste good to you and that you enjoy. Don’t base your decisions on what think you should eat or what you’ve heard is healthy. If you don’t like kale, then don’t eat it! If you do like meat, then have a steak. Listen to the cues your body gives about what it needs.
When you do eat, enjoy it! Take the time to savor your meals. Use them as a time to sit and reflect. Relax and eat slowly and try to do it without distractions from your phone, computer, work, social media, etc.
I am sure reading this advice makes many of you nervous. We have all been so conditioned to think that food is the enemy, food makes us fat, eating what you like is bad. Really adopting intuitive eating involves a total shift in attitude and it can be hard to do. If you need help moving towards a lifestyle of intuitive eating, consider our personalized nutrition services. We can give you the guidance and direction you need to get to and stay at a healthy weight for good.