Intuitive Eating Summer Series Episode 028: The Diet Mentality + Making Peace with Food
Today I am excited to begin a new series with you all! I have gotten a ton of feedback that you want to dig more into the ten principles of Intuitive Eating, so for the majority of the summer I am going to be digging deeper into the ten principles of intuitive eating, from my perspective as a holistic nutritionist and intuitive eating counselor. I know many of you are busy mamas whose lives get even busier as the summer warms up, with big kids home and more time spent outside- so I wanted to keep these episodes short and sweet, but super informative to help you move forward in your journey to intuitive eating.
Just a reminder, for those of you who don’t know what IE is, intuitive eating is a self care nutrition framework developed by dietitians Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, who has been my mentor in becoming an intuitive eating counselor, that is based on 10 principles, that has been verified by over 100 studies now to be effective in helping those that implement the principles become more in tune with their bodies, make peace with food, honor their hunger and fullness cues and nourish themselves without dieting. It’s not the hunger-and-fullness diet and it’s not a weight loss plan, but a framework to help you develop the skills to eat in a way that works for you.
To learn more about the 10 principles, check out Episode 004: The 10 Principles of IE.
Intuitive Eating Book:
Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch © 2012 St. Martin's Griffin; Third edition
In today’s episode we are starting at the beginning and chatting about principles 1 and 3: Reject the Diet Mentality and Make Peace with Food.
I chose these to start with because I believe it’s really impossible to truly implement the other 8 principles, except perhaps honoring hunger and fullness, without really ditching diets and making peace with food.
So what does it even mean, and why is it important to Reject the Diet Mentality?
A diet is anything that tells us to restrict, remove, track, count or measure our food in the name of health or weight loss.
It doesn’t matter if it’s marketed for weight loss, or a wellness plan-- if it’s promising results from restriction, it’s a diet. And we know by now diets don’t work, long term. Sure, they might get you results in the short term, but it’s a myth that a short-term plan will produce long-term results. I actually wrote a whole post on this but here is the cliff’s note version:
We know that somewhere around 80-95% of so-called successful diets result in complete weight regain within 2-5 years.
A 2006 study on adolescents with a 5-year follow up showed the adolescents that dieted increased in body mass over their peers five years later; studies have also shown that focusing on weight does not improve health outcomes.
In fact, dieting itself predicts future weight gain through changes in metabolism and enzymatic processes as well as increasing binges and cravings, but weight aside, chronic dieting has been shown in many cases to be more detrimental to health than remaining overweight.
Chronic dieting contributes to…
Increased risk of premature death and heart disease. The Framingham heart study which lasted for more than 30 years shows regardless of initial weight, those whose weight has cycled have a higher overall death rate and twice the normal risk of dying of heart disease. Other studies have shown similar results.
It changes body fat storage-- especially towards the abdominal area which, physiologically speaking is the most dangerous area because it is the area that surrounds our major organs. Even when fat is lost, so is muscle-- metabolically active tissue- and fat is eventually regained.
I will link to all of these studies in the show notes if you want to learn more.
But why doesn’t it work? Our bodies (and our brains) are hard wired to react to dieting-- even those that are less extreme, because our bodies WANT to be nourished. It's a survival mechanism. Our bodies are incredibly intelligent, and they associate deprivation with starvation. Our appetite hormones increase; and our bodies compensate for what they think is starvation by slowing our metabolism (making regain easier and weight loss harder in the future). These 'compensatory mechanisms, in which our body fights to regain lost weight, last for up to a year post weight loss, putting us at war with our bodies.
What dieting and restriction causes is what Intuitive Eating refers to as 'diet backlash'.
Every time a diet fails, we deem ourselves the failure and punish ourselves-- usually by veering completely in the opposite direction and overindulging, or even bingeing, on the foods we deemed 'unhealthy' or 'bad'. We're back to where we started... and the cycle continues. Again, and again.
And I get it- ditching diets can be scary, especially if you want to get healthy and you’ve heard it’s the only way, or you’re afraid that if you stop tracking, measuring and counting you’ll be lost and just eat all of the things. Well, that’s what research shows dieting does ANYWAY- so what are you waiting for??
The truth is, dieting is a futile attempt at controlling our bodies because it keeps us from truly tuning into our body’s actual needs. We know the diet won’t last forever, so what do we do after? We are more and more removed from our hunger and fullness cues, relying on portions, we don’t know how to balance fun foods with the ‘diet foods’ that we once only allowed, that we don’t know how to live post-diet. We often kid ourselves into thinking we’ll continue to eat the meager portions and ‘create habits’ out of the plan that kept us so restricted- and the reality is, this simply isn’t true the majority of the time-- and if it is, it’s usually because it’s turned into disordered eating. So what is the alternative, then? Making peace with food.
Making peace with food means we make peace with ALL foods. It means taking the guilt and shame away from our food choices. We ditch the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ labels around food and food becomes neutral. Kale becomes as nutritious as a cookie because each serves us in some way at different times. And, when paired with the other principles of IE- like tuning into hunger and fullness and eating for physical rather than emotional reasons, making peace with food means we can enjoy ALL foods without pretense, without moral judgment of our character or worth after eating a food ‘off plan’ or out of the ordinary, and food becomes enjoyable, again. And when food is enjoyable, again, we can make choices that serve us, because we WANT to feel good-- not because we were ‘bad’ because we had dessert last night so we need to eat a salad for lunch, or on the flip side, eat a whole tub of ice cream even though we know it doesn’t feel good, because we blew our diet and we might as well.
Making peace with food means calling a truce with the fight against food and giving yourself UNCONDITIONAL permission to eat. I know it sounds scary- and it CAN be scary! There might be an adjustment period where you do eat all the things, for a while- this is a normal and natural response to long term or even short term deprivation, but the thing with food peace? It doesn’t last. Once you begin to trust that your body WILL tell you when to eat and when to stop, and that you can make choices that serve you without going on a diet, the desire to eat all the things will fade away. But it starts with ditching diets, once and for all and making the decision to make peace with food.
I want to leave you with a few practical steps to begin the process of ditching diets and making peace with food. 1. Begin to recognize, and push back, against the diet mentality.
This means beginning to recognize where the diet voices show up in your own head and in other places in your life. Things like, " "I should" or "I shouldn't" eat this", " "X" food is good "X" food is bad (or healthy/not healthy)" or "This is the LAST TIME I am eating this food.". You can then begin to push back with phrases like, My body tells me what I should or shouldn't eat. I just have to listen, or Food has no morals. It is not 'good' or 'bad'. Healthy is different for everyone. I choose what foods nourish my body.
Ditch the Diet Dogma Worksheet Download:
2. Forget the food rules. Write a list of the foods you restrict, consider bad, beat yourself up for eating, or generally freak you out. Sometimes these are foods higher in fat or sugar, restaurant foods, or foods you don't deem 'clean'. These foods that tend to come up when you recognize the diet mentality creeping in. Take note of the rules you have surrounding food (i.e. I can't eat after 8pm, I can't eat carbs.) Take this list and start to ask yourself if these rules are actually serving you. Ask yourself: How do these rules help facilitate joy and pleasure around eating?
How do these rules allow me flexibility in my eating?
How do these rules give me the space to discover the foods I really enjoy and want to eat?
Are these rules controlling how much, when, or what I’m eating?
How are these rules helping me trust my own ability to regulate the amount of food that’s appropriate for me?
How do these rules help me from pay attention to my own hunger and fullness signals?
How do these rules help me become an intuitive eater?
Do these rules truly help me live a healthier life?
3. Practice making peace with food.
Begin by practicing choosing the food you REALLY want to eat- without judgment. Then eat it! I KNOW this can be hard if you are still working on that diet mentality and the food has once been forbidden. Remember, there are NO forbidden foods. Food is not good or bad- it has no morals! You will never find what works for you if you don’t first allow yourself to eat ALL foods.
LOCAL FRIENDS! I am SO thrilled to be putting on a 2-hour workshop on July 20th with my friend Alyssa Knapp, fellow mama, mindfulness coach and owner of Integrative Wellness RI-- called Less-Stressed Mama, all about mindful eating, moving and living for mamas. We are offering this introductory workshop at a special price of $25 and spots are extremely limited, so if you are interested, sign up today at the link in the show notes.
Friends, I am so excited about the kick off of this summer series! I hope you found this helpful. Please shoot me an email if you have follow-up questions, I would love to do a Q+A episode at the end of the series answering your questions and don’t forget to tag me on Instagram + Facebook with the progress you’re making. Remember I’m always here for one-on-one intuitive eating and nutrition coaching. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or book a free 45-minute discovery session to decide if working together is the next step in your food freedom journey.