Another Diet? Let’s try something different.
By Louise Marley
How many of us after the weekend take a look at ourselves in the mirror and feel like bursting into tears? The little voice in our heads tells us to take stock, get a hold of ourselves, get dieting and get back on that exercise plan. If we want a thinner, healthier self isn’t dieting the only way to achieve it? Wrong!
There is a growing anti-diet movement in the UK led by leading Nutritionists Laura Thomas, Pixie Turner and Helen West.
“Research has shown diets do not work in the long term. Diets usually end with weight rebound, possibly binge eating, food obsession and exercise compulsion” says Thomas. Sound familiar?
Then what is the answer? Surely not eating what we like, when we like?
Enter Intuitive Eating (IE). IE is not a simple diet but a way of retraining our brains and bodies into having a different relationship with food “so you can eat without food taking up space in your brain or causing you emotional distress” says West. IE is not a quick fix, don’t expect rapid weight loss but in time your body will set within its biological set point.
IE encourages you to ditch the diets and recognise your hunger cues - think of your body as a fuel gauge with 0 empty 10 full. Don’t wait until you are on empty to refuel as you may end up binging.
IE also encourages Body Neutrality - you may not be able to love your body as it is but begin with body acceptance - we can care and respect are bodies without being in love with them (that will come).
IE also encourages us to break the connection between food and exercise.
“The evidence isn’t strong that exercise leads to long term weight loss but there is lots of evidence that exercise can improve our mental and physical health and we know that being embodied- that feeling of being grounded in your body that comes from moving it - can help us feel better” says Thomas.
The 10 principles of intuitive eating focus on breaking down dieting cycles and reconnecting with the body's natural signals around food.
1. Reject the diet mentality
Stop dieting. It’s not working for you, and you are not alone in this.
2. Recognise your hunger
Eat when your body tells you that you’re hungry and stop eating when you are full.
3. Make peace with food
No foods are off limits. Allowing yourself to have the foods banned by restrictive diets removes any guilt you might feel about eating them. And when it’s no longer forbidden, the food may not seem so appealing.
4. Challenge the ‘food police’
Be aware of and challenge internal negative thoughts that categorise foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and lead to feelings of failure or guilt when you can’t stick to a diet plan.
5. Feel your fullness
Think before you eat. Tune into your hunger levels, and only eat when you are hungry.
6. Discover the satisfaction factor
Savour the experience of eating. Don’t eat while you are in the car, dashing to an appointment or distracted (whether it’s by television, work or something else). Studies show that people who eat while doing something else are likely to eat more, either at the time or at their next meal. Concentrate on your food while you are eating so you can appreciate and enjoy it.
7. Cope with your feelings without using food
When we are stressed, sad, bored or lonely, we often use food to deal with our emotions. While it might offer a short-term fix, it doesn’t resolve the problem. Find another way of dealing with the emotion – whether it’s going for a walk, or trying to fix the issues that are causing negative emotions.
8. Respect your body
We are not all the same shape and size, so we need to let go of unrealistic expectations of body image. Accepting and respecting your body at every size will help you to feel better and make choices about food and exercise that are logical, rather than emotional.
9. Exercise and feel the difference
Instead of exercising to burn calories, focus on how it makes you feel. Choose something you enjoy, whether it’s dancing, walking, running, gardening or team games, rather than forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy.
10. Honour your health
Constant dieters can have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the calorie, fat and carbohydrate content of different foods – but forget what they enjoy eating and what helps them feel full. Select meals and snacks that are nutritious, but also satisfying and tasty.
And remember that one slip does not mean a fall. One meal or one day where you don’t eat particularly healthily won’t make a difference in the long term – it’s what happens on most days that matters.
Love, Louise x