By Melinda Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDCES
One thing we know about traditional “diets” is that there is no one approach that works for everyone. Second, we recognize the power that our emotions have on our eating. Third, often following a strict diet is linked with feelings of guilt and shame when a person deviates from a specific plan. Restrictive diets bring a sense of “failure” when the diet is stopped for whatever reason.
Recently, more emphasis is being placed on the importance of no-diet methods of healthy eating including “Intuitive Eating” and “Mindful Eating”. These approaches are more about HOW to eat than WHAT to eat. They help foster a healthy long-term relationship with food. While they are very similar, there are some differences. Learn about them both and adopt the no-diet principles that speak to you.
• Intuitive eating – This is a philosophy of eating that removes guilt and strict rules. All foods are allowed. The term “Intuitive Eating” was coined by two dietitians who wrote a book in 1995 (of the same name). While the book details 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating, there are three core characteristics of this eating approach:
o Eat for physical, rather than emotional reasons.
o Rely on hunger and satiety cues; eat when you are hungry, and stop once you feel fullness.
o You have unconditional permission to eat as long as you are truly hungry.
• Mindful eating– This involves a process of paying close attention to your actual eating experience, without guilt or judgment. It also avoids strict rules and allows all foods. A mindful approach to eating typically includes
o Enjoying and appreciating food by eating slowly and savoring every bite
o Avoiding distractions when eating so the sole focus is on enjoying the food
o Assessing your level of hunger, so you eat only when hungry and you know when to stop
In the no-diet approach to eating, you learn to listen to and trust your body’s natural cues of hunger and fullness. You learn to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. You learn to identify subtle cues to help you both enjoy food and feel well satisfied and nourished.
Similarly, the focus on exercise is not to be rigid with getting in a specific work-out routine or number of steps, but to focus on how good and energized you feel from doing the activity. As you take the time to truly notice and feel the benefits of being more active – you’ll be more likely to keep up the routine than if you do it only for the purpose of losing weight.
Here are few other tips to help you on your non-diet journey:
• There are no “good foods” and “bad foods”. Similarly, you are not “good” if you avoid certain foods or “bad” if you eat them. Remove the judgment – both from foods as well as yourself.
• Honor your feelings without using food. Emotional eating is so common. Find ways to address your very real feelings of worry, loneliness, boredom and anger by doing something other than eating.
• Make peace with your body. Often it is your genes that keeps you from fitting in your jeans. When you respect your body, you can feel better about who you are and have more realistic expectations for healthy eating.
• Learn more… and practice! For more information, take a look at these websites:
o Intuitive Eating website: www.intuitiveeating.org
o Mindful eating: www.tcme.org