One of the principles of intuitive eating is letting go of dieting. I know what you are thinking, it is a bit of a scary concept. I know! I was really scared too. How do we let go of the thing that we have been doing most of our lives? We know this deep down, but diets don’t work. If they worked then we would all have found a solution by now. But sadly, that just isn’t the case. Of course, in the short term they do work. Remember the first time you went on a diet? The weight came off easily right? Then what happened? If you were like me, you gained it back. We are not alone; the studies show us that 95-98% of us gain the weight back and sometimes more.
I spent years dieting and weight cycling which developed into an eating disorder. I only recovered once I finally let it go. By all means, this has not been an easy journey! But one thing I have learnt is that I didn’t fail, it was dieting that failed me. Once I delved into the research, I found that my dieting history mirrored what I discovered. It was only then that I was slowly able to take the steps to let it go.
This is what the research says about dieting:
They slow the rate that which we burn calories – (yep the more I dieted the more I had to restrict and over-exercise to stay in control)
They hurt our psychological and physical and health and well-being - (I was miserable, exhausted and not fun to be around!)
They lead to binge eating, preoccupation with food and in some cases eating disorders- (yep, yep and yep!)
Stopping dieting is not easy, it is so ingrained and it is everywhere around us. If you are not ready to take this step then that is OK. If you are ready, its best to start small. Some of the things that worked for me was not counting calories for one day, not weighing my food. eating foods on my banned list and choosing what I really wanted when I went out for dinner. It took me a long time to give up dieting so show yourself compassion and kindness. Take your time and do what works for you only. This is your journey, no one else’s.
If not dieting, then what?
This is one of the questions I get asked all the time. If we aren’t dieting then what are we meant to do? Pursuing behaviours to improve general health and wellbeing is key. Dieting does not lead to long-term health and happiness.
Here are some of the things to focus on instead.
•Practising self-care. This includes getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and resting when your body needs it. Check out my 5 step guide to self-care here
•Moving your body in a way that you enjoy. I love dancing, hiking and playing outdoor games. What are your favourite ways to move your body? Check out my fun with movement blog if you need some inspo!
•Getting a better work-life balance. This includes setting boundaries, learning to say no and scheduling more playtime in your life. Check out my 10 steps to a better work-life balance here
•Spending time with loved ones. Connection is fundamental to health and well-being. We need them in life to thrive and survive. Prioritise some time to connect to the people that mean the most to you.
•Practising yoga, meditation, being out in nature or simply being more mindful in everyday activities. This helps us connect the present and be more in tune with our body. It also give us a break from constant mind chatter, anxiety and worries. My favourite way to be more present is to go on a mindfulness walk. If you haven't done this before, I have a guide to help get you started here
•Eating foods for pleasure, satisfaction and for health. This means including a variety of foods in your diet that you both enjoy and make you feel good.
•Engaging in positive actives and behaviours such as positive thinking, optimism and gratitude. These behaviours reduce stress and increase happiness. If you would like to learn more about the science behind happiness and how these behaviours can increase your health and happiness, check out my blog here
•Improving emotional well-being by challenging negative thoughts and behaviours, journaling, breathing and being who you want to be, not who you think you should be. A full guide to improving your emotional well-being is here
•Spending time being creative or engaging in passions and hobbies.
•Doing things that make you feel complete, and working on your goals to create the life you want to live.
If you would like to know more about the research on dieting, or would like support with this step, you can join my intuitive eating and well-being program here