Written by: Ellie Messler
You're not failing your diet, your diet is failing you.
It’s that time of year again when goal setting is at an all time high, fitness centers see a significant increase in attendance, and healthy food options are flying off the shelves.
But come February, the majority of goals related to diet and exercise will be deemed too tough for many ambitious, well-meaning people, and confidence will have dropped to an all time low.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but whatever your specific food related goal may have been, whether is was to only consume 1,200 calories a day, or completely cut out sugar, or never eat a carb again, or anything else quite extreme, it was bound to fail from the get-go.
And here’s why.
Anytime we set a health related goal, it needs to be sustainable for a lifetime. If it’s not, then it’s not ideal. So if you couldn’t spend the rest of your life eating a calorie restricted diet, or completely cutting sugar, or whatever, then there’s no use in doing it for a short period of time.
Extreme changes in our eating habits that are unable to be maintained will fail us, every time, even if they initially bring us desirable results. Maybe you lose ten pounds in a month, but you’ll most likely gain back the weight, and more, as soon as you go off your diet.
So if you, like a vast number of people, set a goal this January to go on any sort of diet, please don’t become downtrodden if you inevitably fall off the wagon.
It’s not your fault, it’s the diets fault.
Now, before you throw in the towel, let me clarify. It is amazing that you want to take better care of your body. I’m happy to see you choosing to treat yourself well through healthier choices. Many of us have fallen into habits that make us feel tired and unhappy, and we’re craving some sort of escape from the downward tunnel of fast food and candy bars.
So what do you do if your eating habits have gotten out of control, you’ve reached a weight you never wanted to be at, and you just need to become all around healthier?
The answer for many of us is intuitive eating.
It’s a novel approach founded by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch that promotes “creating a healthy relationship with food, mind, and body.” It involves ten principles that have nothing to do with the word “diet” and consists of no set food plan. It’s all about listening to your hunger and fullness signals, respecting your body, and rejecting the good food/bad food mentality.
This is not any sort of quick fix. It isn’t going to bring you immediate physical results. It could take a year or more for you to really get back to the basics, find your body’s healthy weight, and establish proper eating habits. But what it will bring is far greater than any rapid weight loss. It will bring peace of mind, a healthy relationship with food, and an overall feeling of well-being.
When I first heard of the concept, I was a skeptic. I was sitting in a Brigham Young University dietetics class, and I was currently unhappy with my body. As the professor lectured about how you could find health not through restriction but through honoring your body, eating what sounds good and makes you feel good, and never creating a list of bad foods that you never eat, I thought there was no way it could actually work.
And so I continued my pattern of jumping on the wagon and then falling off again, my overall health increasing and decreasing continually, and pushed the thought of intuitive eating out of my mind. Then slowly but surely, I started to realize something.
What I was doing was not working. My habit of going on a diet, then going back to my old ways, then going back on another diet, then gaining more weight than I had ever lost was a complete and utter failure. Not only was I physically unhealthy, but mentally I was drained as well.
My extreme dieting habits were causing me to binge eat foods I never even desired before I went on a diet, my weight was fluctuating, but mostly just going up, and I was continually beating myself up mentally. I had become hyper-focused on food and the scale, and the deeper I got within a diet, the harder and harder it became to maintain it.
I quit my diets because they had failed me, and I tried intuitive eating. I ate what sounded good when I was hungry, I stopped eating as soon as I felt full, I honored my body by feeding it the foods that make it feel good, and I exercised for my health rather than to lose weight. And through these practices, I have found myself to be healthier than I have ever been, both my body and my mind.
Intuitive eating has changed my life, and I now cringe whenever I see the latest fad diets pop up. You aren’t meant to feel deprived, your weight isn’t meant to constantly fluctuate, and your health isn’t measured by calorie counts or sugar content.
It’s time to get back to the basics and eat when we feel hungry, stop when we feel full, engage in exercise that is fun for us, and put away the strict diet plans that set us up for failure.
For more information about intuitive eating, visit the official website at IntuitiveEating.org.