Let’s start off with some interesting research findings shared by fellow dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch:
“Dieting twins, who embarked on just one intentional weight loss episode, were nearly 2-3 times more likely to become overweight, compared to their non-dieting twin counterpart. Furthermore, the risk of becoming overweight increased in a dose-dependent manner, with each dieting episode.”
“A team of UCLA researchers reviewed 31 long-term studies on dieting and concluded that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain – up to 2/3 of people regain more weight than they lost.” (Mann et al, 2007)
“Research on nearly 17,000 kids ages 9-14 concluded, “… in the long term, dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain.” (Field et al, 2003)
“Teenage dieters had twice the risk of becoming overweight, compared to non-dieting teens, according to a 5-year study (Neumark-Sztainer et al, 2006). Notably, at baseline, the dieters did not weigh more than their non-dieting peers. This is an important detail, because if the dieters weighed more it would be a confounding factor (which would implicate other factors, rather than dieting, such as genetics).”
Our bodies are pretty incredible. Believe it or not, our body does have our best interest at heart. When we restrict our food intake and/or engage in over exercising, our body regulates our metabolism so that we use LESS energy and hold onto MORE energy (in the form of calories) as a protective mechanism.
So what the heck should we do if we want to lose weight!?
Answer – quit dieting.
Let’s look at the side effects and see if you still think it’s worth it…
- Decreased metabolic rate
- Increased binge eating
- Increased preoccupation with food
- Increased sense of failure
- Increased feelings of deprivation
- Decreased sense of willpower
… the sad part? If you read these as side effects on the side of a bottle of medication, most of you would NEVER take it – am I right?
When we diet, we have a restrictive mindset. We are restricting something, whether it’s carbohydrates, fat or overall food intake. When we restrict, we end up with rebound excess consumption. For many people, this excess consumption occurs on the weekends. I often see this in my practice – people who are “on track” Monday to Friday afternoon and then Friday evening to Sunday are “off the rails” (their verbiage, not mine). What’s the issue with this? 1) We end up binging or “off the rails” 104 days of the year and in our mind we expect to “make progress” or “reach our goals” with this behavior. The unfortunate truth is that progress rarely happens with this approach. Why? Because we constantly live in a place of restriction and then use food as a reward for our “good” behavior during the week.
The amazing thing? We are all born with the ability to eat intuitively. Unfortunately, our ability to eat intuitively often diminishes, as we grow older. We can see this with toddlers – they have the ability to regulate their food intake based on what their body needs at a given time. To parents it may look sporadic and unhealthy (large intake one day, minimal food the next two), but really – it’s typically based on what the body needs at a given time and if we don’t interfere by forcing food, this intuitive eating behavior will continue.
Believe it or not, research links parents’ attempts to control their children’s eating with excess weight in children.
So wait a second, are you saying that the more parents try to control their children’s eating, the more weight they gain? This is what the research is suggesting (like I mentioned here, nutrition research is not always the easiest to conduct and interpret).
What I challenge you to do this week is to really begin to work on your intuitive eating. Eat ANY foods you want, but eat only when you’re hungry, chew your food as close to 15 times as you can before you swallow and stop when you feel satisfied.
Steps to begin the intuitive eating journey:
- Eat without distractions. Yes, that means not eating at your desk, in front of your TV or computer, while playing on your phone, reading the newspaper, etc. When you eat, sit down with no distractions and really focus on your food. Focus on the smell, the taste, the texture and how it makes you feel (sounds very “hocus pocus” but trust me, it works).
- All foods are on the table (figuratively not literally)! This means NO restriction. If you want something, you CAN have it. The only thing I want you to focus on is eating only when you’re hungry and stopping when you feel satisfied. Note: satisfaction does NOT mean feeling overly stuffed. Even if the first week of eating intuitively includes many more “treat” foods that you would typically eat when you’re on your “regular” diet – that’s OKAY. Eventually, once the novelty of these foods wears off and you trust that you’re ALLOWED to consume these foods at any time you please, you will begin craving nutritious foods – foods that give you good quality energy, help you sleep better and stabilize your blood sugar levels.
- NO RULES! YAHOO YOU’RE FREE! Feel hungry after 7 pm? Eat, just make sure it’s because you’re truly hungry and not bored. Feel like eating 2 meals a day instead of 6 small meals? Done! You no longer have rules that dictate when, where or how much to eat. Embrace this freedom; you probably haven’t felt it in a long time.
- Journal – and for once I don’t mean journaling your food. I recommend journaling your emotions, journaling your day, journaling whatever you feel like you need to share. Most of the clients that I work with for weight management journal their food so that I am able to see what and when they’re eating and help them point out eating patterns that may be totally subconscious. Journaling can be helpful in getting to the bottom of what is really truly holding you back.
That’s it – 4 things that may be helpful in getting you on a track to eating intuitively and abandoning the diet mentality. I hope today’s post was helpful and that you’re able to start integrating these steps into your daily life. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to write them in the comment section below! And if you’re not following me over on Facebook – be sure to join the party here and here! And if you’re interested in learning more about joining our 12-week program focused all about habits – click here!
Yours in Health,