Another year, another opportunity to make a resolution. Many people will resolve to lose those extra 10 pounds, or take part in Dryuary, or cut out sugar once and for all. Or maybe you’re thinking of starting Whole 30, or going gluten-free?
While most people start out the year motivated, the majority of these dieting resolutions quickly fails. This year instead of blaming your lack of willpower or self-control, realize that dieting itself is the problem.
Why Diets Don’t Work
Not only do we know that diets aren’t sustainable (we talk about going “on” a diet…and anything you go “on” you’ll eventually go “off”!) but dieting actually increases your risk for gaining weight. A review of 31 long-term studies on dieting have shown that going on a diet is a consistent predictor of weight gain, with two-thirds of dieters regaining more weight than they lost. So not only is dieting ineffective at losing weight, but it can actually promote weight gain.
Dieting is a type of forced starvation, and our bodies are wired for survival. When you start to restrict types and amounts of food your body switches into survival mode, which can mean uncontrollable cravings, overeating and binges. Think about it – as soon as you tell yourself you can’t have something, what is it you think about? That’s right, the exact food you are trying not to eat. The more you try not to eat, say, chocolate or candy, the more likely you are to overeat it once you get access to it, since you don’t know when you’ll be able to eat it again. Instead of blaming your lack of willpower, blame the diet and dieting behavior.
Embrace Intuitive Eating
Instead of starting yet another diet this year, learn to become an intuitive eater. Intuitive eaters eat based on internal signals like hunger, fullness and satisfaction. They let go of the misconception that certain foods are good or bad, and eat what they want without feeling guilty or ashamed. They accept that once they normalize their eating patterns, by eating according to hunger and fullness cues, their body will settle at its natural set point weight. Here are three ways you can start embracing intuitive eating.
- Reject the diet culture. Get rid of books and magazines that tout diets and “easy” or “quick” weight loss. Unfollow social media accounts that propel the dieting myth, especially those that make you feel bad about yourself. Start reading more about the intuitive eating philosophy and health at every size. Follow people with body positive and anti-diet social media accounts. Read blogs and listen to podcasts that promote anti-diet culture. Some of my favorites are The Real Life RD, Food Psych Podcast, and Rachael Hartley Nutrition.
- Learn to honor your hunger and fullness cues. Babies and small children naturally eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. But as we get older, and start being inundated with dieting messages, we stop listening to our internal signals. A great tool to use to learn to honor your internal cues is the hunger-fullness scale.
- Adopt mindful eating habits. Mindful eating is about getting back in touch with the experience of eating and enjoying your food. It’s about fully present during meals and snacks, paying attention to the sight, smell, taste and texture of foods. Try my 5 Minute Mindful Eating Exercise to hone your mindful eating skills.
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