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Ditch the Diets

Ahuva Sofer

You indulge. You feel gross. And your healthy lunch is history. Why does this scene seem so familiar to so many? What went wrong?

Thursday, February 02, 2017

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P icture this all-too-familiar scene: It’s lunch time at school. You sit down to a healthy lunch, which is, of course, an oversized salad, topped with bean sprouts and of course, low-calorie, fat-free dressing. You finish your lunch, but still feel uncomfortably... unsatisfied. Out of the corner of your eye, you suddenly spot your friend indulging in an oversized bag of mini Oreos, while simultaneously complaining about falling off her diet. Of course, out of sincere goodwill and concern for your friend’s health, you offer to help her with the gargantuan task of finishing the bag. You indulge. You feel gross. And your healthy lunch is history. Why does this scene seem so familiar to so many? What went wrong?

Here are some possible explanations for your unfortunate lunch fiasco:

You were still hungry because your lunch choice was pitifully short of the calories your body needed, especially since you were very active the day before. Besides, you don’t even especially like salad, so you were simply craving some more satisfaction.

You felt so restricted by the stringent standards of your diet that your body resisted it and resorted to unhealthy mediums of satisfaction.

You also had a history test coming up that was getting on your nerves. And what calms frazzled nerves better than a bag of Oreos? Welcome to the never-ending cycle of dieting so many succumb to for such a great deal of their lives.

But, you’re not alone. According to the US News and World Report, Americans spend $60 billion a year trying to lose weight. That means that the diet industry, which continues to amass more cash every year, has one secret to their ongoing success: Diets don’t work. Because if they did, Americans would all be fit and trim, and the diet industry would be out of business. Why are diets unsuccessful more often than not? And, is there an alternative to the never-ending diet cycle? This is where intuitive eating comes in.

What is Intuitive Eating?

The Intuitive Eating Concept is not a diet trend, but a mentality. According to Evelyn Tribole MS, RD, award-winning registered dietitian, and coauthor of Intuitive Eating, healthy eating is defined by, “having a healthy balance of foods and a healthy relationship with food.” It’s about eating intuitively, about relearning to listen to and trust our bodies to make healthy choices.

Let’s get down to some of the main principles of intuitive eating.

Reject the Diet Mentality

“Dieting often demands a regimen that is inflexible as well as impractical and unaccommodating in the face of the realities of life,” says Mrs. Rena Reiser, an intuitive eating coach. “What happens when we get sick or have a late-night party or just indulge for a day? Once we fall off a diet, there’s often little room to make a comeback — and the diet ends there.”

“Even more importantly,” says Rena, “by leaning on an external set of rules that tell us what, when, and how much to eat, we forget to tune in to the most important health indicator: our own bodies.”

Make Peace with Food and Challenge the Food Police

Let’s face it: so much of the energy invested in dieting is spent on the shameful feelings we have toward food and our need to indulge once in a while. “Call a truce and stop the fight!” cries Evelyn Tribole. “Scream NO to thoughts in your head that say you’re ‘good’ for eating fewer calories or ‘bad’ because you ate a piece of chocolate,” she says. By labeling certain foods “good” and certain foods “bad” and by restricting ourselves excessively, we begin to develop a relationship with food that revolves around feelings of deprivation and guilt. And guilt is the nasty culprit that often leads us deeper into the unhealthy cycle of eating which we call stress or binge eating. Only by making peace with food and allowing ourselves to enjoy its goodness, can we rid ourselves of guilty eating and allow ourselves to listen to and trust our bodies to tell us when and what to eat.

“As people, we do have a certain biological need for enjoyment and pleasure, which leads to satisfaction,” says Rena Reiser. By allowing ourselves to appreciate food, whether it’s a salad with a great dressing or even a (gasp!) chocolate chip cookie, we are maintaining a healthy level of satisfaction that ultimately curbs feelings of deprivation as well as the urge to overeat. So, cut out the zero-tolerance policy for ice cream or chocolate from your diet.

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