I hate self help books. You know, the type that tell you how you should live your life. “These 12 steps will make you successful, rich, thin, happy, or whatever”.
I don’t like them for a few reasons. One being that I don’t believe that there is a set of steps that can be applied to everyone’s life, that will make everyone complete. People are all so different. What helps one person may not help the next. Another reason that I don’t like them is because I am the type that reads them, vows to follow everything perfectly by the book, fails in one small area, and feels awful. My life isn’t right because I can’t follow these steps. I end up feeling so bad about myself that I scrap the book completely and am worse off for reading it.
Self help books and me, are kind of like dieting. I want to follow the diet perfectly, and Ido really well for awhile, but eventually I mess up and eat something I shouldn’t. Then I decide that I have ruined everything because I messed up so I might as well throw in the towel and eat EVERYTHING to make up for it.
A third reason why I don’t like self-help books is because I find them a little bit boring. I am totally a fiction lover at heart.
I bet you thought I was going to say I don’t like being bossed around or told what to do right? Well, actually sometimes I kind of wish I could just find a book that would tell me how to live my life and then I could stop trying to figure it out for myself!
I want to talk to you about the “self-help” type book that I have been reading lately, and how I feel about it. You guys probably already know I have been reading Intuitive Eating, By Evelyn Tribole, and Elyse Resch. I haven’t actually finished reading it, but I have read the majority of it and have a pretty good idea of what it is about.
The book includes 10 guiding principles for how you should govern your relationship with food. I want to go into these principles in a little more detail and talk about what each one means to me. Before I do though, I want to stress that these principles aren’t about things that you have to do in order to have a good relationship with food. To me, these principles are more about shifting your mind and your actions will mostly follow. They aren’t a list of rules, but a set of ideas to help you learn to eat according to what your body needs and wants. If you don’t follow them 100% of the time that is okay. Actually, you shouldn’t follow them 100% of the time.
I was originally going to talk about all of the principles in one post, but then I realized that would be crazy long because I have a lot to say. Instead, I will talk about one or maybe a few per post, a start a series instead …
In this series I will start by discussing the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating, but I may go on from there and talk about intuitive exercise, intuitive living, or whatever I feel like! So, let’s start with the first principle…
Also, please not that I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist. These are just my thoughts about my personal experience. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or require professional help, please seek the care and advice of a doctor. Thank you.
Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality
This involves recognizing that diets are harmful to you and decide to let go of dieting once and for all. “If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating” (p. 40).
Pretty much – let go. Completely give up, give in. Whatever it takes. Dieting is not the answer, it isn’t, I promise you. You can’t stop dieting “for now” and expect the process to work. I personally have vowed to never diet again. It feels great. Now when I see a new diet that promises I will lose xx amount of weight in xx amount of time, I can laugh. It isn’t the secret answer I have been looking for. It is the opposite. The way to harm my body and my life.
Take a look at your life personally. What have diets done for you. In my life, they have done nothing good. Sure I have lost weight while dieting, but I have gained it all back and then some. I have developed a binge eating disorder, and a ridiculous set of rules that restricted me from eating a ton of delicious foods. I took on a lot of guilt for eating things I felt that I shouldn’t.
It is scary to stop dieting if you have relied on them for so long. You may realize that you don’t know how or what to eat without a set of rules to govern you, and you may be afraid that you will start eating everything in front of you, with little to no self-control. I am not going to lie and tell you that you won’t, because you probably will … for awhile, but not forever. Eventually you will become less obsessed with food, because you can have it all the time. It starts to become a lot less exciting when it isn’t forbidden.
Dieting actually causes us to overeat – pretty counter-productive if you ask me. When you don’t eat enough and restrict food, you feel hungry and deprived. The second that you let go, or mess up, suddenly you eat everything in sight. Since I have let go of dieting and allowed myself to eat what my body wants when it wants it, I haven’t binge ate. Sure I have still overate. I am still learning to listen to my body. I haven’t eaten without losing all control. There is less of a drive to keep eating when I know I can eat what I want whenever I want to.
Isabel Foxen Duke describes dieting as “a way of eating that you are emotionally attached to”. Dieting isn’t just following the low-carb craze, counting calories, or going paleo. It could be not eating after 6 pm. It could be adding an egg to your oatmeal because you feel like you should eat some protein with it even if you don’t want to. (If you like an egg in your oatmeal that is fine! Just don’t do it because you feel like you need to!). We have so many dieting tendencies that we don’t even realize. The dieting mentality isn’t just about “going on” a diet. It is about all those little rules and ideas that govern how we eat as a whole.
Intuitive Eating includes a list of all the reasons why you shouldn’t diet, and the harm it can cause you. Some of these include slowing down your metabolism and causing your body to retain more fat; having more cravings and binge eating; increasing the “risk of premature death and heart disease”; losing touch with your bodies ability to recognize hunger and fullness cues; and changing your body shape and storing more fat in your belly (!!) (p. 48-49). Dieting also is linked to an increase in eating disorders, low self-esteem, and social anxiety (p. 49).
So, you may be asking how to overcome the dieting mentality if it is something that you have been doing for years and possibly the majority of your life. Intuitive Eating offers some tips for how to do this, but if you want to read their ideas, I suggest you go and pick up the book! Here is what worked and is working for me personally.
1. Recognize that dieting is harmful to your body. If you need to, make a list of all the damage it has already done to you. This damage can be physical, emotional, spiritual, social, or whatever. A statistic that I keep in the back of my mind if I am ever tempted to start a diet is that 90-95% percent of diets fail (Intuitive Eating, p.x).
2. Stop reading anything that will encourage you to start dieting again. If you follow blogs about dieting, stop reading them! If you like to look up the newest dieting trends – stop! Any newsletters that you get in your inbox, any magazine subscriptions – cancel them! If you are reading something and you recognize that it may be triggering you to start thinking about dieting again, stop immediately.
What helped me, was to start reading blogs about intuitive eating, having a positive body image, and rejecting dieting.
A few blogs that I found particularly helpful are:
Also, try not spend time with people that will encourage you to diet. If you need/want to spend time with them. Try to steer the conversation away from dieting, or ask them to stop talking about it. I find I overhear a lot of talk about dieting at the gym. If I can’t get away from it, I remind myself how dieting can be harmful, and the negative effects it can have. For example, if I hear people talking about the newest dieting trend, I will remind myself that dieting causes me to binge eat, which makes me unhappy and uncomfortable. I no longer see that diet as a promising solution, but as something I need to steer clear of.
3. Ditch the scale. This is something I have been hearing a lot lately, and I have finally done it. I never thought I had a problem with the scale. I have never got into the habit of weighing myself crazy often. I know that the number on the scale can be influenced by so many things like how much water I have drink, or my muscle mass. I didn’t think I let if affect my mood too much, but I realized that wasn’t true.
Weighing yourself can trigger the diet mentality. If you get on that scale, and the number is higher than you expect, it is easy to think that maybe you should go on one last diet to get down a few pounds before you start trying to eat intuitively. I say get rid of the scale once and for all. It will be a lot easier to quit dieting if you do.
4. Commit to stop dieting forever. Not for a month. Not until you see if intuitive eating will help you lose weight. (Don’t start intuitive eating to lose weight! Start it to get healthy!). Not until a new and better diet comes along. Quit for good, and don’t look back!
I committed to quit dieting about four months ago, and I am doing so much better with my relationship with food. Quitting dieting has meant that I can’t rely on a set of rules to control the way that I eat. I actually find intuitive eating harder than dieting because you have to rely on your mind rather than someone else’s rules.
I have to admit that every diet I ever started, I started with the hopes that I wouldn’t have to diet forever. I wanted to lose xx number of pounds and be done with dieting forever. I wanted to eat like a normal person and not obsess about food, but I thought that I had to be “skinny” in order to do that. This is such backwards thinking. We need to reject dieting and learn to eat properly in order to find our body’s ideal weight. That may mean that you are skinny, and it may mean that you aren’t. You know what? I am okay with that.
Have you guys ever tried intuitive eating?
What are some of your tips for getting out and staying out of the diet mentality?