There is a growing realization that diets don't work for most people. Diets can be extreme, restricting certain foods or food groups. Diets are artificial eating patterns, setting times and amounts to eat, and not usually teaching awareness of the body's physical hunger and satiety signals. The message for many dieters is to deny the wisdom of their own bodies to regulate their food intake, but to follow external regulation instead.
When dieting to lose weight, a person can become restrictive, ignoring physical hunger signals to control food intake. Lists of "good" and "bad" foods are created. "Willpower" is stressed as the key to weight control. This practice can lead to bingeing, in response to the restrictive nature of the eating pattern. What's needed is a healthy relationship with food.
What is Intuitive Eating?
An intuitive eater is in touch with his/her physical signals. He she eats when physically hungry and stops when satisfied. He/she savors the food, enjoys it, and may on occasion overeat, but then moves on without guilt.
You actually began life as an intuitive eater. As a baby, you ate when you were hungry and stop when full. You hadn't yet learned all the emotional and social reasons for eating. With the help of your intuitive mother, you followed your body's signals. It's as we grow up that we learn conflicting and confusing eating behaviors.
How to Change
Two registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, have written a book called, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works. St. Martin's Griffin, New York, 2003. Subtitles include: Make Peace with Food, Free Yourself from Chronic Dieting Forever, and Get to the Natural Weight that Fits You. There's also a website: http://www.intuitiveeating.com/. Their work has been embraced by health professionals as a way to help clients move away from dieting to achieve a healthy weight and relationship with food.
Their "Intuitive Eating Principles" include:
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honor your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Respect your fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Exercise - Feel the difference
- Honor your health
It takes awareness and some hard work to move away from the traditional, passive, temporary, "diet" approach to losing weight. This gentle approach, honoring the body and its signals, is one that is permanent.