June 1, 2007

Health & Beauty

Freedom to Never Diet Again

by Mizbooks

Everyone knows someone else who is unhappy with their looks. It seems everywhere you turn, someone is on a diet. And, those diets almost always fail in the long run. Studies show that over 95% of all diets fail, and I've come to believe that this is because they are either too restrictive, or too complicated.

I've never been a 'dieter' per se, but I do struggle with disordered eating. I've been brainwashed by the media to believe—like everyone else—that "thin is beautiful" or that I need to look like actresses and supermodels in order to be attractive. What a lie.

Before my first pregnancy, I was a tiny size 6, and I could eat whatever I wanted without gaining a pound. I rarely exercised, unless you count dancing in my room to music.

During my pregnancy, though, I went through a time of great stress, and I was "eating for two." As such, I ended up gaining seventy-two pounds, and losing only about twenty of those after my son was born. This put me up at a size 18.

I tried implementing popular programs like Weight Watchers, Dr. Phil's Ultimate Weight Solution, or Bob Greene's Get with the Program. Nothing lasted very long. I hated the restrictions on my eating, and couldn't keep up with any of it. Not to mention, spending money on "special foods" at the grocery store wasn't an option for us.

I tried 'dieting' and making up different exercise plans until the summer of 2005 when I happened to pick up a popular book that taught something new … instead of dieting, this book talked of 'non-dieting,' otherwise known as the 'hunger-fullness' method. And, upon putting the principles into practice, I quickly began losing weight! In just two days, I dropped two pounds. I thought maybe my scale had broken. But, as the weeks went by and more weight came off, I started to get excited, and to really believe I'd found the answer to my problem.

Non-dieting (also known as 'intuitive eating') is basically just relearning to listen to your body's natural cues that tell you when you're hungry, and when you've had just enough food to refuel. It teaches you to be mindful of the foods you choose, while not having to restrict any of them. You can eat whatever you want, as long as you only eat when you're hungry, and you stop when you're satisfied.

Many people worry that if they eat whatever they want, they'll gain weight. But the truth is, our bodies were designed to work this way. If you watch young children, you'll see that they ask for food when they're hungry, pick and choose only the foods they truly enjoy, and then push their plates away when they're full, even if that means they haven't cleaned their plate completely. This is what it looks like to be an 'intuitive eater.'

While you are no longer restricted in what you can or cannot eat, you also become mindful of what is most beneficial. Over time, as you become better at listening to your body's needs and wants, you discover that some foods make you feel better than others, and that exercise is beneficial—not just for weight loss, but in how it makes you feel overall. Your body will start to naturally crave healthy foods, and you will want to move your body more.

So, how do you start non-dieting? Here are some quick tips:

1. Wait for true hunger – This is a hard one to implement for a lot of people because it's been a long time since they last did so. They don't remember what hunger feels like. Some people will get an actual growl that signals that they're hungry, but other people never experience this. For most, though, the feeling is that of being hollow or empty just below your rib-cage (where your stomach is).

2. Slow down – In our culture, we're always busy and on the go. We rush from place to place, barely slowing down to eat. Consequently, we often inhale our meals instead of taking the time to slow down, savor, and enjoy them. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that it's had enough food. Make sure you sit down, and eat slowly. You'll be better able to know when you've had just enough.

3. Pay attention – Throughout your meal, put your fork down and think about how you're feeling. Do you feel like you could eat more? Or do you think you've had enough? This is called being 'mindful.' Mindless eating causes us to eat much more than we actually need.

4. Stop at 'satisfied,' not 'full' – When you feel that you're no longer hungry, and you don't feel bloated or that you need to lie down, this is your 'satisfied' point. It is easily the most difficult part of learning to be an intuitive eater. A helpful trick I've learned is to watch for the sigh. Most people, when they've eaten just enough food to refuel, will sigh. This is your signal to either stop eating, or to slow down and pay attention. If you catch yourself sighing, push your plate away. In 20 minutes, if you're still hungry, you can always eat more. Most times, however, you'll find that you've had just enough to satisfy.

5. Ask your body what it wants to eat – Part of being intuitive in your eating is learning what foods agree with your body, and what foods don't. Often we eat things out of habit or to be polite in a social situation. Buffets are a "danger" to dieters, but a pleasure for the Intuitive Eater. You simply observe all the food that's offered, and sample just a few of the things that look the absolute best. You don't have to try everything just because it's there, but neither are you restricted in what you can have.

6. Journal your feelings – For most people, overeating is linked to emotions. Instead of dealing with the negative emotions that play out in their lives, many people turn to food for comfort. The more they do this, however, the more they tune out their natural signals and train themselves to believe that food can help them feel better. Next time you feel like running to food amidst your discomfort, try grabbing a notebook and pen, and write out what it is that has gotten you so upset. If you find this hard to do on your own, seek the help of a trained counselor. If you don't deal with the emotions behind your eating, you'll only be putting a bandage on a wound that needed stitches.

In short, non-dieting is about freedom. You no longer have to restrict your food choices (unless you have a medical condition – in that case, please consult with your doctor first), and you are free from the myriad of advertisements that tell you one thing one week and something different the next. You can take back control over your eating and your weight.

Mizbooks is an avid reader, and one who is passionate about helping people get free of dieting forever. Through following the principles outlined in the book, “Intuitive Eating” (Tribole/Resch), she has managed to release 25 pounds while still eating her favorite foods. Mizbooks runs a Yahoo! Support group for those following the “hunger-fullness” method. You can also find her blog at http://intuitive-eating.blogspot.com.