Quit Dieting, Enjoy Food November 3, 2008

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Central Texas is one of the areas of the country that leads many new food movements, including increasing organic consumption, buying locally and seasonally, and cooking slow. That's one reason why the area's many farmer's markets have been successful and growing.

Some consumers are taking it even further and have begun dumping the diet, enjoying food and relying on the body's own good sense to stabilize weight. It sounds good but it's also a little scary for anyone who has been struggling with weight issues for years, especially those who now know more about the nutritional constituents of food than many scientists.

Seton Northwest clinical dietitian Janessa Slatky, RD, LD who contributes regularly to GoodHealth.com articles, believes in the new trend.

"Anyone whos ever been on a weight loss diet knows the negative side effects of denying the body food: fatigue, lightheadedness, drained energy, and feelings of deprivation. Nutrition experts know that dieting disrupts normal eating by confusing your hunger cues which can lead to overeating or even binging. Dieting decreases your metabolic rate, and can stunt the growth of young people both mentally and physically," says Janessa.

She adds there are psychological effects of dieting as well. "It increases food preoccupation, so half your day or more is spent thinking about food and weight. It can decrease self-esteem and feelings of well-being. Dieting tends to make people more judgmental and critical of themselves and others. And more often than not - dieting doesnt work. You lose weight and gain it right back (the weight cycle), often regaining more than you lost. So what can you do? Stop dieting and start enjoying food."

The Diet Mentality

"Rejecting the diet mentality will be difficult for many people at first, especially if youve been on some kind of diet all your life. You may fear youll lose control and gain weight," continues Janessa. "But as you get comfortable listening to your body and honoring your health, you will increase your quality of life and realize that dieting is no way to live."

If you want to try it, here's Janessa's advice:

  • To ditch the diet mentality youve got to accept that there are no forbidden foods. You must stop classifying food as good or bad. As soon as you label a food as forbidden or not allowed, it becomes more desirable.

  • If you really love something and your body is telling you that you want it, by all means eat it, but I want it to make your toes curl. Eat slowly and savor it. Notice the taste of every bite. If its not something that you really love, leave it alone. Have you ever wanted a brownie, told yourself no, and then later eaten three? If you answered yes then you are completely normal. Depriving ourselves just makes us want something more. Had we listened to our bodies and eaten the brownie in the first place we probably would have been satisfied and stopped at one. As you get good at listening to your hunger youll be surprised to learn how often your body craves healthy food.

  • Learn to feel your hunger and fullness signals. Never let yourself get too hungry or all intentions of moderate, conscious eating become fleeting and irrelevant. Think of it as a pendulum swinging. If youre letting your pendulum swing so far to feeling ravenous and starved, its going to swing back to eating until your stuffed and possibly even sick! Dont eat unless your body is sending you hunger cues, but dont wait until youre feeling weak and lightheaded either. This will make it easier to not overeat, and to put your fork down when youre satisfied, not stuffed.

  • When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and pleasurable, the satisfaction you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel content when youve had just enough. By providing this experience for yourself, youll find that it takes much less food to make you feel satisfied and content.

  • Learn to deal with your emotions without using food. If hunger is not the problem, then food is not the answer. Anxiety, boredom, sadness, and anger are emotions that we all experience in our lifetime, but eating to deal with them will only make you feel worse in the long run. Learn new ways to meet your emotional needs without food.

Changing Your Mindset

"A good starting point is to accept who you are, your genetic blueprint. Its hard to give up dieting if youre unrealistic and overly critical of yourself," says Janessa. "Just as a person with a size eight foot wouldnt realistically expect to squeeze into a size five shoe, it is equally futile and uncomfortable to have similar expectations when it comes to your body."

"When it comes to exercise most of us need to make a mind switch. Why not focus on how it feels to move your body, rather than the number of calories youre burning? Pay attention to how exercise makes you feel, and the energy you gain from it. If your only goal of exercise is to lose weight, its usually not enough of a motivating factor to get you out of bed even earlier in the morning."

For More Information

GoodHealth.com's online health encyclopedia has a learning center that provides lots of information both on healthy eating and healthy diet. A recent New York Times story summarized research about eating to enjoy and giving up dieting.

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