Intuitive Eating, Not Dieting: Health at Every Size

The concepts of not dieting vs. dieting and/or intuitive eating and/or mindful eating are not new; nevertheless, because of the pervasive dieting culture, many find these hard to grasp.

Geneen Roth‘s Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating was groundbreaking in 1984. Her list of then-revolutionary Eating Guidelines designed to replace dieting:

1. Eat when you are hungry.
2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
3. Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.
4. Eat what your body wants.
5. Eat until you are satisfied.
6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto, and pleasure.

Then there’s intuitive eating. As defined by expert Evelyn Tribole, author of multiple books, this approach is related but somewhat different. It “is a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought.”

The philosophy of the Health at Every Size (HAES) community is another variation on a theme. In short, when it comes to changing your eating habits, do what makes you feel okay. Also, being in a larger body is not always unhealthy. (Conversely, being in a smaller one sometimes is.)

In addition to the resources noted above, the following books may be of help:

How Not to Diet: The Groundbreaking Science of Healthy, Permanent Weight Loss by Michael Greger (2019)

Dr. Michael Greger founded the Nutrition Facts website. His main emphasis: plant-based eating.

Ending the Diet Mindset by Becca Clegg (2018)

Clegg is a therapist with expertise in women’s issues and eating disorders. Check out her blog.

States the publisher: “By identifying the ten destructive Diet Mindsets, you can change your perspective on dieting and embrace a newfound respect for your body. Live a life free of obsession, and instead gain the courage to love yourself and find peace within.”

Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life by Kelsey Miller (2016)

The title says it all. But you can also read an article at Refinery 29 that gives some backstory to the author’s creation of her Anti-Diet Project.

Kirkus Reviews: “Miller does take a look at some of the deeper reasons behind her compulsive eating, and it’s in these passages that her vulnerability comes through and her story becomes truly compelling. Readers will cheer for Miller to succeed on her ‘anti-diet’ diet of intuitive eating, her quest to eat according to her mindfully mined needs and desires, not according to a rulebook. It takes a lot of work to change a mindset that radically, and it’s slow going for Miller, who tends to trade one obsession for another…”

Mindful Emotional Eating: Mindfulness Skills to Control Cravings, Eat in Moderation and Optimize Coping by Dr. Pavel Somov (2015)

This book expands on his previous writings to focus specifically on “legalizing” and/or depathologizing the inevitable bouts of emotional eating—as long as they’re mindful, that is. What he helps readers reduce is “emotional overeating” and “mindless emotional eating.”

Smart People Don’t Diet: How the Latest Science Can Help You Lose Weight Permanently by Charlotte N. Markey, Ph.D. (2014)

Psychologist Charlotte N. Markey synthesizes tons of pertinent research. Included is info about what doesn’t work. You can ignore tips, for instance, that advise skipping dessert, no eating after 8 PM, and no between-meal snacking, to name a few.

What about dieting? Markey advises the following, as told to A. Pawlowski,

‘Dieting makes you miserable, it makes you cranky. It actually makes you more likely to overeat and to binge and fast,’ she said.
‘Don’t feel guilty about having good stuff in moderation. Don’t feel deprived, but don’t be over-indulgent either. There’s got to be some middle ground.’

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