Statistically speaking, 95% of diets fail. And most dieters gain back not only what they lost but then some. So experts are urging people to stop dieting. But then what? With adjustments to how we think about food, a little mental unlearning and relearning, it’s possible to break the diet cycle and remain at, or obtain a, healthy weight. Let's look at how to stop dieting for good.
It’s been said that diets don’t work. That’s both true and false. A diet where a person restricts calories for a while may help them lose weight. But restriction often causes a loosening of those restrictions, sometimes in a massive way. But even the subtle loosening is a problem if one used restriction to lose weight. Once we go back to eating the way we originally did, we often gain all the weight back, and then some, according to research. That’s why many people seem to think that diets aren’t successful. But that doesn’t mean someone who wants to lose weight is doomed.
When a person approaches weight loss via tackling a different way of eating — that is, a lifestyle change instead of just a short-term fix, they may have more success. This approach may also reduce the risk of eating disorders induced by trying to follow a diet that’s too strict.
Intuitive eating has often been called the anti-diet. That’s because it’s not a short-term fix that drops pounds quickly. Instead, it’s an adjustment to a person’s overall eating pattern over time.
But what is it, exactly? According to the original intuitive eating professionals, this type of eating is described as a rejection of diet culture and an honoring of hunger that is properly fed. Intuitive eating also asks that a person:
The intuitive eating theory states that eating and living this way will naturally help balance the drive to eat, so overeating and yo-yo dieting can become a thing of the past. Intuitive eating may help practitioners to stop stress eating and boredom eating, and to heal their relationship with food. It may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but it seems to be a viable way for many people to lose weight and keep it off. Practitioners say they don’t have to worry about “diets” ever again.
One of the most important aspects of intuitive eating is that it’s still possible to eat your favorite foods. Too many diets encourage people to remove entire food groups, and that means they may feel deprived and unhappy. That may lead to binging on unhealthy foods and gaining back the weight that was lost (and then some).
When a person eats intuitively, though, they don’t deprive themselves of any particular food. They just eat it more moderately, in smaller portions and less frequently, and more responsibly, by choosing when they will indulge in a way that's healthy for their situation. By making these kinds of modifications to their eating patterns, a person may be able to reduce their weight and even remain in a healthy weight range for the long term. But no matter what, they're more likely to be in control and eating from within their conscious choices. And that's pretty solid way to live.
Losing weight isn’t easy. But losing weight, gaining it back, and trying to lose it again can be disheartening and cause many to give up, believing it's impossible. But we don’t have to be one of them. Intuitive eating takes practice but it has helped many many people to regain control and create a state of health they're proud of. A significant part of learning this is in learning hunger cues, which allows us to enjoy the foods we love, and to find balance in our bodies and minds when it comes to eating.
While intuitive eating takes practice, it’s a valuable skill that’s worth working on. People who eat intuitively usually adjust to naturally eating less food because they start to eat only when they're truly hungry, and that step alone can help many weigh less, as well. But as we adjust our thinking around food, we may also find that this way of thinking helps to reduce the toxic idea that stick-thin is the only acceptable body type for women, or that men have to have “ripped” abs and muscles — and there's freedom in accepting ourselves as we are, too.
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