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Intuitive eating is the new dieting (but let’s not get lost in translation!)

By May 8, 2018March 17th, 201952 Thoughts for the Chronic Dieter

Let’s face it, (for good reason) dieting is dying a slow death, and intuitive eating is being born into public awareness.  But for non-dieting* to become all it can be – and fulfill its promise of changing the way the modern world eats – we need to understand it, nurture it, and develop it beyond it’s current state.

There is a lot of confusion around intuitive eating, mindful eating, and non-diet approaches to eating, physical activity, weight, and health, so let me make it all a bit clearer for you.

Non-dieting is entering the mainstream.

While I’m sure we’ll be hearing the death rattles of diet culture for decades to come, people are flocking to intuitive eating in droves.  The most uplifting change I’ve seen over my career is in attitudes to non-dieting.  Ten years ago I remember being one of the odd-balls at every academic conference I went to, “raving on” about the PC ideology of body positivity and esoteric theories of intuitive eating and balanced physical activity.  Fast forward to today and I am heartened to find myself at the same conferences surrounded by a community of like-minded colleagues speaking the new language of body-positivity, sustainable habits, and holistic health**.  More recently (and perhaps more excitingly) I notice a similar shift in public opinion.  Only 5 years ago it was impossible to share non-dieting messages in mainstream media – journalists would refuse to publish, purposely misquote, or inadvertently warp the ideas to fit the diet culture that consumed them.  Already this year I have, with a big smile in my heart, shared non-diet messages authentically in magazines and on TV. In fact, I just did another interview with Women’s Health Magazine just yesterday!  The world is saying it’s ready for a new approach, and the times they-are-a-changing.

But we have to do it better.

If you are going to follow us health professionals down the non-dieting rabbit hole, we must be responsible for leading you to a better place.  We have to be mindful not to turn intuitive eating into another dieting fad and equally careful not to replace the old “weight loss is everything” dogma with one of “gain as much weight as you want” – because at the end of the day you come to see us wanting to improve your health and wellbeing.  More importantly, YOU have to know about non-dieting, because there is a lot of confusion out there.  I’d really encourage you to explore the non-dieting world further (and my free videos and blogs are a good place to begin), but let me give you some of the basic ideas on what non-dieting is (and isn’t) to get you started:

Non-dieting is about

Non-dieting isn’t about

Letting go of the focus on weight, calories, and restriction and learning to listen to your natural signs to start and stop eating.  Eating mindfully and noticing how different foods affect your body.
If you want to eat whatever you want whenever you want, that’s totally fine!  But this is not what I do with people as they see me because they want to improve their eating habits.
Finding ways of physical movement you can enjoy, feel comfortable doing, develop confidence in, do free of embarrassment and sustain for life.
If you want to be completely sedentary, that’s totally cool with me too – it’s just not what I do with people, who see me as they want to improve their physical activity habits.
Understanding that health, fitness, wellbeing, and successful living comes in a diverse range of shapes and sizes.  Stopping putting off living until you reach a “magic number” and discovering how to nurture your body from a place of acceptance and love.
There are parts of Fat Activism and Fat Acceptance movements that encourage becoming a larger size and shape. While these movements are playing an important role reducing weight bias and promoting body positivity, I don’t promote unhealthy weight gain as people I work with want to improve their physical health.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater!

We also run the risk of casting away healthy eating habits when we reject harmful dieting practices.  An example of this is meal planning.   For many people, planning nutritious meals is a way to be prepared for healthy eating, manage time, minimise family arguments about food, and even save money.  As this process is often associated with dieting we run the risk of labeling it as unhealthy and discarding it when we adopt an intuitive eating approach, but we don’t necessarily need to abandon everything associated with past dieting.  I like to think of it like you’re having a career change; moving out of dieting and into a mindful eating role, and you have some good transferrable skills to take with you.

People always ask me:

“What about X, Is that dieting?”

The more I learn about intuitive eating the more I understand it’s the why that really matters.  If take ten deep breaths instead of eating a block of chocolate because you are worried about your weight – you are dieting.  If you take ten deep breaths instead of eating a block of chocolate as the breaths actually calm you down and help you move on with your day better than the chocolate – you are intuitively eating!  At the end of the day, it comes down to your INTENTION when making eating choices.  Of course, this means you have to be honest with yourself about if you are really adopting a non-dieting approach (many non-dieting programs are weight loss programs in disguise, and we need to be mindful that intuitive eating is NOT a weight loss tool***)

You probably understand by now that there is a bit to letting go of dieting and fully embracing intuitive eating.  But the good news is that dieting and intuitive eating are the opposite of each other.  Like a see-saw, as one goes up, the other goes down, and vice-versa!  This means you can start to tip the balance wherever you want!  You may want to start by loosening the grip diet culture has over you, or developing intuitive eating skills.  In our Naturally Healthy Habits Online Program we show you how to do both in all the detail you need to transform your relationship with food, plus help you apply non-diet principles to physical activity, answering every question you might have so you can put it ALL together!

Now you understand a bit more, we can start to move from information to transformation.  I was in session with a client today who has transformed her relationship with food.  She was telling me intuitive eating was so much easier than anything she’d done before – that’s why it works so much better – but we also acknowledged that it takes some time to develop (like anything important).  We don’t need to build Rome in a day – like intuitive eating itself, learning intuitive eating is a balanced, user friendly, and sustainable process.  So, for now, I want you to think of just ONE THING you can do to (a) let go of dieting or (b) embrace intuitive eating (trust yourself, I’m sure you’ll find something in this blog or its links you’ll be able to do – let’s not overcomplicate it).  If you do this thing, you’ll be taking the first step to becoming like my client, or my other client Jacinda, who did the work online and emailed in:

“I’m now listening to my body and eating when I’m hungry.  I’m enjoying finding out what makes me feel fuller for longer (it’s nice to not be scared of feeling hungry when I know I can have a snack if I need it).  It’s actually fun experimenting with what works for my body and not being afraid of eating the wrong things. I’m finding that with a different thought process, I’m less hungry than before but actually eating healthier and even less food…. AND I’m still looking forward to a weekend of socialising!”

I don’t even have to ask, I know you want something similar for yourself.  But will you be brave enough to take the journey, to have enough faith to finally let go of dieting, and choose to make yourself worthwhile enough to become someone who has naturally healthy eating and physical activity habits?  I want you to join my thousands of face-to-face and online clients who have completely transformed the way they eat, move, and think.

The question is, are you with me?

I created this blog for people just like you.
If you found it valuable, please help me share it with them!


Transform your Eating & Moving Habits Forever!

Find out more about our online program Naturally Healthy Habits.

*I will use the words “intuitive eating”, “non-dieting”, and “mindful eating” interchangeably.  While there are some subtle differences, practically we can consider them the same thing!
**Not only have anti-diet advocates grown in numbers, our voice has grown in prominence.  Personally, as a non-diet advocate, I have felt unspeakably honoured to now be delivering featured presentations, keynote presentations and chairing entire conferences.
***This is not to say people don’t lose weight by intuitively eating – they do!  But while intuitive eating MAY result in weight loss, it is not done for that reason.  Speaking frankly, depending on their starting bodyweight and a range of other factors, I have had success stories who lose massive amounts of weight, lose a little bit of weight, have their weight stabilise, and even some who gain weight following an intuitive eating approach.  Intuitive eating helps your body find its own natural weight – whatever that is!