I remember when I first starting hearing about the craaaazy idea of not dieting and it’s safe to say, I was not convinced. Dieting was my religion and I was not prepared to give up on it unless someone could give me some hard facts & evidence that would revolutionise my thinking. I can’t give things up easily. I can become easily obsessive and the only way to break myself free from an idea or habit is to wholeheartedly want to. You could try and persuade me until you’re blue in the face but until I believe it, I won’t budge. But when I do believe it, I become elated in my new found knowledge and want to share it with anyone who will listen. But I’ve met many people, many friends who don’t agree with my thoughts on diets and that’s okay. We don’t have to see eye to eye on everything. You don’t have to feel afraid to argue with what I have to say because I have been in your shoes. I get it. Diets are addictive. Although I don’t always have the answers right away, I will do what I can to get back to you because I want to be able to engage with you on the topic. But please just be careful about the things you’re telling me. Diet talk is extremely triggering so if I ever ask for a conversation to end or won’t respond to something you’re telling me, please respect that, because I’m just trying to protect myself. I think I’m posting this just as the right time as the diet pressure when Summer comes round always steps up a notch. I’ve spoken more about this here: Summer body ready.
Here is a lowdown of some of the things that have changed my thinking about diets forever:
The Minnesota Starvation experiment
This was a clinical study performed at the University of Minnesota in 1944/45. The investigation was designed to determine the physiological and psychological effects of severe and prolonged dietary restriction. The men were fed 1,600 calories a day and their mental and physical health deteriorated drastically and drove them to insanity. No restrictions were placed on their lives other than that they had to exercise, keep a diary and only eat the prescribed meals to adhere to the set calorie intake. The men became obsessed with food (beyond belief) and declared skeletal. A reminder that this was on 1,600 calories a day whereas many modern diets are prescribing as little as 1,200 calories a day for a “slow and steady” weight loss plan. To read a full report of the study please click here. Caroline Dooner also created a podcast episode all about the findings which you can listen to here. This study was pivotal to the shift in my thinking and I would recommend it to anyone who needs solid evidence about the effects of food restriction.
Everyone has a set weight point
Just as you have no control over your height, eye color or hair color, you also have no control over what your set weight point will be. Your body is biologically and genetically determined to weigh within a certain weight range. This set point varies for each individual person which makes a BMI chart troublesome. When you go below your body’s natural set point, both appetite and metabolism adjust to try to return you to your set point. Your metabolism may slow down to try and conserve energy. Your body will start to sense it’s in a state of semi-starvation and will try to use the food it receives more effectively. This is why diets so often lead to uncontrollable urges to binges. It’s your body literally screaming out for more food because it needs the fuel to function properly. This is also the reason that so often people who lose weight put it all back on again (and more). There is no test available to tell you what your body’s natural set point is. However, you can find your own set point by listening to your body and responding by eating. If you have been dieting for years, it can take up to a year of normal eating for your body’s metabolism to function properly and return you to the weight range that is healthy for you. If your body is not destined to be the weight you are urging it to be, it will not stay that way.The more you try to go below your body’s set point range, the harder your body will fight to retain it’s natural weight.
Intuitive eating is effectively what saved me from diets. We are born as intuitive eaters, when babies are hungry, they cry, they eat until they’re hungry again when they’ll repeat the pattern. It isn’t until rules and restrictions are set around food that we lose our inner intuitive eater. We learn to finish the entire plate of food in front of us, we learn that sweet foods are “treats”, we learn that we have to eat our vegetables before eating dessert. These are a few of the main food rules people experience as a child but there are so many more which come in to play when we start playing around with diets. Restricting our bodies of anything isn’t good and intuitive eating means going back to basics and allowing what every your body is craving in abundance.
To summarise, the main principles of intuitive eating are:
Rejecting diet mentality
Honouring your hunger
Challenging the existing rules you have around food
Respecting your fullness
Honouring your feelings without using food
Respecting your body
Moving in ways that feel good
When I first started practising intuitive eating I managed to turn it into another diet, I only ate when I was hungry and berated myself if I ate beyond full. It’s important to keep this as relaxed as possible and understand that there will be times when you eat when not physically hungry and beyond fullness and this is perfectly normal. I took part in Jamie Mendell’s 21 day intuitive eating challenge at the very start of anti diet journey. I did an interview with her about my experience of the challenge & how I intuitively ate whilst on holiday, which you can find here. I’ve never watched the whole thing through or shared it openly before so I hope you’ll find it useful. Jamie is an incredible woman and I really recommend reading everything she has to say. I have spoken more about intuitive eating here: Anti diet 101.
Diet companies are lying to you
The diet industry is a business which sells on the premise that we need to change our bodies. If everyone decided this wasn’t true, the corporation would crumble overnight. Furthermore, if diets actually worked then diet companies wouldn’t make money because people wouldn’t need to keep going back to them! Also, if these plans really worked, why would there be a constant stream of new diets with a completely different method? It’s because the diet industry is all about commerce and they are busy plotting the next idea to sell us on. It’s hard to break free from a diet mentality when advertising is shouting at every possible moment that they promise they can make us lose weight fast, that if we buy their shakes then we’ll magically drop a dress size, that thinness = happiness. Whilst these plans may work in the short term, they come at the cost of physical and mental decline and before long your body will crave more food and you will return to your set weight point.
Instead of succumbing to the next diet on the market why not make a commitment to accept your body as it is right now?
Instead of succumbing to the next diet on the market why not allow yourself to eat whatever you want to?
Instead of succumbing to the next diet on the market why not look into the body positivity movement & health at every size?
Instead of succumbing to the next diet on the market why not use that brain energy to take up a new hobby or expand your creativity?
Instead of succumbing to the next diet on the market why not choose freedom?