Updated: Jul 20
Growing up in the 80's-90s I saw A LOT of dieting going on around me. Now that I'm an adult I feel like I'm seeing the same old diets come back around with new and catchy names all with the same promise--weight loss and happiness. I can tell you from my experience in working with many people who have lived a life full of dieting--it does not work. Sure there are the VERY few people that it does work for but that is not the norm. And even those few people tell me that they weren't any happier. Whatever issues were going on remained even after the weight was gone.
So what do we do? If a diet isn't the answer then what is? I get it--you may not want to learn the best way to take care of your body. A diet certainly sounds easier because you just follow the plan. Working on your relationship with food and learning how different foods impact your individual body takes some time and effort on your part. Working with a Registered Dietitian + Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and a therapist can be really helpful especially if you have a long history of dieting or lots of food rules. I know this may sound overwhelming so here are 3 things you can do today to start shifting your mindset from dieting--> just eating in a way that feels good and easy
Tip #1 - Stop Tracking
I know this is a hard one to give up. Stop tracking your intake and the calories burned during your workout and stay off the scale. Tracking intake and calories burned doesn't provide us with very accurate data anyways! And the scale shows us nothing about body composition. That weight gain could be muscle mass (which is a good thing) or it could just be some water weight from a salty meal you had earlier.
Did you know that nutrition labels can be 20% off in either direction? And depending on the activity you're doing, your tracker may not be that accurate either. If the numbers aren't accurate it's very likely that the decisions you're making based off of them aren't the ones that are going to make you a healthier person.
Tip #2 - Listen to YOUR body
If you're not tracking all those things then how do you know what to do? Lucky for us-- our body is really smart and has many processes in place to make sure we're getting what we need. We tend to think we know better and try to mess with it (diets, alkaline water, etc...). Your body will tell you when it wants food. You have probably heard it and told it to be quiet because according to your diet, it wasn't time to eat. If you haven't been listening, it may take some time to hear those hunger signals again. I like to use the Hunger & Fullness Scale to help put this into perspective. You can download a copy of it here!
"What If you viewed your body sensations like personal biological text messages? What if you kindly offered your body the same level of attentiveness you give your cell phone-- just checking in for physical messages that may need your attention." – Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CERD-S
Tip #3 - Start thinking about what foods you enjoy
I used to eat things like brown rice and salmon several times a week but guess what-- I don't really enjoy either of those things that much. I was only eating them because they are "healthy". Your MENTAL health plays a big role in your overall health. And if you're eating foods and doing workouts that you don't like just for the sake of health-- you're missing the point and not doing yourself any favors. I know it may sound crazy but you can eat foods you like and enjoy moving your body and be healthy. Healthy looks different for all of us. That's why it's important to listen to YOUR own body (tip #2) because you could eat the same way and do the same workouts as that person on instagram and you would look and feel completely different.
When you eat the foods that you enjoy you tend to feel more satisfied which tends to make you eat the amount of food you actually need in that moment. Here's an example: I tried a new recipe and was super excited about it. I took the first bite and it was just not what I expected. I ate it because I didn't want to waste it as I had just spent an hour preparing it. WHILE I was eating I was already thinking about what I was going to have for a snack after dinner. I was physically FULL from eating the dinner but I was completely unsatisfied which meant I was on the hunt for more food so that I could feel satisfied.
Maybe you've ate a salad with all veggies and no dressing only to find yourself ravenous 30 minutes later and grabbing whatever you can find. Same thing. Start thinking about what foods you enjoy. What spices do you like? Do you need a variety of colors, tastes, textures, etc.. on your plate? Do you like mixed dishes or do you like your food separate? YOU get to decide what makes a meal satisfying.
You don't need to diet. This is your permission to stop treating your body like garbage and start taking care of it.
If this has been a struggle for you don't be afraid to take charge and make a change. Whether it's working with professionals like Dietitians here at Endurance Nutrition, a therapist or doing some journaling on your own.
Kayla Fitzgerald is a Registered Dietitian & Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor located in Charleston, South Carolina. She works with clients 1:1, through small group coaching, and self guided programs. Her goal is to help you fuel your body for whatever the day has in store whether it's a 100 mile race or getting through the work day.