We are Stuck in the Thin Ideal! Say NO to Diets and YES to “Intuitive Eating”

The pressure to look good is no secret; it’s bred into us from birth. Advertising especially targets prepubescent girls, hawking make-up and designer clothes. By the time they’re teens, more than half of all girls say their appearance is the prime concern of their lives.

Not every teen who diets to fit society’s definition of beautiful will develop an eating disorder. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetics, psychological issues, and social factors, such as a culture that promotes thinness above all else. Eating disorders are, however, an epidemic:

  • Seven million women and one million men suffer from an eating disorder.
  • 86 percent are afflicted before they turn 20.
  • Only half say they’ve been cured.


Friends singing songs in park having fun together with one girl playing the guitar, diversity group of African, Asian and Caucasian people

The thin ideal as a risk factor for eating disorders?

We are stuck in a true cultural crisis: in our perpetual struggle to meet the Madison Avenue definition of beauty, we lose ourselves. The thin ideal that is constantly being perpetuated is an unattainable standard for most people. Our genetics dictate our body weight much more than our diet and exercise program ever will. We are all designed to be in different body shapes and sizes. It has become clear that dieting does not work. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, Ninety-five percent of dieters regain their lost weight. Plus, many of those who have “failed” put on additional weight within one to five years.

The 5% of “successful dieters” are usually successful because they have actually adopted a new lifestyle, not because they have stuck to their rigid new way of eating. Dieting, in fact, is a risk factor for the development of an eating disorder.

Here is what happens to you on a diet:

  • Increase in binge eating; starvation leads to binge behavior!
  • Decreased metabolic rate
  • Increased preoccupation with food
  • Increased feelings of deprivation
  • Increased sense of failure
  • Decreased sense of willpower


What to do?

If you suspect that you or someone you know has an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Talk to an MD, therapist or dietitian trained in treating eating disorders. The problem is unlikely to go away by itself, and early intervention is key to recovery. You can also contact the National Eating Disorders Association Information Referral Helpline:


 Learn to eat intuitively! With intuitive eating, you will learn to be “in charge” of your food intake from the inside out. You will decide what, how much, when and how you will eat. Here are some tips to get started:

Let go of the dieting mentality! Diets only increase body weight.

Eat regular meals and snacks It’s easy to overeat if you’re famished. If you know you’ll be on a tight schedule, pack a variety of snacks such as fruit, nuts, and/or bars so you will be able to choose a satisfying food when you are actually hungry.

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Plan ahead. Decide what and when to eat, make a shopping list, and stick to it. Enjoy preparing your food as much as you’ll enjoy serving and eating it.

Eat slowly. It takes about twenty minutes for your brain to get the message that you’re full. Chew your food thoroughly and put your fork down between bites.

Eat mindfully. See if you can eat without watching the news, reading or looking at your phone! If you pay attention to your food you can truly savor it.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Studies have shown that a feeling of hunger can actually be thirst, misinterpreted.

Intuitive Eating is a system of responding to your body’s own natural signals of hunger and fullness, as well as enjoying movement, gentle nutrition, and fully rejecting the dieting mentality. Studies have shown this approach to improve self-esteem and body confidence, as well as achieve a healthy weight that is just right for your body.

To learn more about Intuitive Eating and/or preventing eating disorders, shoot me an email! Erica@ericaleon.com, I offer individual as well as group nutrition counseling and coaching and we can discuss how we can help you!


Have a peaceful week!






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