The most common refrain I hear from my clients struggling with overcoming disordered eating is, “I know I’ll feel better if I could just lose some weight!” And now that it’s spring, I hear it from just about everyone else!
It’s impossible to avoid seeing and hearing commercials for the latest and greatest fad diet. Here is the news everyone! I don’t care what you weigh because I am an anti-diet dietitian. That means that I practice from a weight-neutral place.
I know that sounds radical, but the fact is, I care more about the habits you choose to work on to feel better in your body and more at peace with food than your weight. This is because diets just don’t work in the long-term. Yes, anyone can lose weight, but the problem is keeping that weight off. By five years post diet, most, if not all, dieters will have regained the original weight lost, plus more!
We have hundreds of studies to date* showing this to be true, but it seems such a radical concept for people, as well as health care professionals, to take in. If diets don’t work, why do we continue prescribing them? Who would agree to any other medical procedure that had a 95-97% failure rate? It is a very good question to ask yourself!
If diets don’t work, what does?
Read on to learn what can be a better option.
How Can You Resist the Urge to Diet?
I believe that the best way to manage your well-being, both physically and emotionally, is through the practice of intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is a process-based approach to food that helps a person eat without a rigid set of rules or guidelines. It does not rely on weight loss as a measure of success; rather, making small steps to feel more comfortable and satisfied with your food choices, as well as your body image.
Studies show that people take better care of themselves when they have more positive attitudes towards their bodies. Intuitive eating helps you become the expert of your body as you learn to decide when you are hungry, when you are full, and which types of foods you might enjoy eating. Intuitive eating also helps you find “nourishing” ways of moving your body, which improves body image. After all, it’s easier to take care of something (your body) that you actually like!
What can I do if I am uncomfortable in my current body – my stomach is always getting in the way and I just “feel fat.”
There are four things you can do right now in your current body, no matter its shape or size, to become more comfortable, see health improvements and participate in life!
- Movement: Consider starting a walking program to improve your cardiovascular, as well as mental health! Of course, you would always want to check in with your doctor if you haven’t exercised for a while, or if you have exercised too much! Doing gentle yoga and/or strength training can help you feel more comfortable in your current body. We simply don’t have to focus on weight loss as a final goal; Our goal can be to feel better and also to participate in life! Don’t wait until tomorrow to put on a bathing suit and swim with your children.
- Well-Fitting Clothing: Find clothing that fits you right now. While we don’t all have a budget to go and shop for new clothing, you can try thrift shops or even hold clothing swaps with friends. If your size changes often, consider storing ill-fitting clothing out of sight. Make sure that your underwear fits properly and doesn’t pinch! For women, it’s very important to have a bra that fits properly. You can have yourself measured properly in a store that sells bras. There is NOTHING worse than feeling that your undergarments do not fit you well.
- Tune in to Your Body: Start to notice those parts of your body that feel comfortable or uncomfortable. If your back bothers you, consider a gentle stretch, yoga or even massage. Think about trying meditation as a way of tuning into your body.
- Create Space for Yourself: Work on creating space for yourself, both literally and figuratively. For example, don’t be embarrassed to ask for a chair without arms, if that feels more comfortable. When shopping for clothes, ask the salesperson for help, if that’s what you need! This can be particularly important if your size has changed or is changing while you are recovering from restrictive eating or chronic dieting. Sometimes, we need to mourn the loss of being able to make our bodies a certain size. Genetics has much more control over our shape and size than we realize. Trying to make your body fit into clothing and spaces that don’t fit it is not attainable, not sustainable, and it’s also not good for you. The bottom line — self-care is about taking care of the body you own in the here and now. Take care of it, to move it, and then fuel it!
Studies Supporting the Lack of Evidence for Effective and Sustained Weight Loss:
- Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Mann T1, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E, Lew AM, Samuels B, Chatman J.
- Dieting Does Not Work, UCLA Researchers Report
- Long-term Effects of Dieting: Is Weight Loss Related to Health? A. Janet Tomiyama, Britt Ahlstrom, and Traci Mann
- How effective are traditional dietary and exercise interventions for weight loss? Miller, WC
- Methods for voluntary weight loss and control. NIH Technology Assessment Conference Panel.
- Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift. Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor
- The downside of weight loss: Realistic intervention in body-weight trajectory
- Intentional Weight Loss and Longevity in Overweight Patients with Type 2 Diabetes
Learn to become an Intuitive Eater!
Intuitive Eating Essentials for Midlife, Menopause and Beyond: This is a self-paced program that explores your relationship with food, your dieting history, readiness to integrate intuitive eating into your life, and teaches you how to use your values to make peace with food. This program is geared for women in Midlife, Menopause and Beyond with special lessons dedicated to how we change as we age and what role nutrition can play. Click here for all the details!