The internet is full of advice and opinions when it comes to overweight people and the obesity epidemic in our western culture. There are the miracle pills and fad diets promising the holy grail of getting skinny in ten days as well as several body consciousness movements from Intuitive Eating to HAES that tell us to stop dieting, ditch the scales and accept body diversity and practice body awareness. The problem that I have always had with all of this information is that I could never quite decide which approach to take and just thinking about it all would paralyze me and make me reach for the next tub of Haagen Dazs! Until one day I thought: why not do both? Why not use the methods of dieting and the principles of Intuitive Eating? Intuitive Dieting™ may sounds like one big oxymoron but suddenly things began to make sense to me.
But diets don't work.
Here is a little exercise: go and google "diets don't work." Yep. Dieting has got itself a bad rep. And the statistics seem to support this - 95% of diets fail and most dieters will regain more than they lost within five years. And I can of course attest to this myself as I have never managed to keep any of the weight off that I lost through dieting. So why would I even entertain the idea of making dieting a part of my program?
For me it comes down to a simple truth: I don't get too hung up on the word diet. To me, a diet is a mechanism I use to help me control my portions so to create the calorie deficit I need to lose weight. It works. If I stick to it. Which of course is the mind-maze where everything tends to go wrong. I realized that diets would never work for me as long as I regarded them as this external thing that would save me, i.e. as long as I was looking for the answers outside of myself. But what if I started searching for the answers within and used dieting as a structural support tool to get me going and to lean on when things got a little tough on the soul searching side of things?
Digging deep into the core of whatever it is that causes you to turn to food for comfort can be difficult and draining - and the resistance monster will rear its ugly head on a regular basis and try and send you straight back into the arms of Ben & Jerry. Those are the times when the diet-part of my program becomes really important and when, for instance, tracking my food in MyFitnessPal is helping me not fall off the wagon. The structure provided by this external piece of my program helps me immensely while I do the internal work that is needed for long-term success.
So where does Intuitive Eating fit in here?
The concept of Intuitive Eating has been around for a few decades. I love the Intuitive Eating principles, such as listening to your body’s hunger cues, because they just make so much sense to me. Yet even with Intuitive Eating I used to approach it the same way as dieting, i.e. one moment I was eating intuitively and the next I would go on a binge and stop following the Intuitive Eating guidelines. I treated it as just another program that I was either on or not. Which, of course, is so not the point of Intuitive Eating.
So how does Intuitive Eating help me when I am already applying dieting methods to lose weight? On its most basic level Intuitive Dieting™ means using dieting methods to control my portions and Intuitive Eating principles to determine what I eat and when. I constantly ask my body: Are you hungry, what do you want? Observing the guidelines of Intuitive Eating helps me understand the difference between my mind’s and my body’s cravings and I am learning to create more alignment between the two.
My body is infinitely wise. If it is overweight it does, for example, not want a lot of food. By keeping a certain calorie limit I train myself to be more in tune with those body messages and by keeping a line of inquiry open to my body I am learning what it really needs. When I am physically hungry, for instance, I use colors a lot and ask my body whether it feels like something fresh and green, or warming and red, or perhaps light and yellow. So I am not just putting any food on the table that is within my calorie budget but I actively work with my body to give it the nutrition it wants.
And what does falling in love with cooking have to do with any of this?
Despite coming from a family of wonderful chefs I have always been a reluctant cook. Often times it’s sheer apathy and resistance to putting in a bit of effort and not minding the planning, shopping and cleaning.
For me, cooking is all about taking action and being in the present moment, neither of which is something that comes easily to me. But I know that this is exactly the key to unraveling my years of overeating and tuning out: learning to be more active while enjoying the moment and the sensual expression that is cooking.