What's an 'Anti-Diet'—and Is it for You?

September 4, 2015
by Michelle Pellizzon for Thrive Market
What's an 'Anti-Diet'—and Is it for You?

We're a nation obsessed with food—and also with restricting it.

Ninety-one percent of the American population has, at some point, subjected themselves to a diet. In fact, at this very moment, there are 45 million people currently counting calories, tallying points, or eschewing anything that isn't "non-fat." But diets rarely have lasting effects, and more often than not they aren't even that healthy.

And living life constantly on a 'diet' triggers food issues that can linger a lot longer than those dropped pounds. Enter the idea of Intuitive Eating—the anti-diet.

After decades of diet trends–low fat, low carb, master cleanse, vegan, vegetarian–Intuitive Eating emerged as an alternative. Instead of putting people on a strict plan, Intuitive Eating encourages adopters to eat whatever they would like and whatever they’re craving. There are no “good” foods or “bad” foods, it’s all just food.

By giving yourself permission to eat the foods that you crave, Intuitive Eating assures devotees that instead of losing control when you finally give yourself permission to eat that carb-laden bagel that’s been on your off-limits food list for years, you’ll actually be able to experience pleasure and satiety from what you eat.

Skeptical that it's possible to lose weight by eating whatever you want? It works for some people. Science is starting to disprove the theory that calories are the only thing that determines weight gain, and Intuitive Eating is gaining more clout because of its positive results.

The keys to eating intuitively are mindfulness, awareness, and trust. It can be tough to adjust at first, but once you do you’ll find that Intuitive Eating is obvious and second nature. And, surprisingly, the weight will naturally fall off.

First things first: Acknowledge emotional hunger versus biological hunger. When you are truly hungry–rumbly stomach kind of hungry–by all means, eat. But if you’re eating because you simply need to get out of a stressful office environment, because you’re sad, or maybe just out of boredom, stop yourself. But it's important to listen to hunger pangs when they're biological, because the types of food you crave will be different than foods you may crave while emotionally eating.

So you’ve decided your body is biologically hungry. Here comes the tricky part: Recognize there is no such thing as good food or bad food. Nothing is off limits to you, and ignore every diet book you’ve ever read. Even if you crave spaghetti and meatballs for breakfast, that’s okay. Eventually you’ll notice your body’s cravings even out, and naturally your body will start to gravitate toward a more balanced diet.

But following Intuitive Eating doesn't mean it's ok to order three double cheeseburgers and house them in two minutes flat–if you're truly hungry enough to eat three cheeseburgers, you were probably ignoring your body's biological hunger before. Next time, eat before you get to the point of ravenous.

When you finally decide on what you want to eat, be mindful. This doesn’t mean you have to meditate or say a prayer or anything before you dig in, but instead, take pleasure in the art of eating and tasting. Turn off the TV, phone, or computer. Eat your food a little more slowly, and enjoy the taste of it in your mouth. After all, if you’re eating intuitively you’ve picked a food that you really love and that you were truly craving… so don’t you want to take a moment to enjoy it?

That idea, the pleasure of eating food, is exactly why Intuitive Eating can work for people who've had diets fail in the past. The awareness that comes with choosing food based off of what your body craves forces the eater to notice when they’re hungry, why they are hungry, and most importantly, when they’re full.

Those who practice intuitive eating also recommend regular fun exercise to keep your body moving and joints lubricated; again, the goal here is not to burn a ton of calories or dominate a workout, but instead to nourish the body with movement.

If you've grown up following diets and counting calories, Intuitive Eating can almost seem overwhelming–too much choice! But if you're ready to throw your low-fat cookbooks and food points out the window, it can be a lifelong eating plan that supports and evolves with you. Photo credit: Niklas Rhose via Unsplash

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This article is related to: Diet, Nutrition, Weight Loss, Hunger, Intuitive eating

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  • http://sanniti.tripod.com/ Cinzia

    I had food issues until I learned to intuitively eat back in 2011. It's not easy to start - especially if you're not loving yourself or feeling sad or bored. The clue for me was to create interest around me other than for food. It's true what she says once you eat what you want - control and out-of-control go out the window and your weight stabilizes.

  • Legend79

    While I agree with the concepts presented...theres a long way between figuring out bio-hunger from emo-hunger. Emo-eating is often firmly wrapped up in a few other emo-behaviors. Like obsessive shopping, where the shopping and eating become part of the emotional satisfaction cycle. Like i know many people who go to the mall to buy some more stuff, then treat themselves at the food court when stressed. Or emo-exercising, followed by a food binge. "I worked out hard Wed,Thur,Fri...now I have the weekend to recuperate and eat more stuff."

    Again I agree with the concepts...they need to be brought up, but emo-hunger versus real bio-hunger are not so easy to differentiate for most people with serious food based issues. Plus what also needs to be addressed, maybe in another blog entry is what might cause a craving for say the spaghetti and meatballs at breakfast, over a dinner time craving for cake, cake and more cake. What's out of whack? Do most people know that carb craving can be satisfied with some protein? Do people know that going hungry and letting it pass and not giving in is a good thing. That most people won't crash hard if they skip a meal now and then. That going hungry, actually going hungry for a day won't kill anyone, and it might help in the long run...?