Starting this week, the blog will begin to summarize the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating (IE). Anyone reading this is strongly encouraged to pick up a copy of Intuitive Eating, as well as The Intuitive Eating Workbook if you’re just beginning your IE journey. These posts are merely meant to give a concise look at each principle with examples, but not take the place of working with a trained professional or even reading the official book from where the information is drawn.
The first principle of Intuitive Eating is to “reject the diet mentality”. But what does this mean exactly? Well for starters, it means to reject all dieting efforts, behaviors, and thoughts. Sure it may sound simple, but understandably so, this is a very difficult place to start. Diets give a sense of control and are often tied to major life changes such as a wedding or a new job. Diets and the talk of diets (AKA diet talk) also gives individuals something to bond over; it seems that almost everyone you may meet is on some sort of diet, and what is more bonding than complaining over something such as that?
Dieting can be apparent in obvious or more insidious ways. The act of “pseudo-dieting” or following thoughts or behaviors learned from one diet or another is just as harmful as full out following a new diet. Counting calories and or carbohydrates in an effort to limit them is a form of doing so; undereating in any capacity is dieting. Only eating at certain times of day (hello intermittent fasting) or following a gluten-free or vegetarian diet for non-medical or ethical reasons are other examples. Unfortunately many times following these mentioned examples can be seen as virtuous, but do not be fooled – it is a diet.
We must appreciate that diets cause harm, and once this understanding is known it may become easier to “reject the diet mentality”. Research shows that diets have negative impacts on physical and mental health including: increased likelihood of developing an eating disorder or disordered eating; increased risk of premature death and heart disease; increased binges and cravings; lack of hunger and fullness cues; an overall sense of failure and distrust in one’s body and self.
To fully begin to adopt this principle, you will need to also remove any items in your home or life that once made up your “dieter’s toolbox”. Things such as a bathroom scale or a food scale in the kitchen, weight-loss magazines or books, or even TV shows saved on the DVR showcasing this month’s new fad diet should be deleted (a fun way to do so may be to smash your scale a la Rebecca Scritchfield, the author of Body Kindness, another fantastic tool to add to your “IE toolbox”). All of your feelings related to letting go of the diet mentality are valid. As always, have compassion for yourself and hold space for yourself while you are unlearning years’ worth of a dieting lifestyle.
Hold tight for the next post where we will dive into principle two of IE, and continue to add to your toolbox!