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This February, I started and quit Whole 30 for the fourth time. Over the course of this summer, I tried counting my macros, counting calories, cutting carbs. I made all of these changes and disguised them as a pursuit of better health when they were really all about one thing: I wanted to fit in my size 6 skinny jeans again. How's that for honesty?
And then, someone recommended a book called "Intuitive Eating." Thank God they did, because I was in a cycle of chronic dieting and I was miserable. Intuitive Eating was a game-changer for me. The authors harp on one central idea: Our bodies can be trusted to tell us when we are hungry, when we are satisfied and what we should eat. Instead of living a balanced lifestyle of eating nutritious foods whenever we are hungry and allowing ourselves a treat when we have a craving, we have stopped listening to our bodies and we are doing more harm than good. We set ourselves strict calorie limits, eat low-fat or low-carb foods and we deprive ourselves of the nutrition our bodies need to run properly.
Now, I follow the "rules" of intuitive eating, which requires you to give up all the rules of eating you have been forcing on yourself for so long. The authors encourage a gentle approach to nutrition, they want you to eat nutritious food because you want to care for you body—not because you are trying to lose a few pounds. Instead, you should always feed yourself when you are hungry, never eat something that doesn't taste good, choose to eat things because you love the way they taste and the way your body feels after eating them, and always stop eating the second you feel satisfied. After blitzing through the book, I tossed the scale and ditched dieting for good. Here's why I think you should, too:
Our bodies were created with survival in mind and restricting our food intake sends our bodies a really confusing message. When we deprive our bodies of foods regularly, whether through calorie counting or avoiding a certain food group, we teach our bodies there is a chance there may not be enough food in the future. So, our bodies get smarter, they slow down our metabolism and work harder to hold on to fat.
In the long run, we forget how to listen to our bodies.
It's normal to feel hungry and eat until you are satisfied, but diet culture suggests it is better the eat less and ignore your hunger or suppress your appetite. In the long run, we forget how to listen to our bodies and we lose touch with how it feels to be hungry and how it feels to be satisfied.
3. Diets activate a biological drive to binge.
Have you ever noticed how, once you start a diet, you feel hungry all of the time and you want everything you can't have? Your body needs calories, carbs and fats for daily activities and it isn't giving up those nutrients without a fight. In the end, your cravings for off-limits foods will increase and you will usually wind up overeating when you finally allow yourself "just a bite" of the off-limits food.
There is a lot of pressure to be thin and there are a whole lot of people hell bent on spreading the idea that only thin bodies are beautiful. Dieting is a result of falling for that myth, but I'm not buying it anymore.
7. Body weight isn't an accurate measure of health.
Not only has it become clear Body Mass Index is a wildly inaccurate measurement of health, being overweight also has far less to do with your health than most believe. In fact, there is a whole lot of research confirming quality of health habits correlates more with overall health than body weight.
8. We forget how to care for our bodies.
When a number on a scale becomes our primary measure of health, we begin to forget how to care for our bodies. We start judging every bite of food based on its calorie count, instead of the energy it supplies, how we feel after eating it, and the pleasure it provides.
9. Obsession with weight loss makes exercise a chore.
When was the last time you exercised for fun? When the sole purpose of exercise is to burn calories or lose weight, we forget how great our bodies feel when we move. Stop counting the pounds and enjoy the workout. And maybe taking the pressure off will reveal that we may totally hate running, but bike riding or swimming are a blast.
When we put our own bodies through torture and criticize what we see in the mirror, what message are we really sending our daughters?
Most moms would agree—they would never want their own daughters to punish their bodies with extreme diets, restrictive eating, and dangerous levels of exercise. But when we put our own bodies through torture and criticize what we see in the mirror, what message are we really sending our daughters?
11. There are more important ways to spend our time and emotions.
OK, so I promise not to say, "there are starving kids in Africa," but can we all at least acknowledge that there a way more important ways to spend our time and emotions than obsessing over our appearance? No judgment here; this is coming from someone who has shed actual tears over too-tight jeans.
12. Diets suck.
Okay, so I don't have any scientific backing for this one but I would love to hear from someone who actually enjoys saying no to their favorite foods and obsessing over the calorie count of every item they put in their mouth.
Is it just me, or does the pressure to be thin distract from all the totally amazing things we have to offer as women? You and I bring way more to the table than our physical appearance. It's time to stop apologizing to our bodies and embrace all of the things that make us a unique and important part of the world.