Non-Diet Approach to Health and Weight Management
The premise of the non-diet approach to health and weight management is to honor the body’s internal hunger and fullness signals. Being mindful of when our bodies are hungry, satisfied and overfull, as well as responding accordingly, will allow our bodies to migrate to its natural weight. The results of incorporating mindfulness to eating include:
- Not feeling deprived
- Increased and/or steady energy levels
- Achieving a natural weight
- Freedom from food rules
- Improved self esteem
- Feeling comfortable in ones body
These benefits may be experienced life long as mindful eating is practiced throughout life.
Due to the fact that 95% of all diets fail, it is apparent that dieting to lose weight does not work. It is not because the dieter did something wrong. It is because counting calories or points, excluding certain foods or food groups and putting limits on when one can and cannot eat are external mechanisms which try to control the body’s weight, size and/or shape. However, our bodies are powerful and wise machines that know when they need energy (calories), when they have had enough and when they need to move. In fact, we are born with this innate ability towards eating and activity. Infants and toddlers know when they need to wiggle, are hungry and satisfied and respond accordingly. For example, a child will cry when she is hungry to let the caregiver know that she needs to eat. Additionally, a child will play with food or push it away when she is satisfied. However, as we go through life there are many external influences that tell us when, how much and what to eat, some include the time of day, someone else telling us we’ve had too much or not enough, the presence of food, stress and boredom. Unfortunately, many times we end up relying on these external cues and not our own internal ones. Sometimes we grow to not trust our internal cues, as we think we know best and can control our bodies sizes and shapes through will power or restricting.
With so many diets and information from books, the media, magazines, friends and family, it is easy to be convinced that we need a diet to be healthy and/or manage our weight. In fact, there are numerous calculations to estimate the amount of energy our bodies need, however, these are not fool proof. These calculations are rough estimates and do not account for changes in metabolism, sleep patterns, hormonal fluctuations, stress and activity levels. It is unreasonable to think that our bodies need the same amount of energy every day. Each day we move, stress and sleep different amounts, so it makes sense that our energy needs will be constantly changing. We are not able to predict the amount of energy we need on any given day, however, if we learn to trust our body and respond to its hunger and satisfaction signals we will eat the amount of food when we need it to fulfill our energy requirements.
Incorporating a non-diet approach to eating does not mean that it is a “free for all” when it comes to food consumption. It is far from that. By paying attention to what our bodies need, we learn what foods to eat and when to eat them. This does not mean that we ignore the nutritional aspects of eating either. As we become better aware of our internal cues, we will also become better at determining what it is we need to eat. For example, we may find that when we routinely consume meals or snacks that are high in carbohydrate and low in protein and fat, our energy levels drop and we become tired more frequently. When we are practicing mindful eating we will notice this and consider making changes. Perhaps we try balancing our meals and snacks with carbohydrates, protein and fat, and find that we are more energized and can focus better. Additionally, maybe we discover that when we eat many high fat foods at one time, our stomachs become uncomfortable or we get heartburn. By altering our meal to include less fat our discomfort goes away.
Our bodies are extremely smart and know what they need. Our challenge is to be able to hear what our body is telling us. As we practice mindful eating, we will become better listeners to our bodies, achieve better energy levels, become more comfortable with our self as well as body and achieve our natural weight.