How To Fearlessly Eat Without Dieting
Beth Rosen, MS, RD, CDN
Fearless eating is a skill that competent eaters intuitively possess. Unfortunately, chronic dieters have lost the ability to trust their internal cues – those feelings of hunger and satisfaction – and instead, listen to external cues that stem from diet rules, family food rules and messages from our diet-obsessed society. The idea of leaving the external rules behind when deciding to quit dieting can incite anxiety, leading many to stick with what they know, rather than setting themselves free. It is possible, with a little practice, to become a competent fearless eater without dieting.
We are all born with an internal instruction kit for practicing the essential act of keeping us alive – eating! Babies cry to inform their caregivers to feed them, and turn away when they are full. A toddler will walk away from a perfectly good piece of cake if she is no longer hungry. These cues for hunger and fullness are still within us! We may not be honoring those cues because we pay more attention to the external diet cues. These diet rules may include “don’t eat after 7pm,” “eat ‘this’ not ‘that’,” or “eat six small meals each day.” But what happens if we feel hunger after 7pm or we are craving ‘that’? When we honor the diet rules rather than our internal cues, we further tamp down our ability to self-regulate our intake. But when we believe the diet rules but honor our hunger, we feel guilt and shame for breaking the rules. How do we end this vicious cycle? With practice!
Try these tips for fearlessly eating without dieting;
- Listen out for what hunger feels like to you. It can be a grumble or a hollow feeling, but it can also be loss of concentration or a drop in energy.
- Honor those feelings of hunger and satisfaction. Listen out for those cues and eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel satisfied. Satiety feels comfortable, whereas hunger feels uncomfortable.
- Become a curious observer. When a diet rule enters your brain, question it by being curious about its role in your health and happiness. For instance, if you are hungry after 7pm, ask yourself if it is kinder to follow the rule and go to bed hungry or to honor your hunger and eat something. Chances are, you will sleep better if you aren’t hungry.
- Practice, practice, practice!
When you ditch dieting, you can finally abandon rules that have never served you. When you practice listening to what your body needs, you will finally be at peace with food.
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