7 Steps to Weight Loss Without Dieting, Deprivation and Guilt
By Michelle May, M.D.
If your commitment to eat right, exercise and lose weight always seems to lose its steam, you're not alone. Successful weight loss isn't just about what you're eating, but why you're eating in the first place. If you’re ready to lose weight without dieting, deprivation and guilt and decrease emotional eating, you need to know about Instinctive Eating (sometimes called intuitive eating).
To see what I mean, see if the following statements apply to you:
- I am hungry all the time
- I think about food and eating all the time
- I feel guilty when I eat certain foods
- I have trouble passing up tempting food even if I’m not hungry
- I eat when I am bored, stressed, sad, lonely or angry
- I am prone to emotional eating
- I feel too full after eating
- I eat differently in private than I do in public
- I yoyo between dieting and eating too much
If any of these statements are true for you, you've probably discovered that dieting hasn't helped you lose weight long term. To help you understand why, let’s take a look at three different eating styles: Overeating, Restrictive Eating and Instinctive Eating (or intuitive eating).
In "Overeating" people eat because it is mealtime or because something looks good - whether they're hungry or not. They are often “emotional eaters,” eating to distract themselves or cope with stress and emotions. They may also reward, comfort or entertain themselves with food. Their weight tends to go up and down depending on what is going on in their life and whether they are off or on their diet.
In "Restrictive Eating," a person controls his or her weight by dieting. They decide when, what and how much to eat based on the rules of the latest diet they are following. Since diet rules are always changing, they sometimes feel confused about what they should eat. They think of food as either "good" or "bad" - and they think of themselves as good or bad, depending on what they ate. They experience feelings of deprivation and guilt that can lead them back to overeating.
Now think about someone who doesn't struggle with his or her weight. If you're having trouble thinking of someone like that, think of a baby or a young child. This is called Instinctive Eating or intuitive eating.
People who naturally follow instinctive eating or intuitive eating just seem to know when, what and how much food they need. When their body needs fuel they get hungry, triggering an urge to eat. They simply stop eating when their hunger is satisfied. Most of them really like to eat and seem to be able to eat whatever they want. However they'll turn down even delicious food if they aren't hungry and they are less likely to respond to stress with emotional eating.
You might believe that a person who follows this instinctive eating or intuitive eating pattern has been blessed with willpower and a great metabolism. But the truth is we were all born to eat instinctively. It's just that many of us "unlearned" our natural ability to know how much to eat. The good news is that you can relearn those skills for weight loss without dieting or deprivation.
Seven essential steps to lose weight without dieting:
1. Let go of the idea that there is a perfect diet that will finally solve your problems. The answer to weight management lies within you.
2. Whenever you have an urge to eat, instead of focusing on the food, first ask yourself, "Am I hungry?" Remember that hunger is a physical feeling. It's not the same thing as appetite, cravings or the desire to eat – that is head hunger!
3. If you’re physically hungry, remember that there are no "good" or "bad" foods. You're less likely to overeat certain foods if you know that you can have them again when you really want them.
4. Give up your platinum membership in the Clean Plate Club. Stop eating when your hunger is gone but before you feel full, even if there's food left on your plate.
5. If you feel like eating even if you're not hungry, ask yourself if something in your environment triggered your urge to eat. What could you do to reduce the trigger or distract yourself from it? For example, could you put the candy dish out of sight or do something else for a while until you're actually hungry?
6. If there was an emotional trigger, ask yourself what you could do to better cope with that emotion. For instance, if stress triggered your urge to eat, could you try a relaxation exercise instead of slipping into emotional eating?
7. Don't expect yourself to be perfect - it's not possible or even necessary.
By relearning instinctive eating or intuitive eating, you'll see that eating to satisfy hunger is pleasurable and that it's good to eat foods that you enjoy. You'll find that meeting your other needs in appropriate ways will bring balance and joy to your life. By learning these important skills, you will start living a healthier lifestyle, decrease emotional eating - and lose weight without dieting, deprivation or guilt!
Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yoyo dieter and the award winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle (download the first chapter free). She conducts corporate workshops and speaks throughout the country on mindful eating and vibrant living. Learn to lose weight without dieting, deprivation or guilt with Dr. May's complimentary mini e-course at http://www.amihungry.com/mini-e-course-intro.shtml