Destroying Dieting Myths

This article is the first in a series detailing the science-based approach to healthfully nourishing ourselves known as Intuitive Eating and the sensible approach to good health described by Health at Every Size.

This article is the first in a series detailing the science-based approach to healthfully nourishing ourselves known as Intuitive Eating and the sensible approach to good health described by Health at Every Size.

Diets Don’t Work

Why would anyone give up dieting? Isn’t getting thin the most important thing you can do for good health? We are inundated with studies, news stories, diet ads, and Facebook posts about how bad fat is and how to lose weight. It is hard to see the facts underneath all of this noise.  But when you are able to slow down and look at the evidence, it becomes clear. Diets don’t work. For the majority of people who are fat and go on a diet to lose weight, the results are the same: temporary weight loss, and over time, weight regain—sometimes at levels higher than when the diet began. Those diet ads and Facebook posts of before and after bikini body shots don’t emphasize that “results aren’t typical.” In studies called “successful,” weight regain occurs within the first year or even sooner. Consumers blame themselves for a product—the diet plan—that doesn’t work for most people.

Turning away from short-term dieting with the nearly guaranteed weight regain and toward a sustainable and normalized way to feed ourselves is hard. But in this series I hope to arm you with the information you need to make sustainable and healthful choices about eating, moving, and living in a world that tries to force each of us into a cookie-cutter model of what healthy looks like. You can’t tell by looking at people what their health is. Cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, muscle strength, stamina, lung capacity, and so on are not able to be assessed with a quick glance.

Natural Hunger Signals

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By rejecting weight-loss dieting, an artificial way of nourishing yourself, you can learn to eat foods that you enjoy, eating enough of them to feel satisfied and to stop when you’ve had enough. Radical, right? The co-author of the book Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole, gave an example of how crazy our behavior is around diets. We wouldn’t consider ourselves “good” if we had to “pee” and held it instead, according to a fad urination plan we were following, or “bad” if we gave into this natural desire. But that is exactly what we do with our hunger and fullness signals.  We follow diets and try to override our natural signals until we can no longer hear them and can’t tell when we are hungry or full.

Normal Eating

The opposite of dieting isn’t binge eating, it is normal eating, something that chronic dieting interferes with. Instead, think about a different approach. Over the next articles you will learn more supportive ways to continue on this path.  For now, the abbreviated definition of Normal Eating by internationally recognized eating and feeding expert, Ellyn Satter, is something to ponder:

Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food…Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

For More Information

Intuitive Eating   www.intuitiveeating.com

Ellyn Satter Institute http://ellynsatterinstitute.org

Health At Every Size: www.haescommunity.org

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Mary Saucier Choate

Mary Saucier Choate

Mary Saucier Choate, M.S., R.D.N., L.D., is a dietitian and long-time Co-op member. She is the manager for Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement at the Partnership for Food Safety Education.
Mary Saucier Choate

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