The anti-diet is certainly not a new concept — it’s been around pretty much since the diet itself — but the idea that you can (and should!) eat whatever you want can seem revolutionary to anyone who’s ever tried to lose weight.
In Intuitive Eating (first published in 1995, followed by two later editions), dietitians Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole lay out their program for eradicating all the judgements and emotional hang-ups we’ve attached to eating. There are no good or bad foods, no points to keep track of, no elusive “goal weight” shimmering in the distance — no real focus on weight loss whatsoever. The point is to learn to see food as just food again.
In the age of paleo, Keto, Whole30, and a million other fad diets, eating without restriction can seem like a radical act. Deep down, however, we all know that diets are bullsh*t. And as crazy as it seems, you need to put ALL the foods on the table — even your “forbidden fruit” foods (for many dieters, carb obsession is extremely common) — so you can learn to trust yourself to make your own choices.
Making peace with food is one of the ten principles of intuitive eating. When we view certain foods as The Enemy, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that become uncontrollable cravings, and eventually lead to bingeing, which then leaves us feeling stuffed and panicked, overwhelmed with feelings of failure and guilt.
So what’s the best thing to do when you’re craving carbs? Eat them!
In intuitive eating, no food is off limits. You’ve got to listen to your cravings in order to eventually move past them. The reason you feel so crazy around bread or sweets is because you’ve spent so much time denying yourself and trying to avoid them.
Once you allow yourself to eat whatever your body is asking for (pasta, cheese, cookies — seriously, WHATEVER), your brain will get the message that this stuff isn’t going anywhere. You won’t feel like you have to fill up on as much as you can before the fun is over and it’s back to restrictive rules and “being good.”
Give Yourself Permission
Intuitive eating is about becoming a more engaged and aware eater. Letting go of rigid rules and allowing yourself to eat what you want doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly start to crave only organic, sustainable, ethically prepared foods, but it will create space for you to learn hunger and fullness cues so you have the fuel you need to feel satisfied and content.
Remember, this is not a diet! You need to give yourself permission to eat without restrictions (even if the foods you want seem “naughty”), otherwise this way of life won’t be sustainable.
In the race to lose weight, we often forget that eating can (and should) be enjoyable — not agonizing. When you eat what you really want, you’re free to enjoy every delicious bite.
Skip The Scale
Now the elephant in the room: Will it make me thin, at last?
Weight loss is possible, but that’s not the point. Body respect is one of the most important (and most difficult) principles of intuitive eating. Your body is not something to be ashamed of or starved into some specific shape.
So stop weighing yourself. It’s not an accurate reflection of how you’re doing and it just. doesn’t. matter.
You may be tempted to track your progress by stepping on the scale, but remember: scales are inherently misleading. You could be successful in losing fat and gaining muscle without seeing your weight go down (it may even go up!).
Instead, go by how you feel, how you look and how well your clothing fits.
Because body acceptance is not “giving up.” It’s deciding to see what happens when you love yourself and treat your body the way you should have been treating it all along.