Intuitive Eating: Ditch the Diets

Learning to reject the diet mentality is the first and most important principle of intuitive eating and an absolutely essential (although sometimes difficult) part of uncomplicating your relationship with food.

Although I’d now self identify as an intuitive and enthusiastic eater, I’ve tried numerous diets in my lifetime. Like many others, I tried my hand at many fad diets - all of which made me progressively unhappier and unhealthier as my body and mind suffered the consequences of my choices. But yet, I persisted, hoping that the next diet would do what so many others had failed to do: make me feel happy and at home in my body. Perhaps you have had a similar experience too. We often feel guilt and shame when we don’t get the results we expected, but the simple truth of it is, diets rarely work, and the diet industry profits hugely from this predictable failure, our resulting low self-esteem, and our attempts to try again and again. Research supports that the majority of people who lose weight on diets regain their weight (and then some) within a year. That’s not to mention the harmful effects of dieting, including weight cycling and disordered eating.

Feeling like you need to diet isn’t your fault. Diet culture conditions us to think our bodies are not good enough, placing value on being a certain size, weight, and shape over actual health. When we’re caught up in diet culture, so much of our free time and headspace is focussed on food and our bodies. When our relationship with food and our body is complicated, we miss out on being fully present, and other areas of our health (social, mental, spiritual) will often start to lack. The problem is, diet culture is sneaky and insidious, and even when we think we’ve rejected the diet mentality for good, we are still engaging in dieting behaviour and ignoring our bodies cues. Sometimes even Intuitive Eating gets co-opted as a diet!

It’s important that when learning to step away from diets for good, we are able to think critically about what kinds of information and advice are bringing us closer to a healthy relationship with food and our body, and what is only serving to widen the gap. Our Āhei definition of hauora, or wellbeing, is all about feeling good and functioning well. We think that you can do that, exactly as you are now.

Do these resonate with you? If so, you might be stuck in the diet mentality.

Do these resonate with you? If so, you might be stuck in the diet mentality.

Babies and young children have the innate ability to eat intuitively. It’s not something we have to learn, but something we have to re-learn. Ditching the diets is the first step to making peace with food for good!

Babies and young children have the innate ability to eat intuitively. It’s not something we have to learn, but something we have to re-learn. Ditching the diets is the first step to making peace with food for good!

Studies have repeatedly found that dieting leads to: 

  • Food and body preoccupation (overthinking and obsessing) 

  • Body dissatisfaction and distorted body image

  • Increased stress

  • Disordered eating, depression, low self esteem

Research shows that Intuitive Eating and body acceptance leads to positive health outcomes that far outweigh those gained by dieting. This includes improvements on physiological measures (e.g., blood pressure, blood lipids), health behaviours (e.g., eating and activity habits, dietary quality), and psychosocial outcomes (such as self-esteem and body image). That is to say, a weight loss focus is ineffective at producing thinner, healthier bodies, and if you’re pursuing health, ditching diets and uncomplicating your relationship with food is a good place to start.

The truth of it is, there is NO way to lose weight quickly, easily, and permanently, and being at a low weight is not the be-all and end-all of health. Nourishing and nurturing your body and restriction are mutually exclusive concepts, and caring for your body needs to be done in a holistic and compassionate manner (We’d encourage you to read our blogs on Te Whare Tapa Wha and HAES). My advice to you is this: do your homework, and start working on leaving dieting behind once and for all. Read up on diet culture, learn about diets in disguise, and why they fail. Log out of MyFitnessPal and put your bathroom scales away for good. Above all else, be sure to extend kindness and self-compassion to yourself as you learn, and know that we’re all in this together and learning to get off the dieting bandwagon may feel difficult, but is the best choice you can make for yourself.

This blog is not a substitute for medical, psychological, or dietetic advice, and is for informational and educational purposes only. If you or somebody you love is struggling, contact your GP, or call/text 1737 to speak to a licensed therapist.

Michaela Latimer