The statistics are grim. Eight out of 10 dieters regain their lost weight within two years, and two-thirds put on even more weight.
Note: The operative word here is “diet.”
Yes, carrying excess weight is physically unhealthy and emotionally fretful. Yet when you’re one day, one week, or one month into a diet, hanging on by your fingernails and having fantasies of nachos, French fries, chocolate chip cookies, and ice cream—all in one sitting—you know it too: Diets aren’t the answer.
So what is?
To start: Changing your beliefs about your body and your life. There’s a reason why you eat the way you do. Just flipping the switch and pretending that you like another way of eating without examining your motives is bound to fail. That examination likely may require a therapist, coach, or support group.
Next, you need to learn to eat anew. Intuitive eating experts recommend returning to what I consider a childlike (meaning perfectly natural) way of eating: Eat only (or nearly only) when you are hungry, eat what your body (not your mind!) craves, and eat until you are satisfied (not stuffed.) Research shows children up to a certain age innately know what and how much their bodies need—before they get distracted by life and run off with their friends to play again—so it’s a good bet that getting back in touch with, and responding to, your natural hunger cues will lead to your more natural weight.
Mindfulness instructors will add that a key component of becoming a savvy eater is paying attention to your food: engaging all your senses, eating slowly and chewing thoroughly, putting your fork down between bites to savor each mouthful.
“Isn’t this just swapping one rule system for another?” you might ask. No, I don’t think so. It’s still important to have structure, but it needs to be flexible, freeing, innately natural structure. Not regimented or forced structure that has you going from an “all” to “nothing” mentality in .5 seconds.
It’s the difference between sitting down to a nutritionally balanced meal using the plate model as an example versus counting calories.
Finally, it’s important to customize any plan of action. The following coaching questions will help:
- What’s your biggest challenge? (i.e. Mindless snacking, not planning or preparing meals, emotional eating, overeating)
- Why is it a challenge? (What mindset or life circumstances make it difficult for you?)
- What’s one thing you will do today and this week to shift your perspective and practice something new? (i.e. Pausing to rate your hunger on a hunger scale and eliminating distractions in order to combat mindless snacking, or planning and grocery shopping for as many meals as possible at home in order to be more prepared when hunger strikes.)
How did it go? What will YOU do when your diet fails? Please comment below.
For other fresh angles on living beyond measure, visit The Truce Blog, where this piece originally appeared.