Imagine for a minute, a different kind of freedom. The kind of true liberation that comes from releasing yourself from the chains of following a diet. Think about throwing out old clothes that no longer fit you because they are too big and you know you will never need them again. Picture yourself selling your bathroom scale at a yard sale and waving “good riddance.” Imagine burning your Weight Watchers books, journals and trackers. Envision what it would be like to not be counting calories, avoiding the mirror, dreading special occasions where you have to stick to “certain foods.”
The concept I’m talking about here is the Non-Diet Approach to weight loss. You might even know someone who has successfully used this method to lose weight and keep it off for several years. And the interesting part is that they are happier then they’ve ever been before!
What Exactly is a Non-Diet Approach?
Like the name implies, it’s a style of eating that is not based around rules such as weighing, measuring, counting, restricting or otherwise manipulating your food intake to make you eat less or get you to follow a program in a specified way. Instead, the Non-Diet Approach uses you as the main tool, by developing mindfulness, encouraging body trust, and following other wellness outcomes to help you navigate a better relationship with food. Incidentally, as your relationship with food improves, people often lose weight as a result.
For example, in a typical nutrition visit with a dietitian, you might be given a meal plan to follow a certain amount of calories. Exactly what and how much to eat, including snacks and drinks is already specified. Success depends on your ability to follow the plan as closely as possible. Many diet books work on the same premise: “Follow this 30 Day meal plan exactly and you will achieve your goal.”
Let’s contrast that with the Non-Diet Approach. You are taught how to become in tune with your body signals to recognize what “true” hunger feels like versus eating for cravings or out of habit. You will be able to choose the foods that you want to eat, but it’s likely that you are focusing on foods that deliver quality nutrition, rather than junk foods. You learn how to eat to feel satisfied, without having the urge to continue until your plate is clean or stomach is stuffed. You learn to develop mindfulness in your dining habits that will enable you to choose the right types and amounts of foods for you for that particular day. You will enjoy lots of flexibility, because some days we are more hungry than others and some days you just want cookies for dinner. In the end, you develop a more peaceful, respectful relationship with food and your body. Food and weight stops being a power struggle.
How is this Approach Successful?
You may be shocked to think of yourself eating anything in any amount and be successful at weight loss. After all, isn’t this what got you overweight in the first place? How are people getting the self control to not eat too much?
Part of the process is learning to trust yourself. For some, it’s about reconnecting with the natural sensations, such as hunger, in the body. I’ve spoken with some people who can’t remember the last time they felt hunger because they are always snacking all day. Just the act of stopping and paying attention to what our bodies tell us and knowing how to interpret that information can lead to significant weight loss breakthroughs. The other part is mindful attention. When we slow down, act more deliberately in our choices, we can catch ourselves before we sneak back to old habits, such as stress eating, multitasking through our meals, or eating when we aren’t physically hungry.
Making The Switch
Curious about trying out a more natural approach to weight loss that aligned with your body wisdom and not someone else’s book or program? Here are some traits to start developing to get you started:
- Check in with your hunger- before you eat anything- notice how hungry you are first. Check in with different areas of the body- your stomach, your heart, your head, your mouth. Be sure it’s true hunger and not a craving you’re responding to. Eat the appropriate amount to satisfy that degree of hunger.
- Feel How Full- When eating, first slow down. It takes awhile for body signals to catch up to our speedy eating. Pay attention to the fullness sensations that are created in your body. Notice how naturally it comes to children, to not finish everything on their plates, or walk away from a half eaten cupcakes to go play instead.
- Forget about any Food Rules you’ve read- “Clean Your Plate,” “No Dessert until You Eat Dinner,” “Eat 5 Mini-Meals,” or “Always Eat Breakfast.” These are just a sampling of rules we’ve been told that dictate how we should be eating. Some of these can be so powerful that they over-ride our natural instincts. Have you ever noticed that some days you aren’t that hungry in the morning but on other days your appetite is much greater? If we turn from the “rules” and listen to what our metabolism is communicating, we will get to the heart of nourishing ourselves much more effectively.
- Can’t Get No Satisfaction? Try. See how you can make meal times a premium experience of joy and appreciation. Think of a fancy restaurant. The ambiance, the presentation of food and the company. The most expensive restaurants in the world don’t serve the most food, but they create the most memorable experience. We deprive ourselves of this moment of interaction with our food when we are eating on the go, multi-tasking while chewing and rushing through the experience. We can’t even remember what we ate for the day, when asked! As we increase the satisfaction we get from our meals and food (even if just a snack), we don’t need to eat as much to feel satisfied and we also stop seeking additional opportunities to satisfy ourselves with food.
- Feel Your Feelings without Food. So much of our eating has nothing to do with hunger. We eat out of boredom, because we want to be sociable, because we are stressed or upset, or because we have this “needing something but don’t know what” craving that hits at night. If you can check in with your stomach, it’s probably not hunger that needs attention. If this one sounds like you, it’s critical to uncover what’s eating at you. Sometimes it just a habit we’ve grown accustomed to, so we’ve stopped analyzing it. But if you can start to practice other ways to take care of your feelings (and it just takes practice) you will be able to break the chains of emotional eating.
- Eating for Nourishment. Change the way you look at food. Instead of calories, points, servings and grams- what if you could see it as “medicine, healing, replenishment and energy?” When you eat meals that are nutritious and healthy- savor the after effect of how you feel. How is your body responding to carefully chosen, mindful meals? Pay equal attention when you eat foods that don’t make you feel good afterward. When you start to respect food as nourishment for your body, you will begin to prefer eating better quality food.
Have you experimented with a non-diet approach to weight loss? Have you thrown away your scale yet? What have you tried that is creating success for you and your relationship to food? Are you curious about exploring a non-diet approach? Contact me for a free 15-minute consult to see if might work for you. If you know of others who would like to try this approach, please forward this article or share on Facebook with the link below.