Est 5 min read
What is a diet?
I know that might seem like a silly question, and maybe a silly thing to devote an entire blog to, but I have been a little annoyed lately at some of the ads that I'm seeing and some of the talk around “this isn't a diet, it's a lifestyle change” or “it's not a diet because I can eat whatever I want.” Spoiler alert: things like Noom, Intermittent Fasting, and Keto are diets.
When I say diet, what I mean is not the diet that we all eat, everyone has a diet of food that they eat. When we're talking about diet, we're talking about restricting food and the diet culture messaging around what you “should” and “shouldn't” eat. Diet would be anything that is an external way of measuring what you shouldn't eat and especially anything that is restrictive in any way. Plans that restrict how, what, when, OR why you are or should be eating. This goes for any plan that restricts what you're eating, like categories of food you can't eat (carbs or meat, for example), restricts the types of foods that you can eat (no bread, for example), the amount of food you can eat (macros, calories, carbs), or restricts when you can eat.
Why is this problematic? Diets(restriction) are problematic because they basically ask you to disregard your hunger and/or other body signals, whether that's fullness and hunger or desires, etc. It's even problematic when you have to eat a certain amount more than you would normally eat. You might be full already, but you have to eat the amount the plan dictates. Again, the plan asks you to disregard your body's signals and desires. When you are eating based on someone else's plan for you or a “should,” then you likely don’t stop to check in with your body, don't build body attunement, and are likely disregarding your body signals. Even if you're not actively disregarding them, you're not intentionally honoring them because you're relying on something outside of yourself to guide your decision-making around food.
With intuitive eating, what you do instead is develop body attunement and make your choices based on that attunement while using discernment. For example, you can still choose to have a salad rather than cookies for lunch, or you can choose to have the cookies rather than the salad if that would be more satisfying. You're using discernment based on holistic information about your body.
One day for lunch, I went to a frozen yogurt shop where they have different flavors, and then you put toppings on them. I used a lot of discernment in that decision. It was a fun adventure that my partner and I went on. It was something that sounded good to us, it was an unusually warm day, and we just were craving something fun. We went and ate that and then we were full and we didn't want to have anything else. That ended up being our entire lunch, just frozen yogurt. Now, if I did that every day, I probably wouldn't feel amazing, but that day was really fun and special. But that day, I used discernment, and it was fulfilling, satiating, and I felt good.
Using discernment, you make choices based on a lot of information. My fro-yo choice was around having fun, and it simply sounded good. My body was like, “yeah! That would be really tasty and satisfying right now”. And it was. Now, if I were in a rush, I might choose to get something fast, I might choose to just eat a bar, and that's using discernment as well. However, when those things become patterns, if I was often eating things that aren't as nourishing for my body, or if I'm always in a rush or I'm never eating a proper meal, over time that probably won't feel good.
When you eat in a way that's attuned to your body, you're taking into account all of the nuances that contribute to what, when, why, and how you should eat. You take into consideration vitality, nutrients, and nourishment. You also consider fun, satisfaction, joy, ease, bandwidth, hunger, and fullness. You can also decide even if you’re not hungry that you want to enjoy this food for whatever reason. That's perfectly okay. There are many valid reasons to eat!
Diets prevent body attunement and prevent you from being able to use your own internal compass decisions around food. This is problematic because you're disregarding your body's signals, disconnecting from your body in order to do that. To come to a place of secure attachment with food and body, you have to build it on a foundation of self-trust and connection. When you continue to use diets, you are choosing to eat based on some external measure rather than your internal compass, and you continue to disrupt that trust with yourself.
Download your free hunger scale now!
The first step to healing your relationship with food is reconnecting with the signals your body gives you. One of the ways to do that is by checking in with your hunger before you eat. Here's my spin on the traditional hunger scale..