Something we have realised with our Ditching Dieting Campaign is that ditching something you've always done, even if it's something that may not be working, is scary. So what to do instead? How to trust yourself around food without a 'plan'? Without a points structure? Meal replacements? Special recipes? We're led to believe that there's no way of doing it on our own, and enormous profits are made off the back of this common myth.
If you are moving around, living your life and listening to your own desires - eating when you are hungry, stopping when you are full, eating precisely what you need and want in that moment – then you should not feel your health threatened by being in the ‘obese’ box on a flawed BMI chart. However, this kind of intuitive eating becomes harder and harder under the onslaught of methods to make money from your body. The diet industry claims to offer comfort, support and solutions to make your world a happier, healthier place and it's completely understandable that many, many people choose to diet when in the thrall of anxiety about their bodies, something that is exacerbated by imagery in the media, gossip magazines and online news outlets that dissect bodies (women's especially) routinely as entertainment.
To help people who are dieting and are sick of it, or have given up and are not sure where to turn or for those considering dieting, we have made a free Intuitive Eating booklet to download (see below). It's based on Susie Orbach's book On Eating and gives you basic pointers to understand intuitive eating and how it might work for you. The whole book is great but it isn't practical to use discretely, so this guide has been designed (with instructions) so it can be made into a booklet or small cards, sized to fit into a credit card slot in a wallet.
Intuitive eating isn't easy and takes time, but it works for many as a way to be free of anxiety around food and to have healthy responses to all 'hungers' as we often mistake other feelings, such as boredom or loneliness for actual hunger, and food cannot alleviate such feelings for long.
Perhaps this approach might seem scary to try alone, so maybe do it with others, as one of the best things about diet groups is the mutual support people get from other members. This doesn't have to cost you a penny either: you could meet with friends to discuss how you are getting on, the breakthroughs and pitfalls, just like a regular diet meeting except you can banish the scales!
Last but not least: there are common misconceptions around the concept of eating whatever you want or are hungry for in relation to this kind of diet-free approach, and in the context of public health and the 'obesity crisis' some have criticised it as irresponsible to encourage people who are classified as "morbidly obese" to eat what they 'want'. Intuitive eating is not a free pass to stuff yourself with as much junk food as possible, or in other words, binge. Rather, it is about developing a new relationship with food and your body,
This misconception is rooted in the fact that there are no forbidden foods while practicing intuitive eating, so in the initial stages, some people’s bodies may ask for more of those “bad” foods they had previously categorized as off limits. With time and practice, those “bad” foods lose their power, so that a chocolate bar and a carrot stick ultimately can have equal appeal. Intuitive eating is about distinguishing between hungers and discovering what your body really needs by tuning into the messages we get naturally.
Learn more about our Ditching Dieting campaign and how to become part of the movement.