Intuitive Eating Principle #1: Reject the diet mentality

(Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash)

The first step of embracing Intuitive Eating is all about your philosophy on food, your body, exercise, etc. Before we start talking about what Intuitive Eating is, we have to clear the air in our brains and reject something called the “diet mentality.”

A new diet comes out just about every month in the news, each promising quick weight loss and significant life improvement. It can be so tempting to buy into the idea that “this one will be the one that changes everything.” And secretly, many of us actually want those rules and restrictions to give us road map for what to eat because we haven’t the slightest idea.

Diets take many forms. They can be the obvious “official diets” (i.e. ketogenic, low-carb, Paleo, blood type, gluten free, vegan, etc.) but also can include:

  • Counting calories or carbs/fat/protein
  • Counting points (Weight Watchers)
  • Eating only at certain times of the day (intermittent fasting or even just refusing to eat past a certain time at night)
  • Paying penance for eating “bad” foods
  • Pacifying hunger by consuming diet foods

You may have even tried some of these yourself. I’m sure it worked for a while, but eventually you caved and decided you couldn’t do it anymore. You probably felt like a failure and like you had no self-control. But I’m here to tell you…

You are not the problem. Dieting is the problem.

In the book Intuitive Eating, authors Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch talk about the “dieter’s dilemma”:

Desire to be thin/lean leads to dieting.
Dieting causes cravings & reduced self-control.
Cravings lead to loss of control & overeating.
Overeating leads to regain of lost weight.

This is a setup for failure. Although you might initially lose weight on a diet, the restrictive nature of dieting will eventually cause your mind to rebel and drive you into the exact thing you were trying to avoid.

More and more research is supporting this idea that diets don’t work. Studies show that chronic dieting can cause weight gain, increased binges and cravings, and even susceptibility to eating disorders. One study followed people for three years after a “successful” completion of a weight loss intervention, and found that 95% of them had regained their lost weight (and many of them actually gained back even more than they had lost).

In order to begin reconnecting with our bodies and eating intuitively, we have to reject the diet mentality. This involves:

  1. Recognizing and acknowledging the damage that dieting causes. We can no longer pretend that dieting is harmless.
  2. Forget the ideas of willpower and failure when it comes to eating. Later on in this series we will explore why you don’t need willpower to be an intuitive eater…you can let yourself off the hook.
  3. Get rid of dieting tools such as scales.These tools reduce our value to a number and can be incredibly detrimental to healing our relationship with food and ourselves.
  4. Be compassionate toward ourselves.This journey might be a long one, but it is one of constant progress in being kinder and kinder to yourself. Hopefully this will come as a relief to many who have spent years beating themselves up (I know it did to me!)

Dieting isn’t the answer to living a healthy lifestyle. It will only lead to disappointment, shame, and self-centeredness. So let’s leave that mentality behind and move on forward into something new!


To see my next post on Principle #2: “honor your hunger,” click here!