The only thing we know is there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every woman. In short, what works is relying on your internal wisdom rather than outside rules. This can be called intuitive eating, aware eating, conscious eating, or simply not dieting, as in the no-diet diet. In my work, I call it empowered eating.
What does it mean to not diet? It means eating according to what your unique body wants and needs. Note that this doesn’t mean eating everything your mind wants, which is where the challenge comes in.
I’m using the words “diet” and “dieting” to refer to any form of outside-based eating rules, whether they’re about restricting calories or types of food, or dictating how or when you can eat. Many women who don’t consciously follow a “diet” are unconsciously restricting, and not eating what or when they want. This is why healing your relationship with food, eating, and your body requires rejecting the dieting lifestyle in all its forms.
Not dieting means you get to choose what’s the best way to nourish your body. One day you may be hungrier than the next. Another day you may be attracted to more protein than usual. You get to choose your normal eating pattern and when to deviate from it.
Of course, allowing all foods doesn’t mean you need to eat everything. If you find animal meat disgusting, then don’t eat it. This is different than following a diet plan or eating system that says you can only eat two fruits a day and only from this list, or that an entire food group is off limits regardless of your personal experience with those foods.
Evelyn Tribole is one of the grandmothers of this idea. In her book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, she and her co-author, Elyse Resch, define intuitive eaters as those who “march to their inner hunger signals and eat whatever they choose without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma.” To those who worry that permission to eat whatever is desired will lead to unhealthy eating, she says “this discounts the respect for one’s body that comes along with the gift of life.”
Based on her experience and extensive research, not only do diets not work as a long-term weight or health management strategy, they cause an obsession with food, binging, and overeating.
In our society, food, eating, and our bodies cause women so much suffering, and at the core of this turmoil we often find dieting.
What About Weight?
Many women find that once they have rejected dieting and embraced eating according to their own inner wisdom that their weight stabilizes, and if they have excess weight that it disappears effortlessly. This may occur rapidly or so slowly that’s it’s imperceptible—until you try on something you haven’t worn in a while and find it fits.
Or it may not occur at all. You may find that your body wants to be a weight that is different from what your conscious mind wants. There may be an adjustment period where you get used to the availability of formerly limited foods or where your body adjusts to not being periodically starved. Your hormones may need to rebalance, and you may need to recover from the chronic stress of dieting.
There are ways of satisfying your body while reducing your weight, but this process takes time and has no guarantees. Our focus is not weight, and we encourage you to take your focus off weight, too, even if it’s just your intention to take a break
The most important thing is to reject the artificial restriction of dieting and begin healing your relationship with food. Only then can you address weight in a way that doesn’t create more problems than it solves.
We know diets don’t work and that dieting is the strongest predictor of weight gain. So let’s find something better.
You may find yourself thrilled by this idea or as terrified as I was when I first heard it. My only experience with eating what I wanted was when I was in rebound from the willpower, control, and perfectionism of dieting. Then I would throw out the “rules” and eat everything in sight.
Hold the phone, though. Just because you’re not dieting doesn’t mean you’re free to eat cookies all day. Unfortunately, when you’ve been living a dieting lifestyle, you may have developed a pattern of swinging from the control of a diet to an out-of-control free-for-all as I did. Neither of these extremes is connected to your inner wisdom.
This is the merry-go-round we have to get off. And we do it by developing skills, such as getting in touch with our emotions, using curiosity and mindfulness, and becoming aware of what’s driving our eating desires.
We must look beyond what’s on the plate to who is the eater, and examine the why as well as the when, where, what, and how. We must look at what needs to be digested in our life experience, and examine our values and beliefs. This website exists to help you do this, and to provide insight, tips, strategies, and resources along the way.
The answer is within you, and my greatest hope is that this website and its contributors will bring wisdom and guidance to your journey.
If you are new to this concept, you will find a Start Here guide in the navigation bar.