Principle one of Intuitive Eating is to reject the diet mentality. This is the first principle for the very simple fact that without being prepared to fully and totally accept that dieting, and the mindset it puts one in, does not work, you cannot be an intuitive eater. You simply can’t. If you’re thinking about calories, or losing weight, you will almost certainly fail at IE.
This is the hardest principle, in many respects, because it is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that we should “diet,” that it is hard to let go of the behaviors that come with years of dieting, or being forced by (usually) well-meaning family members (as a child, I mean) to diet.
When one considers that we spend nearly $50 billion a year on diets and dieting products, it’s foolish to not acknowledge that diets want you to fail. If you succeed, you stop needing their products. Unless, of course, it’s one of those diets that you basically can never go off of, or you gain back every hard earned ounce. Then you’re in their pockets, and they could care less if you fail or succeed - either way, you’ll need the snake oil they’re offering you.
I spent over 20 years dieting. Either by my choice, or by the choice of my evil aunt or some other family member. I spent 20 years alternating between the elation of losing weight or the crushing sense of failure when another diet ended with my going off the plan and gaining back all the weight… and then some. For 20 years, I was abusing my emotional health, and I turned an already disordered way of thinking about food into a full-blown eating disorder in the process. I had no idea what I was doing to myself. I had yet to realize that I wasn’t the failure. The failure was in the dieting mentality. I had adopted a thought process that was assured to fail me every time.
I was so ready for IE when I found it. I had already learned that diets were not the answer. I wanted something that was crazy… but had NO clue that simply NOT dieting was an option. When I met the therapist who introduced me to IE, I fully expected her thoughts and ideas on eating and eating disorders to translate into another diet in masquerade. I was so wrong. From the minute I opened the book and began to read, I knew that IE was different. I knew it was what I wanted.
So, for me, this first principle was fairly easy. I’d all but adopted it before even finding IE. However, the thought processes I’d come to know over 23 years of dieting didn’t just go away, so I did find my battles. The idea that some foods are “good” and others “bad,” is an example of something I had to conquer. Now I see food as what it is. Some is more nutritious… but that’s just science, not a moral judgment of what I eat.
Some people don’t adapt as readily. While I honestly think that IE *could* work for anyone (as it works for us all as infants), I also think there are some people who, for whatever reasons, won’t be able to let go of the dieting mentality. I don’t say this to judge. I state this simply as a fact. There may be some people who pick up IE and can’t do it and then years later, find their way back to it and are successful. It’s NOT easy to deprogram your mind from years of “thinner is better,” especially when the media insists on propagating so many unfounded myths on how “bad” is to be fat, and how “good” it is to be thin. For more on that, I highly recommend you check out this blog. Sandy Szwarc, who writes that blog, is a nurse and has a very interesting and unusual take on things… she looks for actual answers, instead of blindly believing what doctors and the media try to say is true. I am absolutely sure that if I had found IE before moving to Colorado (while still under the heavy influence of looks are everything in Manhattan), that I couldn’t have accepted it. The idea of not thinking about losing weight would’ve been inconceivable to me. So I know there are mindsets for which it is just not an option. That’s fine. You have to do what works for you… and you have to find your own way to that, whatever it might be.
The bottom line is, if you’ve found my blog because you’re curious about intuitive eating, you need to ask yourself this question: Am I ready to let go of the concept that I need to diet because I need to lose weight to look better and/or to be healthier? If your answer is no, then this probably isn’t the right time for you to try IE. If your answer is maybe, go for it… you might be surprised by what you learn. Finally, if your answer is yes, that’s wonderful - just don’t be discouraged when you discover that letting go of the mindset isn’t always as easy as saying to yourself, “I don’t want to diet again.” That’s the critical first step, absolutely… but it’s only the initial part of the first, all important principal of IE.
PS. I promised this series a while ago. A heated debate about IE with our girlfriend today sparked my writing this first in the ten part series. It’s a way for me to remind myself of why this works for me, and why it’s important to me.