The non-diet space is full of people who have a variety of “first step” actions to stop dieting and improve their relationship with food. The pioneers of Intuitive Eating, Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole’s first step is to, “reject the diet mentality.”
I have found that can be one of the HARDEST steps, so I typically don’t start there. We have years and years of exposure to dieting mindset, all normalized by our culture and social media, it is a big monster to vanquish. It's not impossible, more and more people are rejecting this diet mentality, but it takes time.
So, where do I start?
#1 Respond to your hunger.
I know it seems incredibly simple, but allowing yourself to eat in response to hunger is HUGE.
No matter your size or your health, YOU NEED TO EAT. This need never goes away.
Hunger has a simple role- it is a sign that tells us when to eat. It is a finely-tuned, biological flashing light that tells us when it is time for more food. Hunger has kept living beings alive since the very beginning. It is vital for life, and when people stop feeling hungry, its time to get concerned.
Somewhere along the way, we have been taught that we shouldn’t listen to our hunger signals.
That we shouldn't listen to the achiness and grumbling or growling in our stomach, the headache, the lightheadedness, the irritability.
Why are we ignoring a signal from our body that has a one-and-only role to keep us alive?
Why do we believe that our hunger is lying to us?
When did we learn to distrust our bodies?
I bet you a million bucks that most of it has to do with attempting to control your body shape/size/weight/health. Sometimes it also has to do with trying to control our blood sugars or a perceived negative effect of food on our body (sluggishness, fatigue, headaches, pain, etc).
We've learned along the way: Eating less food = Better for us (mentally, socially, physically).
I’m here to tell you: It’s a lie.
Ignoring hunger does not lead to permanent weight loss.
Ignoring hunger does not improve your health.
Ignoring hunger does not make your life magically better.
Ignoring hunger is not a recipe for success
Because hunger is so uncomfortable and distressing, we also learned ways to trick ourselves into not feeling hungry (or to distract ourselves from hunger). These are rampant in diet mentality and in our overall culture obsessed with thinness.
But, it doesn't work. Not for long. Ignoring hunger and using weird tips/tricks to stay hungry longer fails eventually. And those who are really good at ignoring hunger end up incredibly ill or dead.
I do understand there are a million variations and reasons why you can’t always eat when hungry- but to simplify this post, I am talking about the intentional choice not to eat or to delay eating despite the hunger signals from your body.
If you are someone who is used to ignoring hunger, now is a good time to start changing that.
#2 Allow Food
*sitting at work, typing away at a project**
Stomach rumbles, noticeable achy discomfort in stomach/throat
You: Hmmm, I feel hungry
You: Eats food
*end scene* *applause*
Yay! You did it!
No seriously. In the beginning, it doesn't matter what you eat. You have time to figure that out much later in this process.
In the beginning, it is important to get into the habit of eating when hungry. Yup. Seems so simple, almost too good to be true.
Give it time and usually you'll find there is resistance inside you. Maybe the first day feels okay, but the next three feel really hard.
THIS is the good stuff, the resistance, the thoughts that are brought up, that is the key to the deeper work that needs to happen in order to heal your relationship with food.