The new year is upon us. You may be inundated with the chirpy mantra “new year, new you.” However, everyone knows that new year’s resolutions are destined to fail. Consider, after every new year rolls around, are you ever a new you? As we enter 2020, can you resolve to be content with the “new year, same you?”
I sat down with Liz Brinkman, a registered dietician focused on intuitive eating and self-compassion. Who would have thought that a dietician would recommend not dieting?! Instead, Brinkman interweaves gentle nutrition advice alongside spiritual guidance and scientific steadiness. If you’re ready to love your body in 2020, read Brinkman’s wonderful advice to improve both your physical and mental health.
Why are weight-loss plans destined to fail?
Weight-loss plans are doomed because your body refuses to be starved of any nourishment: food, water, touch, comfort, shelter. As humans, we’re meant to be in relationship—with each other, our food, our bodies and God. Dieting to shrink our bodies takes us away from all of these things.
Restrictive eating to suppress one’s weight simply doesn’t work. Studies show that there’s no safe and effective way to do so long-term. Eating below your recommended calorie needs slows the metabolic rate and cold intolerance. It also increases food preoccupation, binge-eating, social isolation and distraction/apathy.
What are the benefits of breaking up with dieting?
By moving away from dieting, we reclaim an abundant life! Discover:
- Deeper Worship. We all have a connection to God, partaking in divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). In God, we live, move and have our being. Jesus awakens us to our union with God every single day! It’s nearly impossible to count macronutrients/steps and stay awake to the Holy Spirit’s movement.
- Self-worth beyond body size.
Sometimes letting go of dieting feels like losing a safety net. Dieting serves a strong purpose, giving us clear parameters. Diets provide external rules, replacing our internal cues (which our culture says we cannot trust).
Moving away from dieting can empower you, bringing peace and freedom. So, the question is: “if not dieting, then what?” An effect counter-approach is intuitive eating.
What’s intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is a flexible eating style focusing on trusting physical hunger and satiety cues to guide when, what and how much to eat. It’s associated with positive physical and psychological outcomes. Intuitive eating helps break the chronic dieting cycle, healing your relationship with food, and was created by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
Humans are born intuitive eaters. Consider a hungry baby who cries until fed and then turns away their head when satiated. However, from an early age, we hear that “you can’t possibly be hungry” or “you must clean your plate.” These messages erode trust in our bodies, disrupting our internal cues.
Intuitive eating’s ten principles:
- Reject diet mentality: Reject voices saying that it’s not okay to be a body size outside of society’s narrow beauty standards. This constant pressure leads us to control food intake, going against our bodies’ natural instincts. “Diet culture” tells us that everyone can and should be thin.
- Honor your hunger: Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and diverse nutrients—carbohydrates, protein and fat. Otherwise, you’ll trigger a primal drive to eat, often overeating.
- Make peace with food: If you ban a particular food, it leads to intense deprivation feelings and uncontrollable cravings. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat, reclaiming your autonomy.
- Challenge the food police: Reject thoughts that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” for eating cake. The food police monitor unreasonable rules diet culture created.
- Respect your fullness: Tune into body signals indicating that you’re no longer hungry. Our culture fears fullness, labeling it as “failure.”
- Discover the satisfaction factor: Satisfaction’s an internal cue going beyond the perception of an empty or full stomach. It’s about the physical, emotional and spiritual self; the whole eating experience. When you eat what you really want, you reach contentment and satisfied hunger.
- Honor feelings without food: This principal gets a lot of airtime because our culture’s allergic to “emotional eating.” This principle recognizes that eating brings relief from both physical hunger and emotional stress. Work to find additional methods of emotional coping.
- Respect your body: Not to be confused with “body love,” this principle helps you care for your “present moment” body no matter the shape, size or ability. Respect opens the door to acceptance. Acceptance isn’t giving up, it’s the first step to successful action!
- Exercise, feel the difference: Shift your focus to joyful body movement rather than on exercise’s calorie-burning effect. Are you active out of joy and body-connection or exercising as a weight suppression strategy?
- Honor your health with gentle nutrition: Make food choices that honor cravings while also making you feel well. Remember, you don’t have to eat “perfectly” to be healthy. Consistency is what matters, progress not perfection is what counts.
Where should I start?
The path to intuitive eating isn’t linear. First, find a supportive community. Walking away from dieting and our shared body-hate culture feels risky.
“She’s obviously given up,” is a common critique on the aging, changing, shifting female body.
However, deciding to stand against high beauty standards placed on females doesn’t feel like giving up. It’s a big deal, a lot of work! It feels scary…like stepping away from safety…like letting go of a lifeline. By rejecting cultural beauty rules, we feel like we’re risking everything.
Seek out others doing the same. Here are some of my favorite support groups:
- Emily Fonnesbeck + Stephanie Webb’s Eat Confident Collective
- Alissa Rummsey’s Intuitive Eating Online Support Group
- Eat to Love eCourse
- Intuitive Eating Facebook Support Group
- Intuitive Eating Online Community—it’s free to sign up. There’s a monthly group call where they discuss one of the intuitive eating principles.
Write down messages from family, friends, medical practitioners and the media that contribute to body shame and unhealthy dieting behaviors. You didn’t choose to receive these messages. Unfortunately, toxic programming isn’t easily turned off, but it can be turned down. By increasing awareness of this programming, you’ll discover your choice about how to respond.
Finally, it’s your right to ask God for anything. God’s abundant love can work miraculously in anyone’s life. If it feels like God’s not answering your prayers, ask yourself: what are you really after? By changing your appearance or shape, what do you hope to gain? Love? Connection? Safety? Health? Confidence? Acceptance?
These are things God wants for you in Him. God shows us that our needs can be met even when we do not meet the impossible standards of this world.