Imagine if you had all the money you've ever spent on diet programs, what could you buy? Diamond earrings, a gold watch, a new car, a summer home? There is no doubt that those diets worked for you... short-term. But what happened after you went off the diet? More than likely, those pounds lost returned with an extra couple bonus pounds. Most diets will work because at the end of the day, when you cut your caloric intake, you will lose weight. But most people regain the weight lost because they have failed to make lifelong behavior changes. It is easier to follow a set of rules or pre-planned menus and see immediate results than to address the habits that caused them to put the weight on in the first place. That is why after following their diet rules for a period of time, and maybe even reaching their goal weight, they eventually gain it back. There is usually a trigger that occurs, be it an emotional upset, a major life change or escalating work stress that causes the individual to turn to food for comfort.

For more than twenty-five years that I have been in private practice, I have told my clients that I "don't do diets". Diet is a "four-letter word" not to be used in my office. I create customized meal plans for people specific to their nutritional needs. I counsel on behavior modification techniques and strategies and stress the need to change poor eating habits so they can maintain their weight loss forever. However, while I have had a high percentage of clients who have reached goal weight and have maintained it for many years, I noticed that many clients were in fact using the customized meal plan as just another diet, or another set of rules of when and how much to eat. I realized there must be another way to help those individuals who have been struggling with overweight/obesity all their lives, going on and off every diet that hits the market. What I discovered is a concept called Intuitive Eating.

Every individual is born with the natural instinct to know when they are hungry and need to eat and when they are satisfied enough to stop eating. Think of when your children were born. Whether you breast-fed or bottle-fed your babies, they would cry when they were hungry and push away when they were full. As well-meaning parents (myself included) we would say "no, she didn't eat enough; there's 3 more ounces of formula left in the bottle". And we would try to feed the baby more, and the baby would push away again. When that baby became a little older and sat in a high chair, we would spoon-feed her and try all sorts of games, flying the spoon of peas through the air to song in order to get her to eat more. And then when they were toddlers, running around the house playing and not wanting to sit to eat lunch, we would worry that they would go hungry. But in fact, our children were exhibiting what was innate to them... the ability to eat when hungry and stop when full. So what happens over the years when you become an adult? Why can't you exhibit this same ability?

Well, some people might be able to look back at their childhood and remember that they were encouraged to "clean their plate" if they wanted dessert, or to tidy up their room and they'll go for an ice cream treat. These tactics all went against what was natural. And as you got older, the natural ability to tune into your hunger and satiety cues were further destroyed by the multi-billion dollar diet business and the media exposure of the newest fad diet, the latest diet book or celebrity promoting some diet gimmick.

Intuitive eating is characterized by eating based on physiological hunger and satiety cues rather than situational and emotional cues. So simply said, you eat when you are hungry and you stop when you are satisfied. You do not eat because of boredom, loneliness, sadness, happiness, stress and anxiety. You do not eat because you are at a free buffet, or because there are cookies on the conference room table. You do not eat mindlessly, munching on a bag of chips while watching television. You do not engage in "conditioned eating behaviors" such as plowing through a bucket of popcorn at the movies because "that's what you do at the movies... eat popcorn." You eat solely when your body's signals tell you that you are hungry and you stop when you are comfortably full.

Every overweight person struggling to lose weight has this intuitive eater buried within them. The problem is that you have been looking for that magic bullet that will get the weight off NOW. So you try one diet after another, only to be disappointed when you regain the weight. You end up with very little trust in yourself, your body and the food you choose. I want you to know that you are not the one who failed. It's the diets that have failed you! So how do you become an intuitive eater? How do you reclaim what you were born with that will help you lose weight without ever going on another diet?

Here are 3 ways to get you started:

1. Reject the diet mentality! Make a decision to stop dieting! Throw out all the diet books that you have, all the pre-printed menus from the magazines that you cut out and all the diet rules and diet foods that you have tried. Make a commitment to yourself that you will no longer be influenced by the media or the next diet that comes to the market because if you let yourself be tempted again, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover intuitive eating.

2. Give yourself the unconditional permission to eat what you want when you want it. What happens when you deny yourself? When you crave a food but you don't "allow" yourself to eat it because it's not on your diet? At some point you give in to that craving and you typically overeat, or even binge on this forbidden food. By taking the conditions off the food and not labeling the food "bad", you will find that not only will you not overeat, but your true food preferences will be discovered.

3. Throw out the scale! Do you weigh yourself every morning or even several times per day? Does the number on the scale influence your mood for the day? Most likely it does, even if you don't consciously realize it. Your weight fluctuates day-to- day and is a measure of more than just fat. It includes your bones, organs, muscle and substances such as water, food and waste that pass through your system. Begin to measure your success by other factors other than the scale such as improved blood work, blood pressure, mood, energy level and overall satisfaction with your progress toward becoming an intuitive eater.

Weight loss is usually not a knowledge issue, it is a behavioral issue. Start slowly and become more mindful with your eating. You will be happy you did!

Author's Bio: 

Bonnie R. Giller helps chronic dieters and people with medical conditions like diabetes take back control so they can get the healthy body and life they want. She does this by creating a tailored solution that combines three essential ingredients: a healthy mindset, nutrition education and caring support. The result is they lose weight and keep it off without dieting and live a healthy life symptom free.

Bonnie is a registered dietitian, certified dietitian-nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. She offers programs for the chronic dieter to achieve long lasting weight loss, for people with diabetes to attain blood sugar control and prevent diabetes complications, and for those suffering with irritable bowel syndrome to identify their food triggers so they can enjoy a symptom free life. Bonnie also treats a variety of other medical conditions, and offers a nutrition program teaching young children how to make healthy food choices.

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