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Natural Awakenings of the Coastal Carolinas

The Physical and Emotional Toll of Dieting: Break the Cycle with Intuitive Eating

by Kay Dobis

Weight-loss programs may work… for a while. If you restrict someone to 800 calories per day for an extended period of time, they will likely lose weight, but at a possible cost. Chronic yo-yo dieting can take a physical and emotional toll. According to a professional review entitled “Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy” through the International DOI Foundation of the outcome of such programs, the peak weight-loss point is generally six months. About 30 percent of participants maintain a 10 maintain body weight loss after one year, but after five years more than 50 percent have gained all of the weight back.   

Intuitive Eating (IE) is a framework developed by two dietitians that frees one from a life of chronic dieting and teaches how to nourish your mind and body and make peace with food. Rather than depending on external food rules, IE helps tune into one’s intuition to determine what your mind, body and spirit need at any given time. 

Let’s take a look at why calorie-restricted diets don’t work: When one severely reduces caloric intake, metabolism slows down, which means the body actually burns fewer calories. The problem is that when dieting ceases and calorie intake increases, your body continues to burn calories at the lower rate. This is why many people gain even more weight back after successful weight loss. 

Restricted-calorie diets also reduce muscle mass, especially if you’re dieting without some sort of resistance exercise. Loss of muscle not only contributes to a slower metabolism, it may increase risk for conditions like heart disease, insulin resistance, and osteoporosis and fractures due to falls. Add symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, headaches and sleep disruption caused by nutrient deficiencies and you’ll find yourself in a situation that’s neither healthy nor sustainable.

“Oh, I don’t diet. I’m doing Keto. I can eat all the fat I want,” some say. Keto, Paleo, intermittent fasting, Whole30, etc., are all diets that include a set of rules that require some sort of restriction. At the end of 30 days or if one slips up and eats some carbs with a lot of fat, weight will often start to creep back up, and along with it, possible feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame. We blame ourselves for a lack of self-control, rather than blaming the diet for being ineffective. Intuitive Eating provides a model based on self-care, rather than self-control. 

Some use the terms “good” and “bad” to describe food or how one’s day was based on what was consumed (“I had a good (or bad) day today”), or even to describe oneself, as in “I was good (or bad) this week.” Some “reward” themselves with a “cheat” day. The constant use of this kind of language is a sign that diet culture is taking over one’s life and reinforcing negative emotions—not a great way to live. 

As a nutritionist, I realize that there are certain health conditions that may require dietary restrictions. Someone with celiac disease, for example, will become violently ill if they eat gluten. Diabetics must monitor their blood sugar levels. This is different from the pervasive diet culture that is primarily focused on weight loss.

Intuitive Eating is based on 10 principles: 

1. Reject the diet mentality.
2. Honor your hunger.
3. Make peace with food.
4. Challenge the “food police”.
5. Feel your fullness.
6. Discover the satisfaction factor.
7. Cope with your emotions without using food.
8. Respect your body.
9. Exercise—feel the difference.
10. Honor your health—gentle nutrition.

If you are interested in learning more about Intuitive Eating, feel free to reach out to me for a free phone consultation, or I recommend the Intuitive Eating book and workbook by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, the dietitians who developed the framework. According to the foreword of the book, “IE is associated with a whole host of benefits, including enhanced satisfaction with life, self-compassion, self-esteem, optimism and body appreciation.” 

Kay Dobis, MS, CNS, is a nutritionist in Myrtle Beach specializing in helping people with chronic disease heal themselves through the power of food and lifestyle changes. She’ll lead a six-week The Peaceful Table intuitive eating workshop for women partnering with Barbara Cardinal, LISW, beginning May 14 in Myrtle Beach. For more information including making an appointment or to register for workshop, call 843-957-9482.


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