The Rhode Island
Health & Wellness Guide
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ARTICLES . . .
Tips to Weight Loss Without Dieting - The "Making Peace With Food and Your Body Approach"
While my work with clients with eating issues usually focuses on conscious eating and managing our emotions without using food (with weight loss as a side effect, not the goal), I am also a believer in behavioral strategies that minimize physical and psychological cravings and make it easier to lose weight without the restrictive, calorie-based approaches of most diets. But first, I’d like to talk a little about why I believe a non-diet approach is healthier and more sustainable than a diet approach.
Most diets focus on calories rather than nutrition, a strategy that may help you lose weight initially but can be unhealthy for your body and your energy --and unsustainable for most people without becoming obsessed.
Diets tend to be outer-directed instead of inner-directed. Yes, it is necessary and helpful to plan and create structure for our eating plan, so we have healthy food available to us when we need it and don’t have to make food decisions all day long. (Like a muscle, our willpower gets tired from overuse.) And it is helpful to know what a “portion” is. But if those are directives rather than guidelines, we will eat the “correct size portion” regardless whether it leaves us hungry or whether we would have been satisfied with less. This is why, in the ‘conscious eating’ track of my CD, I guide listeners to take a pause to check in with their bodies to note their level of hunger and fullness. I suggest they give themselves permission to go for seconds if their plate is empty but they are still hungry, and to stop eating if there is still food on their plates but their physical hunger is satisfied. I call this “eating from the inside-out.” This is easier to do if they have eaten food that tastes really good (instead of eating what they think they “should” eat) and have savored it. And, if they know they can have this wonderful food again whenever they really want it. (Otherwise we have to eat it all – now!)
Diets tell us that certain foods are bad and to be avoided, setting us up to feel guilty if we’ve eaten them. And while our bodies may be sensitive to certain foods, creating bloating or cravings, it feels very different when we avoid or minimize those foods out of self-love rather than self-hatred and fear. For example, if I tell myself I can’t have red wine with my meal because it creates congestion, I may feel deprived. But if I give myself permission to have it if I really want it, I feel freedom. I may choose not to drink it because I don’t want it enough to experience stuffiness. Or I may order it if I really want it and, if I savor every sip, I will probably be satisfied with half a glass.
The biggest reason I don’t like diets is that they can create a cycle of “good me/bad me”.
I’m good when I eat what the diet dictated and bad when I don’t, fostering shame and guilt and a love/hate relationship with food
Since diets are focused exclusively on weight loss, we feel good about ourselves when we lose weight and guilty or ashamed when we gain, reinforcing the belief that we have to be a certain weight or size to be loveable and acceptable. This is a prescription for self-hatred and obsession.
Generally, when people begin a diet, they change their eating and exercise habits until they lose weight. But if those habits are not the way we want to live for the rest of our lives, of course we will regain the weight. So, I’m a believer in deciding how you want to live. How many hours do you really want to spend exercising? If you exercise for 2 hours 5 days a week to burn calories but hate doing it, how could you possibly maintain that level, especially when your weight plateaus? But if you find a way to move that makes you feel healthy and energetic, it will be much easier to maintain. I advocate an approach to food and exercise that gives you pleasure, nourishment and energy.
Most importantly, we need to focus on what it is that we really want. For most of us - It’s to feel alive, comfortable in our body and with who we are. Often, we have been trying to lose weight because we think that that’s what will get us love and approval. We’ve been looking for it outside ourselves. Our task is to know and understand and accept OURSELVES – warts and all. And, interestingly, when we accept ourselves – just as we are – self-care comes more naturally because we now want to treat ourselves well.
Barbara L. Holtzman, MSW, LICSW, is a psychotherapist in Providence and Wakefield RI, workshop presenter, and author of Conscious Eating, Conscious Living; A Practical Guide to Making Peace with Food & Your Body.
For her free “10 Tips to Making Peace with Food”, go to Barbara’s website makingpeacewithfoodandyourbody.com
You can contact her at 401-789-0777 or email@example.com.
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