During my dieting days, I set so many freaking rules for myself: when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat, and so on. My happiness was dependent on the scale, so I followed any plan in order to get that number where I wanted it.
But my willpower always weakened after the first day or two of a new eating plan. Plus, I was bitter because I deprived myself, which resulted in huge binge-eating episodes. After 10 years of this internal battle, my weight was at its highest, my self-esteem was at its lowest, and I knew there had to be better way to live.
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So, I started breaking all the rules and began intuitive eating. That process, at least the way that I interpret it, is all about trusting yourself to know when, how much, and what to eat. In other words, nothing is off limits. I was able to enjoy food without stressing out about it, and, surprisingly, I ended up losing weight.
Now, as a health and lifestyle coach, I help women disconnect from what they think they should eat and help them get in touch with what their body actually wants. By undergoing that process, they finally feel free around food, gain more respect for themselves, and start feeling confident again.
Here are three common rules that I encourage my clients to break in order to repair their relationship with food and even lose some weight in the process.
1. Stay Away From Sugar, Carbs, Fat, Dairy, etc.
We’re so quick to cut out a food group because we think it’s going to be the answer to our weight struggle. But everyone's body is different. In order to let go of the diet mentality, I had to do my own experimenting to find out which foods made me feel good and which didn't. Before I became obsessed with dieting, I was always a carb-focused kid, and my body weight stayed healthy. When I gave up on dieting, I thought, "Maybe my body really does thrive with more carbohydrates, and I just haven’t been eating them because I thought I shouldn't." When I ate foods based on how they made me feel, I was so much happier, I felt healthier, and I wasn't tempted to binge later.
2. Eat This Many Calories and Eat This Many Times Per Day
I used to be an adamant calorie counter. I totally geeked-out over tracking everything I ate. However, this completely took away from my body’s natural ability to tell me when I was hungry or full. And when I started listening for those signals, I felt more satisfied. So, if you eat your normal 250-calorie breakfast, and you’re still hungry, eat until you’re content—and then stop.
Along the same lines, whether you have three larger meals or five smaller meals a day, try to let your hunger cues run the show. When you stop following a schedule, you give your internal rhythm a chance to tell you what you need. This keeps you from feeling hungry and overeating.
3. Treat Yourself in Moderation
When you’re focused on what you can't eat, you feel completely miserable. Constantly saying no to the things you actually want is no way to live, and a deeper part of you knows this. That’s why people often end up bingeing or emotional eating, like I did. When you only drink light beer or commit to noshing on fat-free ice cream, you're telling yourself that you don’t deserve to have what you actually want, which makes you feel like you're not worthy of the things you enjoy. Plus, it's not very fun to keep saying no to yourself. So eat the real thing if you want it, and know that you’re worth it.
Jamie Mendell is a holistic health coach who specializes in helping women lose weight without dieting. To find out more about her philosophy, check out her website. And if you’re looking for deeper ways to take care of yourself so food isn’t your go-to, check out her new Supreme Self-Care program.