A Conversation About Ditching the Diet Mentality

Sometimes it feels as though I have been on some sort of diet or engaged in an attempt at a lifestyle change everyday of my life.

I have sworn off parts of nutrition or bits of food, as though I could amputate them and carve away until I'd produced the perfect diet the way a sculptor produces a masterpiece. No carbs, no fat, no cookies, only fat-free cookies, no gluten, lots of whole wheat, no grains at all, no dairy, no eggs, only egg whites, nothing white,  no red meat, no meat at all, only fish, no meat with fruit, no food at all after 8 p.m., no food at all after 6 p.m., no breakfast, big breakfast--the list goes on and on and on.

And I'm tired. I'm tired of never eating with pure enjoyment, of always having a running inner  play-by-play commentary about nutritional data and what I'm going to do to counter eating this delicious meal and how I'm going to eat differently right after this bite.

I've mentioned that I'm struggling with intuitive eating. Part of the reason why is that I haven't figured out how to turn the head radio off. My inner Chick Hearn hasn't gotten the message yet that he's fired. I'm, of course, capable of enjoying food. I love food. I'd even call myself a foodie. But there is always this layer of either defensiveness or guilt or self-righteousness between me and what I'm eating.

Because I'm a sucker for an experiment, and I also have an academic project to think about that will benefit from it, I keep thinking there must be some way to formalize this intuitive eating thing. Some way to make lists or promises or something so that I can understand it better and make it work.

I own a copy of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch and a copy of Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon. I'm wary of trying to institute some kind of strict program and turning intuitive eating into yet another diet. But I'm also feeling slightly overwhelmed by the whole competent and intuitive eating thing and I need some way of wrangling it in so I can figure it out.

The Tribole and Resch book lists ten principles of intuitive eating which are available on their website here. The first is to ditch the dieting mentality.

I don't even know for sure where I'm going with this. Part of me wants to design a step-by-step plan, figure out some way to collect data as I go, and measure success on a flow chart. It would be so easy for me to go there and make a comprehensive 10-week program of intuitive eating for myself.

But I'm pretty sure that won't work and will end up turning intuitive eating into one more lifestyle change. It feels very diet-y to think about doing that. I can already feel the part of me that is still trying to heal from the damage done by decades of dieting rearing up and saying: but this time, it might work. Intuitive eating might make me smaller.

My set point must be somewhere below 340, right?

Ah, that voice. I call her desperation. She lives next door to Chick Hearn and likes to keep her bedroom window open so she can hear his voice on the breeze.

So, I'm caught in this place where I want to examine intuitive eating in an academic, research-y way, but I'm a little afraid that doing that will ruin it. I also think that part of me hears the word "intuitive" and insists that I shouldn't have to work this hard to get it. It should come, you know, intuitively.

Maybe I'll start with a conversation. It seems to me that a conversation is almost always a good place to start. In fact, I have a feeling that a conversation might be the whole point and just what I need. So, here goes:

Will you tell me your thoughts on the diet mentality? Have you ditched it? Are you still living with it? How do the words diet and live style change make you feel? Do you have an inner Chick Hearn? Have you figured out how to turn him off? How did you do it? If you are an experienced intuitive eater, will you share you early experiences with me (and anyone else who might need to hear them?) What does it feel like a couple years in, if you're there? If you're just starting out with it, like me, can you relate to my fears?

Let's have a Ditch the Diet Mentality conversation this week, okay? And I'll think about it this week and see what I can come up with next week to structure or process the discussion into something. I don't know what yet. But something.

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Shaunta Grimes blogs about body acceptance and athleticism for every size at Live Once, Juicy. She can also be found on Twitter.

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