Prior to that, I had dieted on and off (mostly on) for 24 years. I did everything from Atkins to Weight Watchers to Overeaters’ Anonymous to doctor-prescribed low calorie diets and everything in between.
So it was challenging to imagine not dieting and to figure out how to eat without lots of rules.
When I really think about it, I just have a few rules now. And they’re not even really rules, more like guidelines or things to consider. My only rules are that I like to try to get a good amount of fruits and vegetables every day, and I try to avoid aspartame, sucralose/splenda, high fructose corn syrup (but, see below) and hydrogenated oils. That’s really it.
My only other rules are that I like to eat what actually tastes good to me and that I try to respect when my body feels full. These last two happen naturally at this point so I don’t actually have to think about them or really require them as rules.
People often ask me what I eat, and I try to steer them away from it because I don’t think what I eat is all that important. I’m not a diet guru and I will never say, “Eat like me and your problems will be solved!”
But I was thinking today that I do break my old diet rules all the time without even thinking about it. (And, after the typical diet regain happened, it hasn’t affected my weight, nor, more importantly, health indicators like cholesterol and triglycerides.) I even break “intuitive eating rules” all the time without any deleterious effects. So I wanted to share some of these with you so that you can see that breaking these rules is no big deal!
1. I Eat Full Fat Everything
After a lifetime of coffee with skim milk and low-fat grilled cheese sandwiches, it was a revelation to finally eat full fat food!
My first experience of it was while I was on the Atkins diet, but it was less sanctioned by my later diets, like Weight Watchers.
At first I would feel a little guilty about it, but then I realized that the whole low fat/ no fat thing is really just a scam that preys on people’s faulty knowledge of biology; i.e., the idea that when you eat fat it becomes fat on your body.
Full fat foods are amazing. Fat in food is the stuff that keeps you feeling satisfied. Your brain needs fat. You need fat! And it’s freaking delicious. Not only that, full fat food is often less chemicalized, because it doesn’t need the fillers and binders that low fat foods need in order to be edible.
I put heavy cream in my coffee, I eat full fat Greek yogurt. My eggs ALWAYS include the yolks. And I will never go back.
2. I Eat In Front Of The TV
One of my specialties is helping folks move from diet-based eating to intuitive eating. One of the biggest no-no’s in the intuitive eating world is eating in front of the TV. And yet, I do it all the time.
Why do I do it? Because I like to do it. I find it relaxing. I’ve noticed that watching the news or political shows while eating stresses me out, so I don’t do it. But I’m happy to watch my favorite comedy shows while eating.
I’ve found that I can eat and watch TV without eating past the point of comfort. I’m able to be aware of my body and my fullness levels while still watching TV.
When clients come to me beating themselves up about eating in front of the TV, they’re usually relieved to hear that I do that myself! Also, I’ve found that when you stop beating yourself up for doing it, you can actually notice whether you enjoy it or not, and notice your body’s signals while watching.
3. Sometimes I Eat In My Car
This is another HUGE no-no in the intuitive eating community, but I do it sometimes.
Every once in a while I have a meeting or appointment to get to and I realize that I don’t have much time to eat.
I’ve found that if I get a croissant from the bakery and eat that in the car on the way somewhere, it’s not too messy (just brush-off-able crumbs) and it can satisfy me for a few hours. (I have no doubt that the butter (See #1) is what’s really keeping me satisfied.)
Of course, eating in the car is not ideal. I’m not really paying attention. I’m just eating something so that I don’t feel too hungry later. And in that way, my Car Croissant(TM) is, to me, self care. I’m recognizing that I’m hungry and need to eat something and not making a big deal about. It satisfies me so that I can think about other things.
4. When I Actually Have Soda, It’s Regular Soda
After years of drinking liters upon liters of diet soda, I stopped drinking soda altogether about 12 years ago.
It was really hard to kick the habit, but the result was wonderful. I realized that the aspartame in soda really doesn’t work for me. After a month of not drinking diet soda, my brain felt clearer. I actually felt like my memory improved significantly and I felt better physically.
Nowadays I don’t drink much soda, but when I do, I have just regular old soda.
Sometimes I’ll get one of those fancy cane sugar ones, but mostly I’ll just get a coke or a ginger ale or whatever.
I know that I said that one of my remaining guidelines was avoiding high fructose corn syrup, and that is true. But every once in a while I have something with it and move on with my life. I don’t worry about it or beat myself up for it. I just enjoy the taste of whatever it is, satisfy that craving, and then think about other things.
5. One Last Diet Rule That I Break Every Time I Eat
In reality, I break a gazillion old diet rules every time I eat. I used to have so many that it was impossible to eat anything without breaking some sort of rule.
But the big rule that I break all the time, every time I eat, is that I eat whatever I eat without feeling guilty.
In fact, I never feel guilty about food anymore. I just eat. And then I stop. And later I eat again.
I don’t suffer the endless existential crisis of “Should I eat this? Is this okay on my diet? How many calories have I eaten today? I want this but I shouldn’t eat this!!!”
I’ve had six guilt-free years of enjoying food and not thinking about it very much and I will never go back to my old diet rules.
What are your old diet rules that you break all the time? Are you thinking about getting off diets but don’t quite know how? I hope you’ll comment below!
Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.