People are overweight either because they eat too much food or they eat the wrong food (too many processed foods, too many sweets). But it is not for lack of knowledge of what to eat, and this is a crucial point. Most overweight people could write a book about nutrition and what they "should" be eating. They know what to do, but they don’t do it. Why?
It’s not that fat people are weak or morally deficient. It’s that there is a compulsive aspect to overeating. Part of it is the physical effect of processed food – sugar, salt, and fat. But this isn’t the whole story, and it’s not even the biggest part of the story because people can and do learn to eat moderate amounts of these types of foods.
The main reason for overeating is emotional eating – stress eating. And here’s the thing: dieting can’t fix that.
Continue reading How to Lose Weight for Good and for Real
Recently a new member in the Normal Eating Support Forum posted this message (edited for brevity):
Right now I eat a junkfood diet and have for decades. I don’t eat fruit or vegetables hardly ever. I never learned to prepare dinner every night. I live mostly on pizza, hamburgers and fries, Chick-Fil-A and restaurant food. I also have a sugar jones. I fall asleep, wake up an hour or two later and then when half awake go down and binge on cookies, candy, cake, and other sweets.
I understand stage one is about legalizing all food. I know I have to stop thinking of these foods as “bad” and beating myself for eating them. How can I lose my shame over eating these foods?
She is right that there is no shame in food choices – ever – and that you have the right to eat whatever you want. But she is wrong that the foods she’s eating are not “bad”. They’re pretty bad nutritionally, though she still has ever right to eat them. It’s also not true that the first stage of Normal Eating is “legalizing”. She’s confusing Normal Eating with some other attuned eating programs that I think make a serious mistake.
Continue reading No bad foods? All foods equal? Careful!
For an emotional eater, giving up dieting can be terrifying. Suddenly there are no rules. You’re responsible for your own food choices, and you’re not sure you can be trusted. You may have struggled for years with lack of control around food. You may fear that Normal Eating can’t work for you, that you don’t have the ability to choose well. You may feel that the only possible way to control what you eat is through the external strictures of a diet.
The culture at large reinforces this fear. If you tell someone you’ve decided not to diet anymore, you’re likely to be told what a dangerous mistake you’re making, how natural appetites have no natural limits, and the only way to lose excess weight is through a diet. You’ve probably been told every day of your life that you’re not competent to choose your own food.
But it’s not true! Natural limits are part of our natural instincts. You just lose touch with your natural, internal controls when you become used to looking outside yourself for guidance. As you reconnect with yourself and learn to meet your needs in authentic ways, compulsion melts away and you are able to eat normally.
Continue reading Decision to Stop Dieting: Jumping Off That Cliff
Do you eat because it’s time to eat, whether you’re hungry or not? A lot of people do, and then feel crappy afterwards.
If the goal is to eat when you’re hungry, does that mean regular meal times are out? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. But figuring out how to make your hunger coincide with meal times is actually a skill. People trying to stop emotional eating probably won’t be able to do this immediately.
Continue reading Eating at Meal Times and Eating from Habit
The end of the year is a time to review and take stock. The news media recounts the major events of the last 12 months, and makes lists of the public figures who have died. And we, as individuals, think about our own lives. What happened to us over the last year? What went right? What went wrong? What can we do to make next year better?
Even after good years there is always a little sadness because the passage of time reminds us we are mortal. So resolutions for the new year inevitably involve renewed commitment to healthy habits: quit smoking, exercise more, lose weight. Unsurprisingly, given that the new year comes after a month of heavy holiday eating, a commitment to lose weight is the most common new year resolution of all.
For most people, the commitment doesn’t last. Good intentions translate into a burst of short-term effort followed by discouragement, self-recrimination, and finally giving up. You stop even trying, for a while, anyway.
It doesn’t have to be like that.
Continue reading 5 Secrets to Turning Resolutions Into Reality
Editing Note: This post and the next post originally were one long article.
For people who have sworn off weight-loss diets, principles of nutrition can seem like just another set of eating rules to rebel against. The idea behind the non-diet approach is that you can trust your inborn body wisdom to tell you when and what to eat. If that’s true, then why do you need to learn anything? Isn’t this an intuitive, non-thinking approach?
If we were living in the Stone Age we could approach it that way. But we live in a time where the universe of foods to choose from is highly unnatural, so we can’t rely only on our natural inclinations, our body wisdom. At some point, we do need to learn about nutrition.
So how do you incorporate nutrition information so as not to feel like you’re back on a diet?
Continue reading A Place for Nutrition in the Non-Diet Approach?
Since everyone else today seems to be asking “What Is Normal Eating?” (Psych Central blog, New York Times Wellness blog, Feed Me I’m Cranky blog), I figured I should address it here – at the official “Normal Eating” Web site.
“Normal eating” means eating according to body wisdom – which then begs the question, “What is body wisdom?”
Continue reading What Is “Normal Eating”?
There’s been a lot of discussion in the forum lately about mindful eating – generally how much people don’t want to do it. It’s ironic that emotional eaters who claim to love eating find it so hard to just eat – to focus only on eating when they’re eating. It seems the only time that emotional eaters don’t think about food is when they’re eating!
Mindful eating is the functional opposite of emotional eating, and therefore its antidote. It blocks the payoff of emotional eating, so it’s no wonder that people resist it. But for that same reason, it’s essential.
The complaints about mindful eating generally fall into five categories:
- Mindful eating is boring.
- Checking in with myself makes me anxious.
- I’m too busy to take the time to just eat.
- It feels like too much work.
- It feels like a diet.
Here’s what’s behind each of these complaints.
Continue reading 5 Reasons Emotional Eaters Shun Mindfulness
What makes people fat are the two main factors that interfere with body wisdom:
- Emotional Eating and Compulsive Overeating – Eating when you’re not hungry, to meet emotional needs and cravings.
- Processed Food – Processed foods are engineered to pervert body wisdom so people eat more.
Body wisdom is an inborn attraction to the foods that our body needs for nutrition. It tells us exactly what, when, and how much to eat. We know that humans have this instinct, just as animals in the wild do, thanks to a study presented 70 years ago today.
Continue reading The Original “Body Wisdom” Study
I watched the segment on Good Morning America this morning about the Fat Acceptance movement. I’m all in favor of accepting yourself and loving yourself no matter what your weight. But I was very disturbed by the clear implication that if you stop dieting, you will gain 100 pounds like Marianne Kirby did. This is absolutely not the case. If you overcome emotional eating – a primary focus of my method, Normal Eating® – you will not stabilize at a morbidly obese weight. Countless people who have tried Normal Eating® can attest to this.
This story – and perhaps the Fat Acceptance movement as a whole – does a disservice by implying that an externally prescribed diet is necessary to achieve and maintain a normal weight. Women watching this story will come away with the idea that if they stop dieting they’ll gain 100 pounds, which naturally will send them running to the next diet. But in fact, diets ultimately result in weight gain over 95% of the time – the yo-yo effect. Learning to eating normally – according to body wisdom – is the only long-term solution to weight problems.
We need a movement in this country to accept normal-sized bodies. Most of the images we see all around us are underweight. But a fat acceptance movement that implies you will weigh 300 pounds if you stop dieting actually encourages people to continue dieting. This is a terrible disservice because diets don’t work.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them.