3 Steps to Ditch Diet Rules and Feel Healthier

Intuitive eating means figuring out what food habits work best for you.

January 28, 2021
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Photo by: jacoblund/Getty Images

jacoblund/Getty Images

Dieting can oftentimes leave people feeling discouraged, exhausted and hungry. It almost seems impossible to not go on some kind of diet because we’re constantly getting flooded with messages around the newest diet trends that promise to solve all our health problems. As I wrote about before, dieting, restriction, and intentional weight loss can negatively impact your health and quality of life. Whether you’re completely cutting out food groups or have more subtle rules around food, the restriction mentality can get in the way of helping you develop an enjoyable and pleasurable relationship to food.

Here's how to ditch diet rules for good.

This is Part 2 of a our series on intuitive eating. Catch up on Part 1 here.

No food is off-limits.

Unless there is a medical reason, completely cutting out certain foods or food groups is just not necessary. I’ve actually found that when people label certain foods as “forbidden,” they tend to crave those foods more. Does this mean you should have chocolate every day for breakfast? No, because your body will probably not feel so great after doing that for a few days. Think more about eating varied and balanced meals throughout the day, and if you want to incorporate fun foods like sweets or chips as part of those meals or in between those meals, then that’s totally fine. Finding a middle ground between nutrition and pleasure is a much more sustainable way to eat than cutting out foods you love.

Think about what healthy looks like for you.

It’s easy to define health through the lens of your favorite influencers and health professionals, but health is individual and multifaceted, and it should reflect your personal needs and values. Think about what foods, activities and practices help you feel your best, and start there. You don’t need to add spinach to every smoothie or be a certain size for good health. What movement do you actually enjoy doing? What social relationships bring you happiness? How are you sleeping? These are all great questions to help you define your version of health..

Respect your body.

Diet rules are usually tied to losing weight or changing how your body looks. Most health care providers use Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine how healthy you are, however BMI doesn’t give you a full picture of what’s happening with your health. Aside from being outdated, the system of classifying who’s at a “healthy weight” is closely connected to the history of slavery and racism in the United States. Because of how normalized fatphobia is in our society, accepting and loving your body can be an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially for people who are of a larger size. Being gentle with your body, showing it respect for allowing you to move and do the things you enjoy doing. Also, if you are concerned about your health, keep in mind that lifestyle changes that you do consistently, independent of weight loss, are a much better predictor of good health.

As a registered dietitian/nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator, Wendy Lopez, MS, RDN, CDCES is passionate about accessible and culturally relevant nutrition education. She is the co-host of the Food Heaven Podcast, and the co-founder of Food Heaven, an online platform that provides resources on cooking, intuitive eating, wellness and inclusion. When not working on creative projects, Wendy also provides nutritional counseling and medication management to patients with diabetes.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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