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Guest Blog: Registered Dietician Samantha Finkelstein - 5 Reasons To Ditch The Diet Mentality (And What That Actually Means)

The main force behind Rediscover Nutrition is a deep desire to help individuals cultivate a lasting positive relationship with food and their bodies. Research shows us over and over again that diets don't work, and weight doesn't tell us everything we need to know about someone's health. That's why Samantha Finkelstein, RD--founder of Rediscover Nutrition--is committed to guiding clients to a weight-neutral, all foods fit approach to eating. If you're ready to start loving yourself, and stop fighting your food, book an appointment today.

“I’m so bad for eating this”. “I’m not keeping this food in the house anymore — otherwise I’ll eat the whole box”. Comments like these have become so common place that it may be hard to believe they are problematic. But it turns out that this mindset around our eating may be leaving us in worse shape than we thought. Diet culture, defined as “a system that values weight, shape, and size over health and well-being”, tells us that if our eating and our bodies don’t look a certain way, we are unworthy and unhealthy. Yet, seeing weight as the sole determinant of health has actually led us to poorer health, with increased rates of disease, and decreased self-worth and body image. Research now tells us that weight stigma and chronic dieting have much more to do with it than does the number on the scale.

Intuitive Eating, a groundbreaking book written by two Registered Dietitians, tells us that our bodies already know how to take care of us. By listening to our hunger and fullness cues, while banishing our internal food police, we can come to peace with food and learn to love our bodies, regardless of size or shape. Rediscovering your ability to eat intuitively and detaching from the number on the scale is not only doable, but has some serious benefits. Here are my top 5 reasons to ditch the diet mentality:

1. No more bingeing
A binge is either an objectively large amount of food, or just feels like one, but is always marked by a feeling of being out of control or an inability to stop. People often want to attack the binge problem by creating food rules and more rigidity around their eating. But it turns out that the biggest predictor of a binge is restricting. Restricting can come in the form of not giving yourself enough to eat throughout the day, ruling out foods, or can even look like just telling yourself you’re bad for eating and need to stop soon. Bingeing is actually a smart evolutionary trait we developed to stop us from starving to death when food is scarce. When we’re hungry, or tell our bodies we will be soon, we shift into a mode that says “seek out food by any means necessary”. When we eat intuitively, this is no longer needed, and just goes away over time in most cases.

2. Learn what you like (and what you don’t like)
You may think you’re clear on this one. But if you’ve been dieting, you may be surprised. It is not easy to tell what your body truly prefers when it’s in a constant state of scarcity, which is what dieting sets us up for. Giving Intuitive Eating a try might just help you get to know your preferences in a whole new light.

3. See better health outcomes
Studies that have compared groups of people following Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size models showed healthier lab values, including blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol, when compared to a group following a typical “healthy” diet. This was the case despite there being no significant change in weight for the group of Intuitive Eaters. The “healthy” diet group members did have some weight loss, but most gained the weight back.

4. And better body image, too
The same study also looked at body image, which improved in the Intuitive Eaters, despite no significant change in weight. No body image improvement was found in the diet group, who did initially lose weight.

5. Completed and total food freedom
Certainly the greatest takeaway from Intuitive Eating is an effortless relationship to food. Intuitive Eating can help shift from a life run by food and weight, to one where food is just one of many ways to practice self care, no longer being something to stress out about. The best gift of my work is getting to see my clients eventually leave my office with a stress-free, shame-free, and flexible relationship to food and to their bodies.

If you’re down to ditch diet culture, but aren’t sure how, start with this article on spotting a diet.

While Intuitive Eating is a worthy goal for anyone, if you’re struggling with an eating disorder, the best way to fully recover is to work with a team of professionals. Jumping into Intuitive Eating too soon can be detrimental, like starting physical therapy on an injury before letting it heal in a cast first. For more information on resources, visit the NEDA website, or reach out to me at samantha [at] rediscovernutritionllc [dot] com.