How Do I Eat Healthy Without Dieting?

I had a friend ask a question this week which I think will help many people put something in perspective.  She asked, "If I don't follow a diet plan, how do I eat healthy?  When I have "junk" food in the house, I eat too much of it.  I've tried Paleo and that worked for awhile and now I am considering the Whole 30, what do you think?"

I asked her if she wanted my honest opinion and she said yes since we have been friends for 30 years. So I said "NO NO A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!".  (Check out this blog post by Be Nourished for more on the Whole 30.)

She then said she knew dieting went against my "philosophy" but how else do you eat healthy? So I gave her a less snarky and more useful answer. 

It's really very simple and I am so glad she asked this question. 

If you have trouble keeping "junk food" in the house, because it calls to you, then you don't have a healthy relationship with food.

In addition, if you know you feel better eating healthy foods, but have trouble eating them, you don't have a healthy relationship with food.

This is likely because dieting has ruined your relationship with food and your ability to listen to what your body wants to eat. If you were in touch with your body, it would look forward to those healthy foods you enjoy and it would delight in a cupboard filled with cookies. 

People who have never dieted don't go around worried about eating healthy.  (This is a theory of mine because I can't actually find anyone who hasn't dieted before except my husband.) They either eat healthy already; sometimes or most of the time or off and on; or they don't eat healthy and don't care. 

My husband does not sit around wondering if he gets 5 servings of vegetables every day and he isn't "out of control" around pizza, chips, or ice cream. It's really quite fascinating. 

Only dieters (past or present) concern themselves with eating healthy because it is only for dieters that it is hard to do so.  And it is only hard to do so, because you have overridden your inner signals and trusting what your body wants by dieting. 

So it's not that my "philosophy" is anti-dieting, but the science and the psychology supports that dieting ruins your relationship with food.  Afterwards, you will always want what you feel you shouldn't have, and you will reject and rebel against what is supposed to be "good for you".

There is nothing wrong with you, it's natural and human to push back against restriction and to rebel against rules.

Once dieting has ruined your relationship, it needs to be healed before you can consider bringing nutrition back into the equation.  Once a dieter, always a dieter, until you make the decision to heal this relationship.

If you try to do the Whole 30, to force yourself to eat healthy, when you know that you can't have cookies in the house because you will eat them all, you don't have the skills necessary to eat healthy.   Because eating healthy means having the cookies too.  It's like trying to scuba when you don't know how to swim.

So the Intuitive Eating and anti-diet supporters are not against eating healthy, we just know that most people are approaching it from a dieting mindset and they are bound to fail. And when they fail, they never blame the diet, they always blame themselves.  We want to help people break out of that destructive cycle.

When people blame themselves, their mental health and satisfaction with life suffers.  They also tend to want to keep dieting because they aren't aware it's causing a problem in the first place.

So my work as a coach is to shine a few lights on the past and bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to go.  Do you want to eat healthier? Then let's explore your current dieting history and relationship with food and see what is getting in the way of that. 

A few important things to keep in mind.  Eating healthy does not mean you will necessarily be thin. In addition, eating healthy also doesn't make you better than anyone else, it's a choice, not a moral issue. Last, eating healthy does not mean you are guaranteed to be free of disease or live forever. 

It might make you feel better, so it's worth exploring.  Although learning how to manage stress, getting adequate sleep, moving your body in ways you enjoy, connecting with your community and feeling creative and fulfilled in your work can also make you feel better, and maybe even more than changing your food.

Oh and one more very important thing.  After you heal your relationship with food and are routinely eating foods that make you feel satisfied and nourished, let's be clear that trying the Whole 30 at this stage of the game will only take you right back to square one, smack dab in the middle of the dieting mindset. 

So is there ever a good time to do the Whole 30 you might ask?


(Does that answer your question?)