Intuitive Eating vs. Dieting

Did you know that restrictive dieting is research proven to result in weight gain in the long run? 

Yep.  Ouch.

And we have all experienced the physical mechanisms that create this boomerang effect of restrictive eating. 

Here’s what it can look like:

Last week, I had a really long day out climbing and brought way too little food.  During the climb, I was ravenous, as we descended, all I could think about was food.  I had to stay focused to keep from getting grumpy.  My brain was taking me into stress-mode, telling me something along the lines of, “Death is assured.  Abort mission, you are dying…” 

It’s not true, but my brain was pretty convincing.  My body was in famine-mode, tapping into fats and proteins because it had long run out of carbohydrates, the brain’s optimal food source. 

Result? Brain is hungry while body is very far from death.

The aftermath of famine-mode, whether from accidental or purposeful calorie restriction, often leads us to overconsuming calories to prepare for future famine.  This is especially true to regular over-restriction.  Our bodies are doing whatever they can to sustain the weight they are at, so will increase your appetite and effectively turn off your stomach’s ability to sense fullness.

Fullness over famine.  Or so your brain tells you.

When I got back to my kitchen, I felt like a bottomless pit.  I ate snacks and a big meal and didn’t realize I was no longer hungry until after I was way too full.

Restrictive diets (the vast majority of ‘diets’) are like this.  You restrict calories or certain foods to the point that a famine-state begins.  Then, we overuse our will power to fight our body’s need for nourishment and end up scarfing comfort food at the end of our day when we are tired and drained from the restricting. 

Overtime, our body doesn’t trust us to take care of its calorie needs so it slows the metabolism and maintains more fat in the cells.

Diets sell us the false belief that we are the reason the diet failed.  But, the fact is, the diet was the failure and our body is just trying to survive against the unsustainable restrictions.


A lot of patience, self-love, and mindfulness. 

These concepts are expertly addressed on the research-based Intuitive Eating approach by Evelyn Tribole MS, RD and Elyse Resch MS, RD.  Focused on body image and building a healthy relationship with food, their ten principles are whole-hearted guideposts for learning to listen to your body.

In my practice, I work with so many clients with diet, weight, and body image concerns.  Some come to me looking for someone to tell them what to do and eat and I have to respectfully decline. 

Maintaining a healthy, balance, mindful relationship with our bodies takes time and often outside support.  There is no room for getting bossy, whether internally or from outside sources. 

Remember, like with so many things, a lot of patience, self-love, and mindfulness…

What habits and behaviors do you see in your relationship with food?  How do you create more patience and self-love when trying to make positive changes in your life?