Sunday, June 10, 2007

What You Need To Know To Lose Weight Without Dieting

If your commitment to eat right, exercise, and lose weight
always seems to lose its steam, you are not alone! Weight
problems are not just about what you are eating, but why you
are eating in the first place.

To see what I mean, ask yourself these questions. Do you think
about food and eating more than you think you should? Do you
feel guilty when you eat certain foods? Do you have trouble
passing up tempting food even if you aren’t hungry? Do you
often eat when you are bored, stressed, lonely, or angry? Do
you eat differently in private than you do in public? Do you
fluctuate between dieting and eating too much?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, you have
probably discovered that dieting hasn’t really solved the
problem. To help you understand why, lets take a look at three
different eating styles: Over Eating, Restrictive Eating, and
Instinctive Eating.

In “Over Eating” people eat because it is mealtime or because
something looks good - whether they are hungry or not. They
may also eat to distract themselves or cope with stress and
emotions. They may reward, comfort, or entertain themselves
with food. Their weight tends to go up and down depending on
whether they are off or on their diet.

In “Restrictive Eating,” a person controls his or her weight
by dieting. They decide when, what, and how much to eat based
on the rules of the latest diet they are following. Since diet
rules are always changing, they sometimes feel confused about
what they should eat. They think of food as either “good” or
“bad”—and they think of themselves as good or bad, depending on
what they ate.

Now think about someone who doesn’t struggle with his or her
weight. If you are having trouble thinking of someone like
that, think of a baby or a young child. I call this
“Instinctive Eating.” These people just seem to know when,
what, and how much food they need. When their body needs fuel,
they get hungry, triggering an urge to eat. They simply stop
eating when their hunger is satisfied. Most of them really
like to eat and seem to be able to eat whatever they want.
However they will turn down even delicious food if they aren’t

You might believe that a person who eats instinctively has been
blessed with willpower and a great metabolism. But the truth
is, we were all born Instinctive Eaters. Its just that many of
us “unlearned” our natural ability to know how much to eat. The
good news is that you can relearn those skills if you are
willing. I did! Here are some important steps to get you

1. Let go of the idea that there is a perfect diet that will
finally solve your problems. The answer lies within you.

2. Whenever you have an urge to eat, instead of focusing on the
food, first ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” Remember that hunger
is a physical feeling. It is not the same thing as appetite,
cravings, or the desire to eat.

3. If you are hungry, remember that there are no “good” or
“bad” foods. You are less likely to overeat certain foods if
you know that you can have them again when you really want

4. Stop eating when the hunger is gone but before you feel
full, even if there is food left. Give up your membership to
the Clean Plate Club!

5. If you are not hungry, ask yourself if something in your
environment triggered your urge to eat and what you could do to
reduce the trigger or distract yourself from it. For instance,
could you put the candy dish out of sight or do something else
for a while until you are actually hungry?

6. If there was an emotional trigger, ask yourself what you
could do to better cope with that emotion. For instance, if
stress triggered your urge to eat, could you try a relaxation
exercise instead?

7. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect—it is not possible or
even necessary.

By relearning to eat instinctively, you will see that eating to
satisfy hunger is pleasurable and that it is good to eat foods
that you enjoy. You will find that meeting your other needs in
appropriate ways will bring balance and joy to your life. By
learning these important skills, you will reach a healthier
weight and a healthier lifestyle—without dieting!

About the Author: Michelle May, M.D. is a practicing Board
Certified Family Physician with expertise in the
cognitive-behavioral aspects of weight management. She is the
author of Am I Hungry? What To Do When Diets Don’t Work in
collaboration with a Registered Dietitian and Psychologist.
Visit her website for more ideas on
managing weight without dieting.