It's stunningly simple.
It turns out calorie restriction backfires...hardcore.
There is so much focus in the diet and fitness industries on eating the "right amount."
The right amount to maintain weight. The right amount to lose weight. The right amount for longevity.
Most women's magazines will have a meal plan for you to eat the right amount. Eat the amount that Eva Longoria eats. How to eat the amount Jennifer Hudson's trainer's friend's mom says she eats.
What is that magic caloric number? 2,000? 1,800? 1,500? 1,200? Or, like on that one day in high school when I 'successfully' ate 800 calories and thought, "If I could just keep this up then I'd finally be amazing."
Besides the very important fact that losing weight does not immediately grant the happiness, amazingness, or the health we have been seeking — obsessively counting and restricting calories comes with its own set of issues.
It turns out calorie restriction backfires...hardcore.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we have a biological weight regulation system. It's deliberately in place to keep us from starving — and it's brilliant, but it does not jive with our current beauty or weight model. It just won't have any of it. You start restricting calories, and it thinks what the f*** are you doing?
Our weight regulation system is a lot like a thermostat: it'll lose weight initially, sure, but then it will deliberately and specifically gain back the weight by either slowing down your energy expenditure or by overriding your attempts at food control and have you eat or binge more food than is on your diet.
People's lack of adherence to diets is more biology than it is any lack of willpower or laziness. People gaining the weight back after losing weight isn't failure, it's nearly inevitable for most healthy bodies.
And I have experienced time and time again that the more a person diets, the more their weight will tend to be all over the place — up and down and all around, needing to have many different sizes in their closets just based on how they've been eating that week. The more they diet, the slower their system tends to become, and more likely their body will happily put on weight when they stop sticking to their plan.
The more they diet, the easier it is to gain weight over a weekend.
Our obsession with trying to obsessively control our weight, and subsequently our food, leads to extreme misery, lack of confidence, and frankly, poor health. Whereas the more intuitively and amply you feed yourself, the healthier and more energy-balanced and weight-stable you will become — at the right weight for you, wherever that may be.
So I teach attuned eating. "Normal eating," if you will. And the first issue I run into with people is that most of them are still trying to make sure they are eating the right amount.
It is so hard to shake diet mentality, that even people who willingly start down the anti-diet route, deliberately wanting to break the cycle, will still run into a bad case of making intuitive eating into a diet. Something along the lines of It's very important that I pay very close attention to my body and hunger signals so I eat the perfect amount and don't gain weight. I really hope I listen closely enough to stop eating this brownie at the perfect stopping point and don't eat one bite too much because that is emotional eating and I DON'T WANT TO EMOTIONALLY EAT. They want to start eating intuitively so they can make sure they eat the right amount. And it's a paradox. Trying to eat perfectly, no matter what method, is a recipe for disaster. And I promise you, it will backfire just like diets do. This is what intuitive eating gurus fail to tell you. The ones who attract their followers and clients by promising weight loss, giving guidelines on how rate hunger, eat slowly without distractions, how slowly to chew, how to tell the exact moment they are finished, how to make sure they eat the perfect amount. THAT IS STILL A DIET. And that will backfire too.
Truth time? What most people who have been restricting need is a bit of a backlash. They need to eat a lot. They need to gain some weight. They need to eat more than what is considered normal and acceptable, and they need to do all of this in the pursuit of food neutrality and normal eating and a healthy metabolism. Once you let go of the reins, you'll eat a lot for a bit, and then eventually, food will become super-neutral. You'll start to eat normally, eating things you truly want in normal, ample quantities, and weight will stabilize.
I know that sounds like a fallacy because we live in such a diet-centric world, but weight doesn't just go exponentially and infinitely up. Appetites are not bottomless pits. We are not destined and designed to eat ourselves to death, yes, even on crappy addictive foods. We will stop. It will normalize. Food will lose its power over you.
When food loses its power, eating happens intuitively; you don't need to follow strict hunger guidelines. When food loses its power, even emotional eating isn't as enticing, and even when it does happen (as it will, because we are emotional creatures and food is soothing), it won't turn into a binge. And it also won't make you need a whole new wardrobe by the end of the weekend because when you feed your body consistently, it can maintain its weight consistently.
And the simplest easiest way to know if you're eating the right amount will be if you want it.