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The Anti-Diet: How Not Dieting Is the Key to Losing Weight

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Put your calorie-counting, food-journaling ways on freeze. Here's new thinking on exactly how to eat to lose.

The Intuitive Eating Approach

Jill Carlson, 36, had issues with ice cream. So the Chicagoan, who had lost and regained 60 pounds through a series of different diets, did something drastic. Instead of following conventional weight-loss wisdom and banishing Ben & Jerry's Cake Batter from the house, she filled her freezer with it, stocking 10 pints and giving herself permission to eat it. At first she did -- a lot. But after a couple of months the sweet treat sat untouched. "It lost its sparkle," she said. "I knew at that point that ice cream -- or any food -- no longer had an unhealthy grip on me."

Jill is among the growing number of women who are turning their back on typical diets. They're making peace with food and their weight, using what experts have dubbed a no-diet approach. Their ranks include Oprah Winfrey, who declared she would never diet again after reading Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth, and Smash star Katharine McPhee, who credits this tactic for helping her recover from bulimia. These women practice what's called intuitive eating; that is, they eat only when hungry, they don't feel guilty about food, and they eat whatever their body tells them to. And it works: According to researchers at Brigham Young University, people who scored high on an intuitive-eating scale not only had less anxiety about food and got more enjoyment from eating but also had lower BMIs.

If you stop focusing so much on eating less, you'll actually eat less. It's a radical notion, but desperate times call for desperate measures. "For most people, diet­ing doesn't lead to weight loss that lasts," says Traci Mann, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. In the most complete analysis of weight-loss studies to date, she found that most people regain all the pounds they dropped, and as many as two-thirds pack on even more. Not shocking, when you consider that chronic dieting can affect a person's psychology -- for example, cause moodiness or preoccupation with food, says Janet Polivy, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. Dieters have a tendency to binge, both before their diet begins and after it fails.

Unfortunately you can't change how you view food overnight. "It's a journey," says Barbara Meyer, PhD, the program director of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a nondieting weight-loss retreat for women. "We've had distorted relationships with food for a long time; dieting disconnects you from how food makes your body feel." But with time, you can get to a better place. Just look at Jill's unconventional ice cream experiment. It's actually a well-known tenet of the no-diet approach, called habituation; Jill ended up dropping 50 pounds -- without trying! "I'm eating healthier because I realize I have more energy and better digestion when I do," she says. "My relationship with food and my body is more peaceful, and the weight loss is just a side effect of that. That makes me feel really powerful."

Jill's success made us wonder, Can the habituation strategy work for anyone? Are there other no-diet techniques that sound like psychobabble but actually get results? We sent three women to the experts at the forefront of the movement to find out. The goal: to fix stubborn eating problems by trying anti-diet tactics for two weeks.

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maggieamiano wrote:

This is the best! Check out for a badass blog on anti-dieting. She's a coach who helps people give up dieting and lose weight! I've been following her for a month and have already lost a ton of weight.

12/10/2013 06:50:35 PM Report Abuse
zmansports wrote:

Each individual needs to find some physical activity that they enjoy and participate in the three to four times a week. Each session should also be 30 to 60 minutes. It could be as simple as walking during some part of the day, parking in the back of parking lots, or taking the stairs in buildings. A lot of these ideas would help people to strive for healthier lifestyles.

11/14/2013 01:05:06 AM Report Abuse
zmansports wrote:

Adding larger portions of fruits and vegetables during those moments of hunger would be a better alternative to the over-consumption of favorite unhealthy foods. I know that people would lose a good amount if they followed these type of habits but participating in some type of physical activity each week.

11/14/2013 01:04:23 AM Report Abuse
zmansports wrote:

People do not understand that in one sitting they are eating enough food for two or even three people. So giving them the option to chow down their most appealing food would fail in many aspects. People are taught on a day to day basis that more is better. I do agree that the majority of the time stick to a particular diet will usually lead to a disappointing failure. Statistics on success rates tell us that. I do agree with the article on how people should only eat when they are hungry.

11/14/2013 01:02:40 AM Report Abuse
zmansports wrote:

I think that the habituation strategy could work but at the same time I don't think that it is a good idea to allow everyone to go nuts on their favorite unhealthy food. This could just encourage bad habits of eating other foods on excess for a decent amount of people. The majority of populations do not understand the amount of food they should be eating at one sitting to start with. Restaurants all around even teach us that portions or serving sizes should be as big as possible

11/14/2013 01:00:37 AM Report Abuse

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