I spent ten years, starting when I was 13, either on a diet or cheating on a diet. Mostly different permutations of low-fat, low-calorie diets, and none of them worked. The gluten-free diet is the only diet I’ve never cheated on (although I’ve accidentally eaten gluten on occasion.)
The reason is that when I started eating gluten-free (for the most part, I try not to call it the “gluten-free diet” because of my obsessive dieting history) I learned the difference between eating what makes me feel good and eating to lose weight. Not too long after that, I learned about this “diet” called intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating isn’t really a diet – the idea is that you eat whatever you want, in whatever quantity you want. You eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, and completely ignore any dieting guidelines. This doesn’t mean you sit around and eat nothing but pizza and ice cream, but acknowledging that a slice or two of pizza and a little ice cream every now and again have their places in a healthy diet.
What was really helpful for me about intuitive eating is that it’s very adaptable. For the first time, I’ve learned to ignore all those diet rules that I memorized over the years and figure out what works for me and my body. Here’s some of what I learned:
Grains are not my friend. I’ve tried a bunch of different gluten-free grains, and the only one that really agrees with me is rice. Starchy vegetables (even white potatoes) make me feel great, but grains … not so much. I’ll make exceptions from time to time, but for the most part, I try not to eat them.
Ditto for fruit. I know my opinion deviates from the popular opinion when it comes to fruit, but for me, it’s not a great choice because it makes me really bloated and gassy. What I know is that it’s not the most plentiful source of antioxidants (veggies have more) or enzymes (which are actually proteins, so meat has more), and while the fructose in a piece of fruit may be a better choice than in a can of Mountain Dew, it is a sugar and makes me crave more sugar.
Fat makes me feel great. Yes, even saturated fat. And even animal fat. I wrote a whole post about fat last month, and I stand by it.
Counting calories makes me crazy. There was a time that counting calories was important for me – not because I was eating too much, but because I was eating too little! My appetite was uncontrollable and when I started paying attention to how many calories I was actually eating, it was very clear why – I was averaging only 200 calories per meal. That’s nowhere near enough for my body.
Keep fiddling. Like I said, I learned all of this through trial and error. I’m still fiddling to figure out what makes me feel best – which sources of protein, how much animal fat v. vegetable fat. Right now, I’m experimenting with fermented foods, which I’ll tell you more about in a separate post. But this, for me, is the most important aspect of intuitive eating. Our bodies are all different, so the diet that works for me isn’t going to be right for everyone, and any diet plan that thinks that one diet will work exactly the same for everyone is quite mistaken.