Let’s talk about how to eat in our post-diet, post-binge, post-overeating life.
First, a little bit about diets. My definition of “a diet” is eating what someone else tells you to eat, in a predetermined way. A diet is restrictive, it’s aimed at maintaining a calorie deficit, it won’t be enough food to sustain you comfortably, it is typically not tailored to any personal preference, requirement or circumstance, and it’s designed to be temporary.
(This is opposed to “your diet,” or what you eat on a daily basis.)
We think the fact that a diet is temporary will save us from disruption, inconvenience and serious hunger. We can push through. We’ve done it before!
And maybe we can again. And lose a little weight.
But usually, as before, the weight comes back. Often with friends, in the form of additional pounds and heavy, heavy self-hatred and despair.
So okay! That’s a diet. Officially NOT A MODEL FOR RECOVERY.
A DIET IS ALWAYS AND ONLY A MODEL FOR RELAPSE. Relapse into crazy* eating, weight gain, crazy dieting, and weight gain, aka the merry-go-round.
If we want to get off the dieting merry-go-round, we will have to adopt a way of eating, a diet in the sense of “what we eat on a daily basis.” A diet of our own devising - that probably shouldn’t include a severe calorie deficit or restrictions that trigger survival freakouts that in turn kick off bingeing. Right?
Here are some models for eating in recovery that will not trigger your body’s survival panic:
1. The Homeodynamic Recovery Model (HDRM), formerly known as the MinnieMaud guidelines. This is a model for recovery from anorexia and bulimia, and involves consuming more calories than any weight-loss diet would dream of prescribing. Like, at least double. Like 3,000 or more.
And you know what? You could do worse.
2. My Plate / Mi Plato, the U.S. Government’s current nutrition guidelines. You could do a lot worse.
3. Or slightly more granular instructions for building a plate, like those developed by Precision Nutrition. These are really very good. Great, even.
4. Mindful eating, which is to say, paying attention to what you eat, when you eat, all the while you’re eating it. Every bite. You could do worse. I guess. Most of us need a little more than that, though.
5. Intuitive Eating, which is the most flexible method I’ve listed. This is the idea that we’re born knowing exactly what our bodies need and exactly how much. All you have to do is listen! It's so flexible it's formless.
Ever wondered why human babies love kale so darn much? Intuitive Eating is why. LOL.
Intuitive Eating is, no question, the worst approach for most binge eaters and overeaters who want to be normal eaters. It is just too structureless to be a first-order recovery tool, as it’s typically used. **
It can't be beat if you want to make yourself crazy and eat chaotically and gain a bunch of weight though.
6. Models adapted from older, more intact food cultures. Examples include French, Italian, Mexican, Japanese or Greek foodways, or elements thereof. A very smart starting point - but if your knowledge of the culture is cursory or cherry-picked, you might be throwing the baby out with what you think is bathwater.
7. Individually developed guidelines, aka your own Body of Knowledge, which could be a combo of any elements above, especially if you didn’t grow up in an intact food culture. It DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THAT: your own bespoke, tested, true recipe for a healthy weight, a happy body and a pleasurable,convivial life.
That’s what I work with people to develop: their own personal body of knowledge about how and what to eat.
* I use the word “crazy” a lot. This offends some people, but I’ve earned it.
** Most of us do get to that "intuitive" place eventually, but it's not really intuition. It's experimentation. Data gathering. Not something babies do, really.
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