I spent a significant portion of my life obsessing over weight loss. I counted calories, eliminated entire food groups, and "cleansed" with juice.
As you can imagine, this yo-yo dieting led to a dysfunctional relationship with food and my body. While some plans delivered short-term results — 5 pounds here, 7 pounds there — I always ended up overeating the “off-limits” foods and regaining the weight I had lost. In the end, diets failed me every single time.
There is statistical evidence to support what I experienced all along: the vast majority of dieting doesn't work. Up to 95 percent of diets fail, and studies even indicate dieting as a predictor of future weight gain.
Even after hearing these figures, I still valiantly shunned pizza and approached every diet with a sense of hope that it would be the one to “fix” me. Maybe, just maybe, this diet would be the one to help me lose those last 10 pounds.
That is, until I discovered intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating is a set of guidelines that helps you connect with your body’s signals so you can relearn how to eat naturally and normally. This approach to nourishing yourself is all about ditching the "rules" and learning what's best for you.
Through honoring my body with intuitive eating, I reached my healthiest and happiest weight. I finally feel peaceful around food and learned that pizza isn't the enemy; it's something to be enjoyed.
Here are three reasons why eating that slice of pizza (or whatever you choose) is the best thing you can do for your waistline (and your mental state):
1. You'll avoid bingeing later.
Does this scene sound familiar? It used to be my reality: You go to a friend’s party, convinced that you'll stick to your diet. You’ll eat only the raw veggies and pass on the decadent treats.
Then the cheese tray calls your name, so you decide to have just one piece. One quickly turns into four, which turns into a tour of the dessert table, which turns into you heading back to your apartment in a guilt-ridden state, ready to polish off the year-old ice cream in the freezer.
You do this because you've “already ruined the day.” You’ll be “good” again tomorrow, you promise yourself, when you get back on that rigid plan that avoids long lists of "bad" foods.
These dieting rules and restrictions are enough to drive anyone crazy, which is why one of the most important principles of intuitive eating is to give yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods. This dangerous yo-yo dieting cycle leaves us with feelings of guilt and an overwhelming sense of failure and defeat.
It's only once you release judgments about “good” or “bad” food that you can allow yourself the option of enjoying all types of it. The powerful desire you had to consume foods that were considered contraband dissipates.
When you have total permission to enjoy that slice of pizza, there's no longer a pressing need to overeat or binge on “off-limits” foods. Allowing yourself to eat what you really want eliminates overeating and binge-eating later on.
2. You'll crave vegetables.
Allowing yourself to eat and enjoy that slice of pizza might feel scary at first. You might worry that you won’t be able to stop eating, that you'll only want to eat triple-sausage-double-stuffed-pizza until the end of time. But the opposite is actually true.
Have you ever had a weekend full of epic margaritas and guacamole-dipped chips only to find yourself dreaming about quinoa? It's because your body was designed not only to survive but also to thrive.
A more decadent meal will ultimately get balanced out with cravings for something like a big salad, green smoothie, or grilled salmon. Your body desires a healthy balance of nutrient-dense foods right alongside some playful indulgences, both of which are important to reaching and maintaining your body’s healthiest and happiest weight.
3. You'll stress less.
One of the worst parts of dieting is the stress it inevitably causes. Counting, restricting, and eliminating make it nearly impossible to attend or enjoy social events. If you do go, the majority of your energy is spent preoccupied with what you can and can't eat — diets make us feel hungry, irritable, and isolated.
And because the body's stress response is designed to help us survive serious danger (like a saber-toothed tiger attack), stressing out about our diets can actually lead to weight gain.
Our bodies can't distinguish historically defined dangers from the stress we experience deliberating over what we’ll eat at a birthday party, so the automatic hormonal response is to release excess cortisol, which eventually increases appetite and is linked to weight gain.
Instead of stressing out over the latest fad diet, allow yourself to have some fun. Pleasure creates endorphins, and endorphins naturally lower stress in the body. Embracing a pleasurable attitude around food is incredibly helpful in reducing stress and helping your body reach its naturally healthy weight. Sit down with your favorite people, relax, laugh, and savor every bite of that pie.
This year, resolve to enjoy that slice of pizza. Your waistline and sanity will thank you.