Stop restricting and you may find you eat less

6th March, 2018

It is not uncommon for people to misinterpret the concept of unrestricted eating, as a free for all with food; just eat as much sweets as you want without any regard to nutrition or health. In fact, once people have true full permission to eat, as with the non-diet approach, the opposite tends to happen.

Many have the belief that “if I allowed myself to eat that food, I’d want to eat it all the time.” However, what people start to realise, is having full permission to eat a food, can mean they start to want it less.

In the traditional weight loss (weight cycling) and/or “healthy eating” world, a common aim is to reduce intake of particular foods, especially more highly processed sweet foods. Let’s use the humble sweet biscuit as an example.

When you are focused on weight loss or “health”, choosing to eat less sweet biscuits usually revolves around reducing calories and sugar and being disciplined or “good”. Ironically, this type of approach leaves most people eating more sweet biscuits (and therefore more calories and sugar) and feeling “bad”.

Why does this happen?

Each time you’re faced with the prospect of a sweet biscuit, you think “I shouldn’t eat that” and for a while you may be able to resist the urge – but how long does this last? Have you ever been able to completely cut a food from your diet long-term (and I’m not including food allergies/intolerances here)? I know some people can do this, but the fact is, most people can’t. When finally that urge gets the better of you, what tends to happen? You go nuts for the food and eat more than you would normally, or you might find yourself bingeing. This type of approach is responsible for the following phenomena:

  • The “what the hell” effect – “What the hell, I’ve blown it now, may as well go the whole hog!”
  • The “last supper” effect – eating all the food now as tomorrow you’re never going to eat it again
  • The “I’ll get while I can” effect – eating more now as tomorrow you’ll be “good” (or start again on Monday)
  • The “I’ll just finish this packet/container so it’s not in the house and I’ll never buy them again” effect

With non-diet approach, the choice* to not eat the sweet biscuit is simply because you’re not hungry for it, or don’t feel like eating one in that moment. A key difference with this approach, is that when you do actually feel like having the sweet biscuit, you have the opportunity to enjoy it without any sense of doing “the wrong thing”. You may feel like having more than one, but you don’t go nuts and over-eat because you know you can enjoy another one tomorrow or the next day or the next day…

So while the non-diet approach doesn’t restrict any food, it allows you to avoid all the above mentioned effects. When you don’t fall into these diet traps, your eating and nutrition can take on a new look, one that actually promotes healthy behaviours and benefits your health.

*Please note: reaching this point can take time, if you’ve been dieting or restricting food or struggle with how you feel about your body, you will likely need to go through a process of unlearning what you’ve been lead to believe is the best way to manage your diet, health and weight. Non-diet dietitians can help you do this.