Recognizing True Hunger and Eating What Your Body Wants Offered As One Path to Ending the Vicious Cycle of Dieting

foodThe joy of food, with its colors, textures, tastes and nourishment, and the pleasure of sharing it with friends, family or coworkers has become a complex activity in the past several decades. Can there be a clearer sign of a person in conflict with mind and body than lifting a fork to begin a delicious meal and hearing the words, “I shouldn’t be eating this.” Maybe it’s the carbohydrates in pasta or fresh bread served by candlelight in an elegant restaurant. Some people feel obligated to discuss the sugar in a beautiful bakery cake or homemade cookies, even though they don’t mean to throw a wet blanket over the birthday or holiday party.

What has happened to the natural human tradition of breaking bread in good company and enjoying it without guilt? Without ruining the pleasure of food for everyone in earshot? Is there an alternative to the vicious cycle of dieting, losing and re-gaining weight and worrying constantly about food?

“Every diet works, but in the short run,” said Judith Matz, Director of the Chicago Center for Overcoming Overeating and author of The Diet Survivors Handbook, in an interview on To Your Good Health Radio. “What we know is that 95-to-98 percent of people will gain back the weight and two-thirds will actually end up heavier than their pre-diet weight.”

The mission Matz has taken on is “attuned eating” by trusting your body to know how much and when to eat. It’s re-learning to listen to your body for signs of true hunger and then eating exactly what you’re hungry for, choosing from a wide variety of food you keep in your cupboards. Then you’re nutritionally satisfied.

Psychological issues can detour some people and make it difficult to choose if they’re to using food to soothe, numb or distract themselves. In that case, Matz suggests reading to get more knowledgeable about the possible causes or getting counseling to identify the deeper issues that spur compulsive eating. That offers different ways to work through emotional prompts for needs that may not be physical hunger.

“As clients end their compulsive or binge eating by becoming attuned eaters, they usually hope they’ll lose weight,” said Matz in an article in Psychotherapy Networker in 2011. “I empathize with that wish, and point out that if weight loss occurs, it’ll be a side effect of normalizing their eating. Since weight is the result of complex factors still not completely understood, my goal is to help clients feel more comfortable in—and take better care of—their bodies, no matter what their size.”

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References:

Matz, Judith, “Recipe for Life,” Psychotherapy Networker, January/February 2011.

Matz, Judith, “Are Your Diet and Nutrition Issues Weighing You Down?” on To Your Good Health Radio with David Friedman.

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