What if you could eat anything you wanted, and not feel guilty about it? On International No-Diet Day, you can do just that -- and maybe even transform your relationship with food in the process.
Diets aren't just about food and weight. As anyone who has suffered an eating disorder or has been stuck in a cycle of yo-yo dieting knows, they're about mindset and guilt as well. The point of International No-Diet Day is to push back against societal attitudes about weight, body image, and food, and to focus instead on health, fitness, and mindful eating.
"The intent of mindful eating and mindfulness is to bring somebody to the present moment and allow them to reconnect to their direct experience," Megrette Fletcher, a registered dietician and the co-founder of the Center for Mindful Eating in New Hampshire, told Yahoo! Shine.
"A lot of times when people eat, they're thinking much more about the calories," Fletcher explained. "Or maybe they're thinking about their next project or job deadline." But research shows that staying in the moment and focusing on the taste and texture of food allows us to better understand whether we're hungry or full. And that, in turn, allows us to better maintain our health without having to deal with a strict diet.
Research shows that diets alone don't really achieve much. That's because they focus on what you should eat without addressing why you eat. The author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes and other books on mindful eating, Fletcher points out that our eating habits are often influenced by things other than physical hunger.
"If you're not hungry when you are eating, how do you know when to stop?" she asked. The answer: You don't. Instead, you eat until the food is gone, rather than until your appetite is satisfied.
"But when you check in … people really start eating foods in a way that's pleasurable," Fletcher told Yahoo! Shine. They're happier and more satisfied. But the good news doesn't end there: They're also reporting weight loss, improvement in blood sugar levels, and a reduction in binge eating, according to Fletcher.
"When we're in our heads and we're listening to all the chatter, we may be missing how food can benefit us and nourish us, and how we can reconnect with the joy of eating," she explained.
"It's really important to look at the whole picture for each one of us, our emotional well-being and our overall health," agreed Dr. Rick Kausman during a Facebook chat hosted by The Butterfly Foundation, an Australia-based organization dealing with eating disorders and body image, on Monday, in honor of International No-Diet Day. Focusing on how you feel, rather than whether a food is "good" or "bad," can help eliminate the guilt that can go along with eating. His iPhone app is based on the "empowerment cards" he created to help people eat mindfully and "to feel better about yourself and your body image."
"It's normal to eat a variety of foods," he said. "If we feel like a hamburger, then it's usually a good idea to have a hamburger!"
Also on Shine:How to Get Fit Without Going on a Diet
8 Diet Tricks that Don't Involve Dieting
7 Reasons Your Diet's Not Working