If you’ve been struggling with dieting or watching your weight for a while, there’s a good chance that you’ve completely lost touch with your body’s hunger signals. Your hunger and your sense of fullness, also known as ‘satiety’ is your body’s way of controlling your weight. And if it seems like you’re always walking around feeling hungry, then you are not able to know when to stop eating. That’s when pushing yourself away from the table or walking away from perfectly good food and resisting the urge to eat more, becomes a huge power struggle.

Can you relate to any of these situations?

Do you often find yourself obsessing about food?
Do you automatically serve yourself big portions at most meals?
Do you have the ‘munchies’ all day long, always looking for something to pick on?
Do you have trouble resisting any offer of food?
Whenever you flip through a magazine, watch a commercial, or see someone eating, do you get hit with cravings that eventually push you to eat?

Are you really hungry?

If you are having these challenges, you’re not alone. It just means that you’ve lost touch with what it feels like to be satisfied enough that you don’t want to eat anymore. Maybe the disconnect with your body’s hunger satisfaction switch happened because you were told that your hunger was something to fear so it was best to avoid it at all costs and never allow yourself to get too hungry. You could have learned this from your family when you were a kid or perhaps picked it up along the way.

For years as a dieter, I felt like I was always walking around hungry. I thought that the only way for me to get control of my hunger and eat less was by always trying to arm wrestle down my cravings and use my will power to fight my urges to eat more. It was so hard to try and be disciplined all the time and I couldn’t keep it up for long because those feelings of deprivation , desperation and hunger always drove me.

During those times when my hunger had me by the throat, nothing was more important than food, not my husband, my kids, or my commitments. Nothing mattered more to me than getting my next fix. Food was definitely my drug of choice. I just always thought of myself as an emotional eater. Every time I was overwhelmed and couldn’t deal with the stress in my life, food felt like my only friend.

I don’t know about you, but one of the most degrading things for me thinking of myself as an emotional eater was feeling like I could never control my runaway appetite. I used to believe I was a bottomless pit, a “volume eater,” dare I say it, “a garbage can.” It didn’t much matter if I ate a whole bag of potato chips, a pint of ice cream, and a pound of chocolates during a binge, or an entire bag of steamed vegetables and a head of lettuce when I was “in the zone.” No matter what or when, I thought of myself as a big eater and accepted that as being who I was. That was me: Andrea, the animal. Many dieters struggle with the same challenges, identifying themselves as being big eaters. It’s a common diet strategy to keep yourself filled up on low-cal foods and diet drinks as a way of staying in control and not getting too hungry. The pervasive fear is that if your hunger gets out of control, you’ll start eating at one end of the room and never stop until you hit the opposite wall.

But the truth is despite what you may believe about you being a volume eater, it isn’t really the case. Your body doesn’t need to consume as much food as you may have been used to eating. But you can’t just start eating less and expect that your body won’t resist your efforts by trying to sabotage you and make you always think about food. That’s why it’s so hard to lose weight on diets.

Diets distort your relationship with food

Because diets keep you focused on all the wrong things, they keep you thinking like a fat person, focusing constantly on your weight, obsessing over everything that goes in your mouth, how much food, how many fat grams, the number of calories and all the other details that prevent you from ever being able to have a healthy, happy, balanced relationship with food. As long as you’re caught up in the loop of thinking like a dieter, and living by the letter of the law of the diet, you’re never going to be able to learn how to master food and feel safe around your temptations.

Dieters tend to think of certain foods they love as being fattening, unhealthy or forbidden. But thinking of anything in this way gives it too much power. Trying to avoid eating something you really want is a horrible trap that will only make you want to eat that food more. It’s human nature to give into these strong cravings. Don’t beat up on yourself because you’ll only compound your misery by making yourself feel shameful and guilty. If you think about it, diets are really just a big, fat binge waiting to happen.

Intuitive Eating: An alternative to dieting

As a recovering dieter, I’ve found my way out of the insanity of dieting. I made a decision about 6 years ago that I would never be ruled by diets again. Today I follow a process that I learned back then called Intuitive Eating. It’s a simple way of connecting with your body and being able to tune in and listen to those subtle signals that tell you to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied.

Now I live peacefully with all my favorite foods in the house. I rarely overeat them because I know that I can always have them. To me, there’s no greater freedom in the world than to know that I have control over my food and not the other way around.

That’s why I’m so passionate about working with women who struggle with food and weight obsession and giving them tools to discover that they can feel safe and sane around all temptations.

Yes. It’s true. You really can eat anything you want and get thinner slowly as long as you listen to your body. But here’s the rub. Are you ready to give up the promise of a quick weight loss through dieting in exchange for having a peaceful co-existence with all the foods you love? I’ve already made my decision. What’s yours?