America is large and growing larger.
Nearly 42% of Americans are obese, up from 30.5% in 1999. Severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2% over the past two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As the scale creaks, more Americans risk heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, and more – and healthcare costs, including productivity losses for employers, soar well in excess of $200 billion annually, the CDC notes.
Many diet plans that are part of a $73 billion weight loss industry focus on vilifying and often eliminating certain foods from our diets, but such plans may be missing the point, according to Kaitlyn Miele, a registered dietitian with Capital Blue Cross’ Health Promotion and Wellness team.
Interventions focused on food tend to ignore other contributors to obesity, such as genetics and social determinants of health, she said. Miele and her wellness colleagues work with many of Capital’s group members to acquaint them with the benefits of intuitive eating, an approach focused less on what we eat and more on why we eat.
Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch introduced the concept of intuitive eating in 1995. Referred to as the anti-diet by some, intuitive eating is built on 10 guidelines that can help people become mindful and self-aware eaters:
- Reject the diet mentality.
- Honor your hunger.
- Make peace with food.
- Challenge the food police.
- Respect your fullness.
- Discover the satisfaction factor.
- Honor your feelings.
- Respect your body.
- Movement—feel the difference.
- Honor your health with gentle nutrition.
Rejecting the diet mentality is the first step in the path to intuitive eating.
“Intuitive eating dietitians believe that the more you restrict certain foods, especially if these are foods that you generally enjoy eating, the more you will crave them,” Miele said. Deprivation can lead to a binge-and-restrict cycle known as yo-yo dieting, she added.
“An intuitive eater understands that internal cues should drive food choices, not a list of rules from a certain diet,” she explained.
Research is promising, Miele said. In 2015, Researchers from the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Barcelona concluded that intuitive eating “may be a more promising and realistic alternative to address overweight and obesity than the conventional weight-loss treatments.”
Those curious about intuitive eating may want to read “Intuitive Eating, 4th edition” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, and should consider visiting a Capital Blue Cross connect health and wellness center in their area, Miele said
“Obesity is not always just about calories in and calories out,” Miele said. “That is oversimplifying a complex issue. … Many other factors can contribute to weight gain and obesity.
“It’s not just a matter of will power or laziness,” she said. “That unfortunately seems to be the stigma.”