Note: Each of these steps comes from the first chapter of Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. The reactions to each step are my words on how I dealt with them.
1. Recognize and acknowledge the damage that dieting causes. This step essentially explains the biological and psychological damage that dieting causes. In a nutshell, dieting teaches the body to retain more fat when you start eating again, decreases your metabolism, slows the rate of weight loss, increases binges and cravings, increases risk of premature death and heart disease, causes satiety cues to atrophy, and causes body shape to change (see http://www.intuitiveeating.org/content/warning-dieting-increases-your-risk-gaining-more-weight-update). The psychological damage includes eating disorders, poor body image, feelings of social anxiety and failure, and the belief in a fundamental character deficit (see pages 48-49 in “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch).
For me, it was very difficult to accept the biological damage that dieting causes because those things—heart disease, slow metabolism, etc.—are hard to see on a day-to-day basis. All I had running through my head was the strong message that dieting reduces health risks. I mean that is what I have been taught since grade school. Of course, nutrition has a place in my relationship with food, but it cannot have one now, not at the beginning when I am trying so hard to reject the diet mentality. The psychological damage of dieting was easy for me to accept because I have been fighting against an eating disorder, issues of poor self-worth, and body image, feelings of failure, etc. almost since I first started dieting.
2. Be aware of diet mentality traits and thinking. Essentially this step involves rejecting all previously held beliefs about dieting such as when a diet fails it is because you do not have enough willpower, and dieting rules help you stay healthy because they give you rules that you should obey in order to stay healthy, and when a diet doesn’t work or you can’t follow the rules it is because you are a failure.
For me, all of this sounded good in principle, but it was really hard to accept in action. I have been telling myself I don’t have enough willpower and am a failure for so long now that rejecting it outright really isn’t an option. So, I took this step to mean allowing myself a seed of doubt that these beliefs I clung to in the dieting world might not be true. And although the perfectionist in me baulked, this seed of doubt was all I told myself I needed before I moved on to the next step.
3. Get rid of dieter’s tools. This step is just like it sounds—get out a humongous trash bin and throw away every scale, diet book, magazine, and diet book disguised as a cookbook that you own. Feel free to say a prayer over it or burn it, but just get rid of it. This actually wasn’t too hard for me because I did it in a moment of passion and although I may have since had the urge to weigh myself, I don’t have the scale anymore, so that’s just too bad.
4. Be compassionate towards yourself. This step involves reconnecting with yourself and other women in ways not involving food and body talk, discussion, or dissection. Accept imperfection. I think it is safe to say that this step is definitely ongoing for me because it is really hard to achieve. My relationship with my body is one of the sticking points of this whole mind-game and it rarely makes room for compassion.