Like many other Americans, you may have made New Year’s resolutions; like most of those, you may have broken them already. More than likely, your resolutions centered on the need or desire to lose weight.
Weight loss is a $60 billion industry in our country. Regardless of whether you choose keto, low carb, low fat, low sugar, intermittent fasting or clean eating, diets have one thing in common: They don’t work. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 95% of dieters will gain their weight back within five years. Even worse, numerous studies have found that dieting is linked to greater weight gain, along with increased rates of binge eating and rise in body mass index.
The irony of the situation is that everyone who goes on a diet knows exactly what they must do to lose weight: They need to eat less, eat differently and exercise. That’s about it. If you agree, then the only thing that works for weight loss is a lifestyle change. Combatting obesity means changing the role of food in your daily routine.
We’re losing the battle. In 1962, 23% of Americans were obese (defined as a BMI of 30 or higher). Last year, according to the CDC, 36.5% of U.S. adults over the age of 20 were obese. Most estimates put the mid-century total near 50%. The epidemic has resulted in $147 billion of additional medical expenses each year, as obese individuals have elevated risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
You can’t find a much more significant lifestyle change than the one proposed by Intuitive Eating, one of the theories poised to resonate in 2020. The idea has been around since the 1990s and was outlined in the 2003 book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, by registered dieticians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
The idea is simple and dramatic enough: Rather than dieting, you listen to your body and eat whatever you want, whenever you want. It may sound crazy, but research conducted over the past several decades indicates that intuitive eaters appear to have less eating disorders and lower BMIs. Rather than denying themselves until they give up and start binging, they follow the natural rhythms of their digestive cycle. Eating an entire package of rice cakes may fill you up, but it won’t satisfy your cravings.
However: if you could follow the natural rhythms of your digestive cycle, you probably wouldn’t be obese in the first place. If you want to lose weight, it makes sense that you’re going to experience hunger—just as someone trying to stop smoking is going to crave a cigarette. If you weigh 300 pounds or more, listening to your body’s demands is probably not a great idea. If you’re one of those rare individuals blessed with self-control, then intuitive eating might be for you.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture. Friend of the Devil, his first novel, was released in 2016; his second novel, The American Crusade, a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq, is now available on Amazon.