Expert Laura Thomas on breaking fad diets with intuitive eating

If you're stuck in an endless cycle of diet restriction and failure, Laura Thomas Ph.D may have the answer - intuitive eating.

How many times have you started a new diet determined to be good and then found yourself indulging in your favourite forbidden foods after days or weeks of depriving yourself? Here, Laura Thomas, author of Just Eat It, explains why the diet cycle means fad diets are doomed to fail, and why intuitive eating is the healthy alternative.

January is the month that everyone jumps on the latest fad dieting bandwagon. This year it’s keto, pegan, and the super low energy ‘Fast 800’ – fast route to disordered eating more like, but I digress. Whatever your diet of choice, they all have a couple of things in common. 1) They ‘work’, at least in the short term by reduce the total number of calories you eat, 2) they are pretty miserable, and 3) they don’t work in the long term. 

For anyone who has ever been on a diet (which is as many as 65% of women (each year!) in the UK), this probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Yet every January, we enthusiastically jump on the bandwagon and try to convince ourselves this will be the one that sticks. And we go for one more spin around the diet cycle.

diagram showing the 8 steps in the diet cycle - desire to be thin- restrictive diet - diet mentality -weight loss -hunger/cravings -blow out- guilt and anxiety -weight regain

Step 1: Desire to be thin: When you start a new diet or ‘lifestyle’ it’s usually pretty exciting, you're pumped about becoming the version of you you always wanted to be. And if you're being totally honest, that's probably something to do with changing the shape/size of your body.

Step 2:  Restrictive Diet: So you follow all the rules: HIIT 4 x a week plus a couple of yoga classes to keep you chill. You ditch gluten, dairy, sugar, and anything 'processed'.

Step 3: Diet Mentality: You become hyper-vigilant of food choices, carefully pick which restaurant to eat at, compulsively check labels, track activity/calories/macros/whatever.

Step 4: Weight Loss: You start to see some changes in your body and feel encouraged.

Step 5: Hunger + Cravings: But the cravings start to kick in and you can't keep up with the exercise.

Step 6: Blow Out: You end up saying 'fuck it' and eat all the food.

Step 7: Guilt + Anxiety:  You feel crappy about all the food.

Step 8: Weight Regain Your weight loss slows due to increased cravings and slowing metabolism.  So, you're back at the start – the restrict/blow out cycle continues, maybe next time you try Whole 30 or intermittent fasting. You convince yourself that THIS is the one that will stick, but the cycle goes around and around until you decide to break it.

So, how do we get off this merry-go-round? Intuitive eating is a process that has caught the attention of nutritionists, dietitians, and researchers as a viable alternative. To help us get unstuck; helping us make peace with food, our bodies, and ultimately ourselves.

My book, Just Eat It is a practical guide that walks you through the principles of intuitive eating and teaches you how to apply them. It helps you reconnect with your innate signals for hunger fullness, pleasure and satisfaction, and help you find a balance of foods that feels nourishing without being restrictive or leaving you feeling deprived. It also addresses topics like mindful eating and what emotional eating really means so you can find a mind-body balance, and maybe even get your shit together around food.

In this episode of Book Break, Emma chats to Laura Thomas about intuitive eating and her book Just Eat It, and they discuss their favourite books for people who hate New Year's resolutions.

Just Eat it

by Laura Thomas

Just Eat It is an anti-diet guide by Laura Thomas PhD, a qualified practitioner of intuitive eating, which aims to help you sort out your relationship with food, giving you the freedom to enjoy what you eat without guilt.