Aliza Eisenstein is a nutritionist with over 18 years of experience, licensed in the US and Israel. Eschewing the dieting approach, she offers individual nutrition coaching and workshops for pre-teens, teens, and women with the goal of helping her clients develop a healthier relationship with food and implement sustainable changes.
How did you develop your unique approach to nutrition?
I kept seeing diets fail, again and again—for myself and many others. People were coming to me for diet guidelines and expecting to solve their weight ‘problem’ once and for all. Although unrealistic, that’s what was expected of me as a nutritionist. I felt stuck.
I went to a life coach, and started to see that my own beliefs about food and my relationships with others impacted not only my career, but also my eating habits. Once I was able to differentiate between physical hunger and the emotional sensation of wanting food, I could explore and tend to the emotion rather than silence it with food. I understood that this type of work was key to helping future clients. I trained as a life coach, and ever since, I’ve been offering my clients a much deeper and more effective approach to addressing their eating problems.
What’s wrong with dieting?
Research shows that if you go on a diet, you are actually more likely to gain weight in the long run. This is because restriction—a basic component of a weight-loss diets—triggers psychological and physiological responses that make most weight-loss diets a setup for certain failure. It’s a vicious cycle where the repeated failure reinforces shame and inadequacy, which set us up for more failure.
How is your approach different from that of other nutritionists?
Hashem created us with internal cues that let us know when we need fuel and when we’ve had enough. Many of us learn to distrust those cues over time. I teach my clients that they can trust themselves to decide what, when and how much to eat; to recognize, understand and respond to their natural body cues rather than following external guidelines about when and what to eat; and to recognize and develop alternatives to emotional eating.
But what if someone feels that she can’t trust herself to decide what to eat?
There’s a big difference between eating on impulse and mindfully eating what you truly want to eat. Eating impulsively is when the thought arises that you want to eat something, and you act upon it without paying attention to your thoughts or feelings. Intuitive or mindful eating is asking yourself, “What do I want to eat now? Will I truly enjoy it? Will it feel good in my body?” If the answer to those questions is yes, then you would go ahead and eat whatever it is, noticing how you feel while eating it. When you do this, you’ll start to notice when you’ve had enough: when you are satiated or no longer enjoying. It often takes some work to retrain ourselves and recognize cues, but every person can learn to trust themselves around food. And when you do, you’ll discover that you will intuitively choose a balanced diet that provides just the right amount of calories for your body.
What does learning to trust yourself look like?
There are three components to becoming a mindful and intuitive eater:
- Granting yourself unconditional permission to eat: The default setting is I am allowed to eat this if I want it. This neutralizes the physiological responses to restriction and deprivation.
- Listening to your body: Retraining yourself to hear what your body is telling you about hunger and fullness. The key here is to learn how to be an unbiased observer: to notice, without judgement, how you eat in various circumstances, what you are thinking when you reach for food, etc. When you can do this, you are much more likely to make necessary changes without getting stuck in shame, guilt and frustration.
- Managing emotional eating: My experience, both personal and professional, has shown me that it is not a lack of knowledge that makes people fail to eat healthfully; the huge challenge that so many face is how to manage themselves around food when emotions are running high. I help clients develop alternative skills to coping with emotions so they don’t have to turn to food.
Aliza Eisenstein is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN
Aliza can be reached at 054-842-3044 or firstname.lastname@example.org