A little over a year ago I officially gave up dieting. I remember the day that I announced this–I was having brunch with two of my best friends. I can’t remember the exact conversation but I believe that one of them was talking about trying to cut her nightly wine habit (too many calories). Or maybe it was the other one, contemplating going full-paleo after doing a recent Whole 30. I’ve been down that road (and lots of similar looking ones) many times before. I just kind of blurted out:

“Yeah I’m never going on another diet ever again. I just don’t have it in me.”

I meant it too. And while some of you might argue that “paleo isn’t a diet it’s a lifestyle”, or that “there’s nothing wrong with trying to break a drinking habit”, for me it’s always been just a different flavor of the same $hit sandwich. Whether it was counting calories, or counting macros, or eating only foods that have under 10 grams of sugar, or only unprocessed foods found in nature, it always led to the same place for me. I’d be really “good” for awhile. Then I’d find myself at a birthday party–having “just one more sliver” until I proceeded to eat half the pizza. Then I’d repeat the same thing except with the cake. Followed by some cookies because I had already blown it. And then maybe some chips for good measure. Might as well, because I sure as hell wouldn’t be letting myself have any of those “toxic” foods again anytime soon. All the while, I’d stare in amazement and the people who were able to leave a couple of bites of cake on their plate. I’d wonder why they didn’t need to handcuff themselves to a chair to avoid devouring that entire bowl of M&M’s that was sitting in the middle of the table.

After years of this nonsense, I decided I was over it. I wasn’t seeing the “results” that everyone seemed to be claiming from their restriction method of choice. Either that or I was just too entrenched in this quest for the perfect figure that I couldn’t see that I was actually in about as good of shape as I was gonna get. I threw in the towel for good and decided to explore a more intuitive style of eating. This all-or-nothing girl decided to try on moderation.

And then I decided to go on a cruise.

An all-inclusive Mediterranean cruise. And I gave myself unconditional permission to eat (and drink) all the things. (Including gluten, which I still have a complicated relationship with, more on that another time).

I know what you are thinking. “You know what happens on cruises don’t you? People go crazy on the buffet. You can eat unlimited desserts at all hours of the day and night! THE AVERAGE PERSON GAINS 5-10 LBS ON A CRUISE!”  or maybe that’s just the nagging little voice inside my own head?

In any case, I decided to disregard the warnings and go for it.

Here is what happened when I swore off dieting and then went on an all-inclusive cruise.

I did not fall face first into a buffet of pastries and wind up a food coma.

Most days I had some variation on eggs for breakfast because I know that they keep me full and energized for a long time. Plus I like them. A couple of mornings I indulged my curiosity in trying some little breakfast tarts because they looked tasty. Some were better than others. Meh. Conclusion: a danish does not make or break my day.

Sometimes I left cake on the plate. 

What?! Who AM I? But really, here is what I discovered. When I gave myself permission to eat sweets at any time I wanted, they somehow lost their power. I could leave some on the plate because I was full. Or because it wasn’t actually that delicious. And I knew that if I wanted some tomorrow it would be there for me. No last supper mentality at this table. Diet does NOT start tomorrow.

Sometimes I ate salad for lunch. Sometimes quesadillas.

 Always because it’s what I really wanted. I had a moment one afternoon where I got hungry and realized it was only 4pm–4 hours past lunch and 4 hours till dinner. At the pool snack bar I was faced with the choice of getting the only “healthy” thing they had–a tomato and cucumber plate, or the quesadillas–which really sounded good to me. I went for the quesadillas and they were every bit as gooey and cheesy as I dreamed they would be. A few days later I actually found myself craving a salad. That was really good too–with olive oil and balsamic and a little fresh salmon and artichokes… Salad tastes way better when it’s your first choice.

I was not stressed about food, so I could focus on enjoying my vacation.

 I could only imagine the crazy look I would have gotten from our waiter in Venice (much less the language barrier) if I had asked him if the butter drizzled on my plate of local mussels and clams was from grass-fed cows. Or if I could substitute zucchini noodles for the fresh pasta they had made by hand that day. Yes, I still love me some zoodles and Kerrygold butter. Sometimes I’m still a little bit picky about my food (I’m workin on it) but I’m glad I didn’t let that ruin my ability to eat pasta in Italy. And dip little Italian cookies in wine. #bestmealever

I had room in my suitcase for the important things. Like shoes.

A lot of other health and fitness bloggers I know pride themselves on bringing portable healthy snacks when they travel. Trust me, I’m all about the snacks too. But I only had a small suitcase and a backpack on my 9 hour flight–I’m sure the guy next to me appreciated that I used what little extra space I had left to pack a clean outfit instead of a can of tuna. Also, I’d argue that even though I’m actually a big fan of RX bars (“6 egg whites, 6 almonds, 2 dates, 4 cashews, No B.S.!”), I don’t think I’d feel well after eating 7 of them (the amount necessary to constitute a full meal).

My pants still fit. 

I don’t know if I gained 5-10lbs. I will probably never know because that number is not something that I pay attention to anymore. But if I did, it was probably insignificant, because I can still zip up my pants. Even the non-stretchy ones. That being said, I feel the need to point out that that we should not judge ourselves or others by the size tag in our clothing. BUT I know that some of you out there were probably wondering what the end result was soooooo….

In the end, I survived.

I did not die from drinking regular milk in my latte because they didn’t have almond milk. I don’t think that I got diabetes from having simple syrup instead of stevia in my mojitos. In fact, I think that any minor health setbacks I may be experiencing from eating potentially non-organic produce has been offset by the reduction of stress that comes with a vacation. Sunshine, sleep, and not sitting in traffic can go a long way.

A lot of people have a negative opinion about things like intuitive eating and the non-diet approach because they don’t really understand what it is. Or they think that  they will just spin out of control and wake up with a face covered in whip cream and shame. I found that for me, it was the exact opposite. Letting go of some of that control actually made me feel more relaxed and a whole lot less crazy. If you too are at your wit’s end with diets and other restrictive food plans that call themselves “not a diet”, then maybe you should give this a whirl too.

P.S. Here are two resources for you to check out. These two books have been the holy grail for many people in learning to be less crazy around food. Both have been a game changer for me. Whether you want to give up dieting yourself, or you are feeling a little skeptical about any of this, I highly recommend you give them a look.

https://www.amazon.com/Intuitive-Eating-Revolutionary-Program-Works/dp/1250004047/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504960523&sr=8-1&keywords=intuitive+eating

https://www.amazon.com/Health-At-Every-Size-Surprising/dp/1935618253

Do you feel like you’re always riding the “clean eating wagon” and still not seeing the results you want? I’ve got a list of 10 good reasons that you may not have considered. Want it?