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    I know what you're thinking. I receive hundreds of letters every week from people who have read my books and tell me that they just don't believe me. One person was so disgusted with my suggestions that she gave my book to her dog as a chew toy. But this same person wrote me a letter a few months later and said: "After my dog, Chili Pepper, ate your book, I realized that I might have over­reacted to the idea of trusting myself. I bought another copy and decided that for one week only, I would follow your advice and stop dieting, eat what my body wanted when I was hungry, and stop when I'd had enough. An amazing thing happened: For the first time in my adult life, I turned down cake for dessert. I realized I was satisfied and that if I ate the cake, I would feel sick. When I told myself I could have it if I really wanted it, I could actually figure out if I wanted it — and the answer was no. Without the threat of impending restriction and doom, I found that I could trust what I wanted."

    Locking yourself up in a cage day after day will inevitably lead to strange behavior when you are set free. The fact that you overeat is not a sign that you are helpless to resist the call of ice cream from a freezer so you must never eat ice cream again. It is only an indicator that you locked yourself up and are now rebelling against being confined. You need to learn to trust the inner voice that tells you what feels good and what doesn't, and you can't do that by restricting yourself to someone else's menu plan.

    Take a close look at your food-and-weight history. How much of your seemingly erratic behavior resulted from restriction? How many food fests were on the tail end of diets? Then start slowly by asking yourself — and acting on — these two very simple questions:

    What foods give you energy?
    What foods drain your energy?

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