What is Intuitive Eating? Part 1

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re enjoying the last week of 2016. I’m here today to share about intuitive eating. I learned a lot about intuitive eating this semester, mainly through podcasts, a few mentions in class, and finally reading the book! I’ve been implementing this approach into my life and have evolved into a more intuitive eater. Of course, I’m not a dietitian yet or in a place to give you nutrition advice, so I wanted to approach this topic as a student. Also, of course this approach looks different for everyone (some people like more structure or have medical issues, etc).  I feel like two posts on this can’t do it justice, so if you’re interested I highly recommend reading the book to learn more! Ok, without further ado- here’s my book review of Intuitive Eating (third edition) and my own thoughts on the approach.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch are the two dietitians who coined the term and wrote the book Intuitive Eating in 1995. They didn’t know each other at first, but had a similar journey in private practice. They felt it was unethical to prescribe diets for their clients, but also unethical to ignore the important role nutrition can play in your life. Eventually they found each other and combined their scientific knowledge with psychological principles to come up with intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating is an approach that focuses on tuning into your body’s internal cues of hunger, fullness, and food preference to nurture your body and find your natural weight. We are born knowing how to eat; babies and toddlers eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full for the most part. The authors state that the process of intuitive eating is relearning something we are born with, not learning a new trick. It is NOT a diet or to be used as a tool for weight loss.

Another great account to follow

The authors say that while some of their clients experience weight loss, health and peace with food and your body is the goal. They encourage clients to focus on complete whole-person health as the goal, and put weight on the back burner. This book provides guidelines to find a make peace with food and your body, and to pursue health without restrictive eating and rules. There are 10 principles of Intuitive Eating, and I’m going to discuss the first 5 today. Each one has its own chapter in the book, so if you’re interested in the tidbits I share here definitely consider reading the book!

Principe 1: Reject the Diet Mentality

An overwhelming amount of evidence suggests that diets don’t work, and in fact are harmful in many cases. Research has shown that weight cycling, losing or recycling the same fifteen pounds, may be more harmful that having that weight in the first place. I love the simplicity of this drawing from Kylie. Among other things, dieting (especially chronic dieting) leads to: slower metabolism, increased risk of developing an eating disorder, social withdrawal, and weight gain over the long run.

If you hang onto the diet mentality, it will prevent you from tuning into your body and what you need. If you reject it, you’ll be able to listen to your internal signals AND have a lot more brain space for important and fun things. Win-win.

Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger

I think it’s important to first state that this isn’t a rule!!  Their point with this principle is to eat primarily based off biological hunger, but of course it’s fine to eat if you aren’t hungry.

On the flip side, don’t ignore your hunger. If you’re hungry, your body is telling you that you need food. You wouldn’t deny yourself going to the restroom if you had to pee, would you? It’s a weird example, but I think you get the point. Ignoring hunger often results in becoming ravenous then overeating, which makes you feel like you can’t trust yourself around food. Cue the next diet->binge->guilt->diet cycle.

Principle 3: Make Peace with Food

Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. The second you forbid yourself from eating a food, say chocolate cake, it becomes more attractive. Then, when you finally give in and let yourself have the food, you eat a whole cake instead of a slice or two. After all, if you think it’s the last time you’ll have that cake, of course you’re going to overeat!

When you make peace with food, food loses its power and YOU can decide what you truly want, and how much. I know what you’re thinking.. that doesn’t sound healthy to eat whatever you want! It seems counterintuitive, but the authors have found that when people go through the process of making peace with food, they end up balancing their intake naturally. They end up eating mostly nutritious foods with some “play foods.”

In the past, I viewed this cereal as “not healthy.” I would wait and eat it for dessert after dinner. Now I eat it whenever a craving strikes. I usually don’t feel the need to go back for bowl after bowl since it’s no longer a “bad” food I’m indulging in. It’s just food!

Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police

Everywhere we turn, we are told what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat it, and how much. The Food Police, whether it’s your inner voice, someone you know, or a collective societal voice, tells you things like “this food is bad for you” or “don’t eat after 8 pm.” Only you know what foods you like and what works for you. Throw out the idea of foods being “bad” or “good.” When you eat a food you have labeled as “bad,” you feel guilty, and that takes the joy out of eating.

Principle 5: Feel Your Fullness

Respect your fullness rather than clean your plate purely out of habit. I absolutely overeat at times, whether it’s because it’s Thanksgiving or just because the food tastes good and I want to keep eating. However, it would be really uncomfortable to do that every day. When I eat past comfortable fullness, I notice that my stomach hurts and food doesn’t taste as good.

The authors say the key to this is Principe 3: making peace with food. If you know you can have more later, it’s easier to stop eating when you’ve had enough. Another key is conscious eating: rather than eating on autopilot, pay attention to how you feel during a meal. Are you full yet? Does the food still taste good? This may seem burdensome, but I can attest that it becomes natural over time.

Whew! That was a lot. I told you I had a lot of thoughts and feelings, and I could keep going!

You may notice this post is rather void of nutrition talk. The authors purposely focus on nutrition later in the book. They have seen that focusing on nutrition at first can undermine attempts to break free from dieting. Even though I have never been on a true diet, I found these principles applicable to my life. I don’t think there will ever be a day that I don’t have to challenge the Food Police; it’s so pervasive! Anyway, I’ll be back just in time for the New Year to share the last 5 principles, which include information about how to eat healthfully and exercise without rules or a rigid plan.

What are your thoughts on intuitive eating? Have you read the book?

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