okay, babes, i’m keeping this intro short and sweet because i’m so excited for this. today we’re jumping back into health & fitness content and we’re kicking it off with some Intuitive Eating chit chat. i’m not the most knowledgeable on the topic so i’ve brought in my bestie, sierra, who is my little wellness guru! i’ll let her go ahead and introduce herself.
Hi there! My name is Sierra. I am and have always been very interested in the topic of health and wellness. I am an OSU Graduate with a degree in Marketing, but I just recently decided to go back to school to pursue my dream of being a Dietician, and I couldn’t be more excited!
Exercise and healthy eating have always been important to me, and I am always wanting to learn more. I discovered the concept of Intuitive Eating (IE) maybe 3-4 years ago and I was immediately hooked on learning as much as I could (and still have a lot more to learn). Basically, IE goes against everything the media and society tells us – “Eat more kale! Don’t eat carbs! If you lose weight you will be a happier person! Sugar is bad! Paleo! Keto! FOOD IS BAD!” *major eye roll*
The thing is, we all consciously and subconsciously buy into what we read or hear all the time. We’re human. But what if there’s a chance food can bring a sense of peace and joy into your life? What if our bodies are trying to talk to us and we’re just not listening? What if there is absolutely no food that’s off limits? Well I’m here to tell you there is an answer to all of this, and it’s called Intuitive Eating. Our bodies are incredible machines that deserve to be respected. It’s time we stop ignoring our internal cues and start paying attention to how we feel.
The concept of intuitive eating was a bit confusing the first time I heard about it. Some things make perfect sense and others seem contradicting. By going against diet culture and acknowledging there are no bad foods, I can eat whatever I want…right? So why not have ice cream for breakfast? Does eating healthy even matter? Obviously eating a bag of kettle corn is a lot more exciting than a bowl of broccoli, so how in the world am I supposed to adhere to a healthy lifestyle AND practice Intuitive Eating?
Let me get a few things clear before I say anything else:
Intuitive Eating does not mean that eating whatever you want, whenever you want is what you should do. Although all food is allowed, the principle of IE is that you listen to your body, begin to learn what makes you feel your best, and decide what to eat (or not eat) based on what your body is telling you at that time. It takes PRACTICE, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a little bit to get the hang of things.
IE does not disregard the effects your diet can have on your health, whether positive or negative. Those effects are just not the entire focus of eating. Instead, IE puts the focus on how food makes you feel and generally, people feel better physically and mentally when they choose to eat wholesome foods. Unlike diet culture, IE accepts physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs when it comes to food. Dieting only focuses on physical effects and restrictions, which completely ignores what your body may actually need.
You do not have to eat the perfect diet to be healthy. “In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence – the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience” (Tribole & Resch 26). It might seem scary to not have guidelines to your eating, you might feel out of control or scared that you might eat too much or not the right thing. But once your body realizes that it will be fed regularly and consistently, you will be surprised at how much cravings and binges decrease.
What happens when you’re on a diet and you decide to eat a brownie? Immediate disappointment and failure. You are not a failure because your body wants something outside of whatever diet you are on. The appeal to diets are that they will fix everything and make you skinny. They promise quick and permanent success. When in reality all they do is cause a slower metabolism, weight fluctuations, and a loss of trust with yourself and food. By rejecting this toxic mentality, you are able to have a healthy relationship with food and eat based on how you feel instead.
This might be my favorite one. It’s all too common that people ignore that they’re hungry because they feel they “shouldn’t” eat. Then by the time you realize this method isn’t going to work and that you could eat an entire cow, you end up throwing any sort of nutrition and logic out the window and overeat on the first thing you see. Notice the vicious cycle? By honoring your body when it tells you to eat, you are able to rebuild a sense of trust with yourself and food.
If you forbid yourself from eating certain foods, cravings are only going to increase. When you finally do decide to indulge in that “forbidden” food, you’ll most likely eat way more of it because you tell yourself that “this is the last time.” When you allow yourself permission to eat anything at any time, splurging suddenly becomes pretty uneventful because you know you could just choose to eat that cookie tomorrow instead. It instead becomes a question of “how would that food feel in my body right now?” Your cravings will likely cease once you give yourself unconditional permission to eat, and you will most likely have to eat less of those things in order to be satisfied.
You know that voice in your head that praises you for eating green beans and shames you for eating ice cream? Yeah get rid of that. You are not defined by what you eat. Your worth doesn’t go back and forth based on your choice of lunch. Food is a basic necessity and should never be a space for criticism of yourself or others. The eating experience should always be guilt-free. Proper nutrition is more of a marathon than a sprint, it matters more what you eat over a long period of time than that one evening you decided to eat chips and queso for dinner.
This seems like a simple concept, so let me explain. If you knew going into a meal that you would not be allowed to eat again, wouldn’t that cause you to eat as much as you could even if you feel full? This principle ties into honoring your hunger. You are allowed to eat when you feel hungry. This enables you to stop eating when you feel full because you know you can eat again when you feel hungry.
Sometimes eating can turn into a fearful event. When weight loss or changing our body shape gets involved, food becomes evil. You know that feeling of having an intense craving? Sometimes we will eat 4 or 5 things to try and satisfy that craving only to end up eating that desired food anyway. By simply choosing to eat what you want, you allow yourself the satisfaction of eating and usually end up eating a lot less. And the cravings generally become a lot less intense too.
This one is something I think everyone can relate to. That post-breakup-not-moving-from-my-bed-and-eating-a-whole-gallon-of-ice-cream situation…yikes. Or the boredom munchies at work when you’re not even hungry? Yeah that too. Here’s the reality, food won’t fix your problem or make your situation better. In fact, you will eventually have to face the source of the problem AND deal with the discomfort of overeating. It’s ok to go out for dessert with your bestie to make you feel better, but food should NOT be used to distract you or to calm you. I promise there are way more effective remedies for what you’re feeling.
This one will PREACH. Evelyn Tribole uses the example of shoe sizes in her book. If you wear a size 8 shoe, realistically you wouldn’t try to squeeze into a 6. Everyone is built differently. Speaking to women specifically, our bodies are INCREDIBLE machines. They carry, birth, and nurse children. As soon as we start to respect the body we have been given, we begin to treat ourselves as such. It’s very hard to walk away from dieting if you can’t respect and accept your natural body shape. And for the record, people remember and cherish your kindness, grace, compassion, energy, determination, grit, work ethic, etc. over what your body looks like. Your achievements go far beyond being “skinny.” Listen to your inner cues and focus on what you need instead of what you think others expect of you. I’m rooting for you!
Exercise is a long-term activity in a world of immediate gratification. It can be compared to dieting in that there’s always a new exercise regimen that is *guaranteed* to be the ONE to fix everything. If you are using exercise to FIX something, there needs to be a shift of focus in your mind. Having a goal of weight loss can be a long-term motivator for some, but for most it is short-term. If you are able to find joy in exercise and shift the focus to how it makes you FEEL, you’ll remain motivated for much longer. It becomes a bright part of your day that brings you satisfaction, instead of a mundane task that doesn’t seem to be “working.”
The word “gentle” in this regard means to be conscious of what foods you’re eating, but not counting fat grams and calories. Nutrition matters, like I said before. It’s important to honor both your taste and your health simultaneously. I can confidently say that once you begin to eat based on how you feel, you will get all you need nutritionally. Our bodies have a funny way of letting us know exactly what it needs. Nutrition should be an ally for health, not a dieting weapon.
Intuitive Eating brings us back to how eating was supposed to be. The media tells us something different about nutrition every single day. It’s hard to know what’s right and wrong? There is so much pressure on us to look a certain way, eat certain things, not eat certain things, etc. that we get so caught up in all of these restrictions and lose sight of how food actually makes us feel. When we focus all of our attention on food and obsess over calories and grams of carbs, we miss out on other important things in life. Social events turn into high stress situations because of the food that’s presented. Holidays are dreaded because of all of the homemade goodies. These things are highlights of life and deserve to be enjoyed! Intuitive Eating takes food out of the forefront of our minds so that we are able to focus on the more important things in life.
In the midst of January, aka National Dieting Month, I hope this shed a little light on the realities of dieting and make you look at food in a more positive way. My hope is that everyone gains respect for their bodies and a sense of trust with food. You deserve to feel your best. You are worth it. You can do it.