13 Dec Intuitive Eating – what’s it all about?
You might have heard me talking a lot about this Intuitive Eating thing lately, so I figured that I’d better explain what it is…
Intuitive eating is a non-diet nutrition approach, developed by Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It’s not a quick fix super-cleanse, sorry! Diet rules, food rules and behaviours are ingrained into us and it takes time and effort to break the cycle.
It’s a way to get back to how we were born eating; before we learned all of the diet rules. We cried for milk and we stopped when we were done. Somewhere along the way we lost our ability to do this – and our ability to trust our body to choose foods that satisfy us.
We eat for many, many reasons – hunger is only one of them. But years of trying out the latest diets and low fat / low sugar / low joy foods can leave our bodies and tastebuds unsatisfied and fighting for the foods they really fancy. Intuitive eating helps you to tune in to eating in the way that your body knows best.
What are 'diet rules'?
Diet rules tell us 'not to be fed after midnight' - wait, no that one wasn’t for us. They tell us - 'don’t eat after after six', 'no carbs before Marbs', 'I’ve been ‘bad’ because I ate that cake'.
Guess what? There’s no such thing as a bad food (unless it’s going to make you sick).
Learning to eat intuitively is an ongoing process that can take months to get the hang of. The good news is that it can be done. The joy of intuitive eating is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. You’re not going to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for doing things a certain way.
There’s no one perfect way of eating that’s going to suit everybody and so intuitive eating works with you and your body. Remember that it’s not a diet. And, let’s be honest, no-one eats intuitively all of the time – and that’s okay too.
There are a set of Principles for Intuitive Eating – principles, not rules, that outline the basics:
Ditch the diet mentality
Honour your hunger
Challenge the food police
Make peace with food
Respect your fullness
Discover the satisfaction factor
Honour your feelings without using food
Respect your body
Exercise – feel the difference
Honour your health
What Intuitive Eating is not:
A set of rules
A way to lose weight
Giving up on yourself
Throwing away the science
As intuitive eating has gained popularity in recent years, aspects of it have been co-opted into diet culture. Eating Mindfully and Intuitively are now bandied around as a way to lose weight. Intuitive eating at its core is not about weight loss or BMI, it’s about finding the most healthy weight for you.
A lot of people also think that without set diet rules they’ll lose control and just eat pizza smothered in extra cheese all day every day. Trust me, if you listen to your body and persevere with the process – the aim is to stop you feeling so out of control around food. Your body won’t want to eat cheesy chips for every meal of the day every day of the week. Honestly, you’d get sick of it. (Really – you would!)
When food restrictions are removed we realise that it’s okay to enjoy foods we’d previously forbidden. Just knowing that you’ll be able to eat them again - that the crisps will still be there, that’s the joy of not dieting.
It’s not throwing away all of the science behind nutrition either – it’s about gentle nutrition. It’s usually best to address how you feel around food and get back in tune with your body before looking at balancing out nutrition. I’m a dietitian who’s spent years with my head in biochemistry textbooks and I am not about to stop geeking out about nutrition science. Intuitive Eating now has a growing evidence base behind it. It’s worked for many people and has been linked with improved glycaemic control in diabetes amongst other things.
So, intuitive eating isn’t throwing all of that away – it’s about taking a gentle approach. There may be weeks where you eat past fullness and there’s not a veg in sight. Your body will slowly realise that you want to eat different things though, you’ll get sick of foods that you know you can have any time. It’s a process and it takes time but it works.
That’s a very brief intro to Intuitive Eating. Want to know more? I’m going to take a look at each of the principles over the next few weeks. If you wanted to delve into the science and experience behind the principles of intuitive eating I’d highly recommend asking Santa for a copy of the Intuitive Eating book by Tribole and Resch* and check out their new Intuitive Eating Workbook*. (*affiliate links – see disclosure policy for more information)
NEXT week: Why diets don’t work.