It’s called intuitive eating, and it goes against the grain of all popular dieting methodologies. No need to weigh food, count calories or stress over the numbers on the scale. Intuitive eating spits in the face of conventional dieting wisdom, much of which has not yet yielded consistent results for millions who struggle with their weight and body image.
Has food ever frustrated you? Have you ever committed to a restrictive diet plan only to find yourself sitting on your kitchen floor with your face buried in a bowl of ice cream? If so, you are not alone. The American diet industry is worth 66 billion dollars and Americans are more unhealthy and overweight than ever before. Clearly, something is not working.
Intuitive eating is not a novel idea
Although intuitive eating may sound like a new approach, the concept has been around for over twenty years, In 1995, two dieticians from Southern California published a book on the topic after witnessing clients lose and gain weight over and over again following conventional dieting wisdom. Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch decided that a different approach that defocused on body weight might prove useful. According to Tribole, deprioritizing weight in favor of other indicators of well-being can be highly beneficial for overall health.
Are people who can’t lose weight lazy?
It is often thought that people who can’t lose weight or those who gain it back are too lazy or uneducated, making it hard to make good decisions.This, according to Tribole, is far from the truth. She says that her clients are smart and successful people in many areas of their lives. What is clear is that the cycle of weight loss and gain followed by the emotional stigma around “not being successful,” causes a great deal of damage and is entirely counterproductive to good health.
The pillars of intuitive eating
There are ten principles of intuitive eating that create its uniqueness:
- Reject the diet mentality – Get rid of any dieting thoughts or ideas that have driven you in the past.
- Don’t ignore hunger – Keep your body well fed so that you do not move to a state of over-hunger where you may eat foods with little or no nutritional value. This is about building trust with yourself and food.
- Stop fighting with food – End the war with food once and for all. Stop telling yourself that you can’t eat this or that. It is this mentality that often leads to overeating and binging along with intense guilt
- Shut down the food police – Do you tell yourself that you are good when you eat a minimal amount of calories and bad when you indulge in a piece of pie? These guilt provoking indictments are unhealthy and do nothing more than make you feel hopeless.
Get in touch with fullness – Learn what it really feels like to be satisfied and full. Stop eating partway through a meal and assess your fullness level, thinking about how the food tastes.
Understand the satisfaction principle – In our anxiety to be thin and healthy, we often overlook the pleasure that can that can be found in eating. Other cultures, that have a different relationship with food, find great pleasure in the act of eating. When you eat what you want, in a positive environment, you will experience a pleasure that will help you feel satisfied. As a result, you will find that you are full after much less food.
Don’t use food to cover your feelings – Understand that food won’t fix any negative feelings or ease anxiety. In fact, it will only make matter worse. Unload your baggage and deal with it in the absence of food – this will be incredibly freeing.
Respect who you are – We are all different, including different shapes and sizes. Own your genetic blueprint and be happy with how you have been created. Just as a person with a size 8 foot would not expect to shove into a size 6 shoe – don’t force yourself where you are not meant to go. Stop being overly critical about body shape and size.
Enjoy exercise and movement – Stop exercising to tone this or that or lose weight or have smaller thighs etc. Move because of how it makes you feel – let that be the motivator. When you shift your focus from exercise as a means to an end and simply exercising because it makes you feel wonderful – you will move naturally and freely.
Honor your health – Make nutrition choices that honor your health and your tastebuds and make you feel good. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be 100% perfect in your food choices all the time to be healthy. You are not going to develop a nutritional deficiency or gain weight if you eat something not so great one time. It is what you eat consistently and the healthy habits you develop that matter. It is progress, not perfection that truly counts.
What intuitive eating is not
While it may seem like intuitive eating is a license to go crazy with your favorite ice cream or eat a whole pizza, it really doesn’t work that way. Both Tribole and Resch agree that there are foods which offer helpful nutrition and others that are not nearly as healthy. Intuitive eating is meant to help people who have struggled with eating to really understand how food makes them feel once they are untangled from stress and shame. During the first couple of weeks, people might binge on things that they would try to exclude from their diet, but soon they will crave those things that they once thought of as “healthy” punishment foods.
Think about it – if you can have, say pizza, anytime you want, you probably won’t feel like it is necessary to eat until you bust. Telling yourself that you can’t have something often drives binge eating.
Research shows that women in America start to internalize the importance of food restriction as young as 5. Because of this, it is difficult to assess how people would act towards food if they were not brought up in a culture of dieting. According to Tribole, what happens is an unnatural urge to eat a certain food because of restriction. On the other hand, when you have permission to eat something, it can still taste good but the urgency to eat it is gone.
Research says most women have some kind of eating disorder
A survey by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that 75% of American women participate in some kind of disordered-eating behavior, even if they were not clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder. The same survey found that 67% of women were trying to lose weight and 53% of women who were at a healthy weight were still trying to lose weight.
Yes, dieting and food restriction are so ridiculously ingrained in our culture that it makes it hard to sort out the truth. Even nutritionists and physicians have a difficult time distinguishing between helpful and harmful practices.
Yes, you can have a healthy relationship with food without restrictions
Although you may think it sounds hazardous to live your life with zero food restrictions, intuitive eating is not a call for indulgence as much as it an invitation for you to be in tune with your body and end destructive impulses. You don’t have to purchase any special meal plans, shakes, or supplements. Once you understand the concept, embrace the principle and really get it, you will be well on your way to a healthy relationship with food.
No guarantee for weight loss but…
Intuitive eating is not a quick fix to all your health issues, and it does not promise that you will lose weight. Everything depends on where you are relative to your body’s natural weight, which may not be seen as a “healthy” weight for your height as far as traditional notions go.
Early studies have shown that intuitive eating is not as effective for short-term weight loss as traditionally restrictive diets. However, research has also shown that it can help improve body image in young women. Mindfulness practices such as meditation are definitely good ways to help people get in touch with their bodies and are also effective ways to mitigate binge and emotional eating tendencies.
So, while intuitive eating does not promise that you will be prancing on the beach in an itsy bitsy bikini this summer, it does help foster a healthy relationship with food which, in turn, helps foster a healthy body image, a very important cornerstone to overall health and wellness, including weight management.
Stop being worn down by lifelong pressure to diet
Has a lifelong pressure to diet worn you down? Are you tired of chasing an image of a person you were never meant to be? Are you ready to become friends with food? If so, intuitive eating may just be the answer for you.
-The Alternative Daily