Forget diets. Forget mindful eating where you have to sit and stare at a raisin for ten minutes before popping it in your mouth. Intuitive eating is what you need to do.
Intuitive Eating is how to not diet!
The history of intuitive eating?
Well, first off intuitive eating is not a new idea at all.
The term was first used back in 1995 as the title of a book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, two dieticians from Southern California, although some of the concepts used in intuitive eating have been around since the early 70s.
Having used the same approach as all dieticians in the 90s which held that body weight was the primary importance in improving dietary health, Tribole and Resch watched their own clients lose weight only to pile it all back on afterwards.
Tribole and Resch developed intuitive eating to address the two problematic areas when it comes to dieting:
- The continual cycle of weight loss followed by weight gain (a term I like to call the ‘yo-yo effect’)
- The emotional stigma attached to dieting when you don’t lose weight at all, or gain it all back
In fact, Tribole believes that simply moving weight loss down the order of priority in favour of other wellbeing indicators can actually have a beneficial effect on people’s health all by itself.
What is intuitive eating?
Let me make one thing absolutely clear, intuitive eating is not a diet. No sir. Not in any way, shape or form.
It’s a philosophy of eating that promotes a healthy attitude towards both food and body image, and lets’ face it in this Instagram perfect world we all need to love our bodies in whatever form they happen to take.
Intuitive eating also makes you, and you alone the expert of your body and your hunger signals. Not Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Slim-Fast or any of those miracle diets that claim you can lose pounds in mere weeks. They don’t work, they never have and never will. Sure, you may lose the weight initially, but give it a few weeks of eating properly again and watch the weight pile back on.
In a nutshell, intuitive eating is the exact opposite of a diet.
There are no rules to intuitive eating, no guidelines, no calorie counting, no foods off limits, no starving and no binging, simply the idea that you eat what you want when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
So how do you do intuitive eating?
Anyone who’s ever struggled with their weight or body image knows how food can make them feel guilty, disgusted and ashamed of themselves for eating it in the first place.
We spend so long trusting this diet, that diet and so-called experts who feed us with daily, sometimes conflicting news about what and what not to eat, that we lose touch with our own instinct on what is best for us.
For intuitive eating, you need to learn to trust your instincts again, and you can do that by learning the difference between emotional and physical hunger:
We’ve all been there haven’t we? Dumped by a boyfriend, depressed after a difficult day at work, or simply just plain bored and the first thing we reach for is comfort food. A tub of ice cream, pizza, cake, crisps or an entire packet of biscuits (but maybe that’s just me), closely followed by guilt, loathing and self-hatred for the pathetic specimen we feel.
Is a biological urge telling you that you need to replenish nutrients. Physical hunger grows and grows until you eat something. Signals for physical hunger include growling stomach, fatigue and irritability. See, I knew being hangry was an actual thing!
Intuitive eating moves away from the premise of traditional diets where certain foods are off-limits, meaning you crave them more, towards satisfying physical hunger, and it gives you permission to eat and enjoy food.
And if you can eat whatever you want, then you can have pizza when you want. It still tastes as good and because it’s not off-limits you don’t feel the need and urgency to binge eat it until you feel uncomfortable.
What are the 10 key principles of intuitive eating?
Yes, the basic premise to intuitive eating is eat whatever you want, and it isn’t a diet, however Tribole and Resch provide 10 key principles to follow with intuitive eating:
Reject the diet mentality
Forget the yo-yo diets, where each one comes with the promise of fast weight-loss easily and permanently and ends with you feeling like a failure each time it stops working or you pile the weight back on.
Intuitive eating is an anti-diet!
Honour your hunger
Eating is not the enemy. We need to eat as eating provides our bodies with the energy they need to work at their optimum level.
So respond to your body’s early physical signs of hunger and eat. By honouring your physical signs of hunger you can start rebuilding trust both in yourself and food.
If you ignore your signs of hunger, you will trigger a primal urge which will cause you to overeat.
Make peace with food
Make a new mantra: “There are no good or bad foods, just food.”
Forget the restrictions of denying yourself certain foods because they are deemed bad and give yourself permission to eat. Depriving yourself of foods only builds up cravings which lead to binge eating of them. By not denying yourself you rid your body’s desire for them.
Challenge the food police
They would be the thoughts in your head that scream: “NO!” when you reach for a slice of chocolate cake, and pat you on the head when you have successfully gone a day on minimal calories, even though you are left feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
Chase them away or retrain them into alerting you when you’re hungry.
Discover the satisfaction factor
Eating should always be an enjoyable experience and not one wracked with guilt.
By eating what you want you can learn to take pleasure in eating. Sit down to eat, savour every mouthful and the food will taste better and you will feel satisfied and content.
Feel your fullness
Just as you learn to listen to your body’s hunger signals, you must also learn to listen and respond when it tells you it’s full.
Check in with yourself as you eat, pause, and ask yourself how hungry or full you are feeling. After a while, you’ll know when it’s time to stop.
Honour your feelings without using food
Remember emotional hunger? Well, whenever you’re feeling anxious, lonely, angry, bored or blue, emotional eating might feel like a great temporary fix, but it won’t solve it in the long run.
Find non-food related ways to deal with your feelings such as exercising, meditating, mood journaling or even calling a friend.
Respect your body
These days it seems it’s all fake boobs, fake bums, fake hair, tummy tucks, Botox and anything else to ‘fix’ the ‘bad bits’.
Somewhere along the way we seem to have forgotten we are all uniquely individual and that if we don’t fit into the mould that society deems we should fit into, somehow we are less worthy.
So forget the dodgy plastic surgery in some far flung land in an attempt to look like a knock-off Kardashian and rather take time to appreciate your good bits, of which there are many.
You and your body are beautiful just as you are.
Exercise and feel the difference
Exercise is not just good for your body by keeping it supple, it’s also good for your mind.
And yes, pumping iron at the gym isn’t for everyone so find ways to move that you enjoy and shift the focus from calorie-burning to how it makes you feel energised, strong and more importantly, alive.
Honour your health – gentle nutrition
Food should not only taste good but make you feel good.
The occasional pizza, cake or ice cream is not going to cause you to become unhealthy if the majority of the time you eat healthily. It’s the overall pattern that determines health.
So eat healthily, but don’t feel guilty over the occasional treat!
What intuitive eating is not:
Although intuitive eating says throw the diet book out of the window, it can be misunderstood. So for the avoidance of doubt, here’s what intuitive eating is not:
It is not a tool for weight loss (or gain) in any way
When you become an intuitive eater one of three things will happen to your weight; it will go up, it will stay the same or it will go down, and no one can tell in advance which it will do.
So, if anyone says intuitive eating will help you lose weight, they’re wrong, it won’t.
In fact Tribole says: “It all depends on where you already are relative to your body’s natural weight, which might or might not match up with traditional notions of what a ‘healthy’ weight would be for your height.”
It’s not just eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full
See the 10 key principles above!
It doesn’t mean give up and eat what you like
Yes, you can eat what you like, but it doesn’t mean binge eating. Mind you, in the course of their work Tribole and Resch find that new intuitive eaters do sometimes binge eat the things they have always tried to skip during the first couple of weeks, but the vast majority quickly crave the variety and nutrition from healthy foods.
Intuitive eating means giving yourself permission to eat with curiosity and non-judgment.
Intuitive eating helps you become aware of, and trust your body’s internal cues when it comes to eating. Research also indicates intuitive eating makes us less prone to bingeing and more appreciative and compassionate towards our bodies, as well as giving us a higher sense of self-esteem.
So forget ‘you are what you eat’, forget the diets, trust your intuition and discover a healthy relationship with your food once again.
Until next time darlings … bon appetit.