Diets, they are all around us. The media talks about the newest celebrity taking shots of some kind of vinegar in the morning or your neighbor is going Keto using a supplement that costs $100. Sure, it might work for a while, but the problem is most of these diets aren’t sustainable. If you aren’t eating foods that make you feel satisfied and fueled, then it is probably not going to be a diet that can be successful in the long run. Eventually, people doing restrictive diets may lose weight (or they may not) but then after the restriction comes a binge on all the “bad” foods and they are back to square one. Not only does biological science back this up but so does psychology. If you want a grounded in science method to heal your relationship with food physically and mentally, Intuitive Eating is for you! Intuitive eating is for pretty much everyone, even those with sensitivities to things like dairy or gluten can follow intuitive eating but just leave out the food their doctor or Dietitian has confirmed they should not be having for health reasons.
So, what is intuitive eating? Intuitive eating is when you are in-tune with your body’s nutrition needs and eat based on those needs. For some, intuitive eating has been something they were encouraged to do from birth. Using myself as an example, my parents never forced me to eat or finish a plate when I was full. I was allowed to have a brownie before I ate my vegetables, and this might sound like bad parenting, but it actually teaches your child that all foods are equal and to trust your body’s hunger cues. This type of eating reduces the need to binge and creates a healthy relationship with all foods. For people who go on fad diets, intuitive eating is difficult to achieve because they have spent time teaching themselves not to trust their needs and put rules around food. It is important to note that intuitive eating is a privilege. Not everyone has access to enough food or nutritious food to make intuitive eating possible.
Studies have found that “yoyo dieting” or being in a cycle of gaining and losing weight is potentially worse on your health than being overweight your whole life. When you restrict food, your body goes into a starvation survival mode and makes weight loss more difficult as it thinks it needs to retain its fat for survival. Additionally, when we restrict food, we experience a need to binge it when we allow access to it and psychologically, we want to eat all of it because we do not know the next time, we will have access to that food. A popular diet right now is to cut out carbohydrates, things like bread and baked goods. Restricting your carb intake might drop a few numbers on the scale but your body eats away at muscle before fat when there are not adequate amounts of carbs present. Thus, any weight that’s lost probably isn’t fat. With all this evidence to tear down diet culture, why is it still so present? It’s because diets are easy to market, sell, and make money on. Many people want a quick fix to look “sexy” instead of long, hard work to feel healthy. This is ingrained in society as looks are valued more than how you feel. Remember that everyone could eat the same meals and do the same workouts, and our bodies will still look different. Health and how you feel is more important than the physical appearance of your body.
So how does someone become an intuitive eater? First, you must allow yourself to eat what you want. It is hard to stop putting labels on “good” and “bad” foods and allow yourself to eat anything without guilt. By allowing yourself to treat food whenever you want it, you will teach yourself that treat foods are not more special than nutritious foods. At the beginning you may want 10 cookies but eventually cookies will no longer become coveted, and 1 cookie will be satisfying. Second, learn to become mindful about food. Are you eating because of emotions? If so, is it for comfort or for coping? There is a difference between having a warm latte after a long day of work for comfort and eating more ice cream than feeling comfortable because of a failed test. There are times when food can help us feel comforted during difficulties and that isn’t a bad thing. Additionally, being mindful of when we are full and what our body is needing is also a skill to learn. Taking breaks during meals to assess how we are feeling is a good place to start. Ask yourself during those breaks if you feel full or if there is an item you need more of? When your body is hungry, what do you think it needs? Is it protein? Is it something sweet? These types of questions may not have immediate answers. It may take time before you learn how to trust and follow your body’s needs.
To conclude all of this, I am not a dietitian. I just have a passion for health and wellness, and found that intuitive eating aligns with those passions. If you want further information on intuitive eating, I recommend you check out this link here. If you ever have concerns about nutrition, food sensitivities, etc. you should speak with a registered dietitian or doctor.