To start, if you are interested in intuitive eating, you need to put weight goals aside. It won’t work if you are focused on the number on the scale. For people who have been on weight loss plans, lost weight but didn’t maintain a goal, or found that weight loss didn’t make you feel better physically or mentall, intuitive eating is a good approach to take.
The 10 principles of intuitive eating, from the book and program by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch are the guiding ideas for intuitive eating. Read the 10 principles on their website, Intuitiveeating.org Many people diet for many reasons. Many of our decisions around food root from what we learned or observed during childhood. For example, being “hungry all the time”, having a fear of going hungry or binge eating can root from some of these childhood experiences:
1. Lack of food growing up 2. Restriction of food as a child 3. Over-abundance of food and feeding (celebrate, soothe, solve boredom) 4. Types of food available
We were all born intuitive eaters. Think of babies, who cry when they need food, stop when they’re full, then cry when they need to eat again. They may eat more one day and less the next, but it all balances out. Kids do the same! You might also notice their changing preferences - one day they eat tons of fruit, the next day all they want is pasta with butter. But if you zoom out, they’re often getting a variety of foods and enough to support healthy growth - or at least will in an environment with food security and variety.
As we grow up, we’re introduced to diet rules. We’re forced to clean the plate even if we are full. We are told to eat certain foods and to limit others. We also learn that certain bodies are more valued than others, and told that changes to the way we eat can make our body more or less valuable. When this happens, we get away from using internal cues and start listening to external cues about what, how much, and when to eat. This can set off a tidal wave of unwanted food behaviors including dieting, restricting, binging, emotional eating and obsessing about food. Intuitive eating is a counter to this. It teaches you how to get back to eating the way you were born to.
Don't use intuitive eating as an excuse to:
Not prepare food for yourself and just “intuitively” go through drive-thrus daily.
Stop taking care of your health- there is truth to being healthy at every size. A person doesn’t have to be 5’5” and 120 pounds to be free of chronic disease. The CDC showed in a 2013 study that people at normal and the lower end of the obesity BMI range had similar mortality risks. People in the “overweight” BMI of 25-29.9 actually had the lowest mortality risk. Underweight BMIs, under 18.5, and obesity with BMI greater than over 35 had the highest mortality risk. So weight is one factor but not the only in determining your risk of illness.
Not try new foods if you are a picky eater
Not exercise because you don’t intuitively want to exercise. One of the 10 principles of intuitive eating is “exercise and feel the difference.” It focuses on just getting moving and shifting your mind from the calorie burning effect of exercise to how it feels to move your body and feel your lungs work.
Body positivity. Yes, we should love our bodies and appreciate all of the amazing things we are capable of. We need to love it and take care of it.
Treat your body like you would your own child or pet, with unconditional love and care. You don’t have to eat “perfectly” and exercise every day but it should be on your radar to do things that are good for your health whether you feel like it or not. When we love our bodies like we say we do, we want to give it what it needs to thrive- nutrition, water, love, rest, movement and so on.
One definition of body positivity is treating your body right through nourishment and movement without punishing yourself for looking the way you do. This separates what you look like from your self-worth.
To listen to the rest of this episode and hear 7 lessons from week one of intuitive eating, click here.