Are you tired of trying diet after diet with no lasting success? Do you dislike or even hate your body? Would you like a healthy way of relating to food and eating? Then, you won’t want to miss this episode!
Hi and welcome to Nutritionally Speaking. I’m your host, Michaela Ballmann. On today’s episode, I am going to be talking to you about one of my favorite books in the whole world, “Intuitive Eating” by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. No, this isn’t an advertisement or a marketing ploy. This is an amazing book that offers a healthy way to relate to food and eating.
I think it’s pretty clear that weight loss regimens (also known as diets) don’t work. People get pumped when they see a new diet book with promises to drop pound after pound easily in a short period of time. They buy the book, clean out the fridge, get a gym membership, and vow that this is their last diet. Of course, the night before might be a grand binge because they must say a fond farewell to food. They do lose weight, at first, but after a few weeks or months of eating few calories and little to no carbs, they realize that they can’t live like this. There is no way that they want to be deprived of so many good foods for the rest of their life or go to bed hungry or be a slave to a diet regimen. Then, the weight slowly comes back and they might even end up weighing more than they did before—a phenomenon often called “yo yo dieting”.
A large percentage of Americans are stuck in this dreadful cycle with a strong desire for weight loss coupled with a magical cure gone wrong! Others just have a bad relationship with food. They are scared of it, feel out of control around it, and either restrict or overeat, maybe even both. Guilt and shame around food are not uncommon and eating disorders can wreak havoc in people’s lives. People are taught to loathe their bodies if they are not a certain size and hate the skin they live in.
Now that I’ve provided ample evidence for the fact that many of us have an unhealthy relationship with food and eating & our bodies, wouldn’t you like to know about a great solution to this problem?
Intuitive eating recognizes that there are different eating styles that people generally fall into. They include the careful eater, who, though appearing to be healthy and fit, obsesses about each piece of food that they let enter their body. The unconscious eater is distracted while they eat, and therefore never is fully aware that they are eating or how much. Unconscious eaters can be chaotic (eating on the road), refuse-not (vulnerable to food lying around), waste-not (clean the plate and eat at good value buffets), and emotional (eating when alone and stressed). Other styles include the professional dieter who is basically always on a diet, and the intuitive eater who listens to their biological hunger, chooses foods without bringing guilt or ethics into it, and actually enjoys eating. Where do you fit? Are you an intuitive eater or a mindful eater?
If not, let me tell you more! Intuitive eating is based off of several main principles. The first is to reject the diet mentality. To be an intuitive eater, you must give up dieting, and both the emotional highs and lows that accompany it. Understanding how diets set you up for failure and don’t fulfill the hope they initially give, can allow you to leave them by the wayside. Second, honor your hunger. Don’t starve your body, either of calories or carbohydrates. Doing so can actually trigger overeating. I’m sure you’ve tried eating very little and found yourself so famished by the end of the day that you end up eating a very large amount of food to feel satiated. Becoming a conscious eater that recognizes feelings of hunger and nourishes one’s body is most definitely an important step.
We also need to make peace with food. Food is just food, it doesn’t have moral properties. What many people find extremely difficult, but what is essential is giving yourself permission to eat. There are no forbidden foods, no rules about when you have to eat, no guilt over eating a less nutritious food. I know that this may seem like a dangerous mentality; you may think that if you give yourself permission to eat anything anytime, that you will eat cake and chocolate until they come out of your ears. What’s funny is, when you are actually an intuitive eater, tuned into your body, and following all these principles, you won’t! You’ll know what you want and how much you want; you’ll stop when you’re full! If you don’t believe me, keep listening!
Next, challenge the food police in your head that labels foods or eating practices good or bad. Let me emphasize this: there are no good or bad foods. Restricting your food intake or foregoing the bag of chips that you want are not good things any more than eating a slice of pie or having a late snack when you’re hungry are bad things. When you are so critical of what and when you eat, there are so many negative feelings associated with food and eating, that an unhealthy relationship is inevitable. This principle is a struggle for many, especially since our culture sends messages through food packaging, marketing, and the media that food is a moral issue. There is angel food cake, not just white in color but also fat-free; Compare this to devil’s food cake, black and full of chocolatey goodness, that you shouldn’t have of course! There are ads for sinless or guilt-free food items, that are usually fat- or sugar-free. Try to imagine, however, if you didn’t believe that foods had to be good or bad. They are what they are. Coming to see all foods as ok to eat will actually make moderation with food that much easier.
We also need to feel our fullness and discover the satisfaction factor. Learning or relearning the signals that our body sends us is vital to intuitive eating. We need to know when our body is full and when it needs more. But filling the fuel tank is not all there is to it, there also should be pleasure in eating. What do you really want to eat, when there is no “good” or “bad” label on the food, or guilt or pride associated with your food choices? Do you want a sandwich or a burrito or some fries? Do you want some fruit or do you want a pear tart? Satisfaction will come when you eat what you love and truly savor it.
The next principle is key for many emotional eaters—Cope with your emotions without using food. How do you deal with uncomfortable emotions like anger, boredom, anxiety, or even very positive emotions? Do you turn to food? Learning more healthy coping skills will help. This is very individual. Some may benefit from journaling or calling a friend, others from sleep, and others from engaging in a hobby.
Eighth, we need to respect our bodies. Making peace with the size and shape of our bodies is something almost unthinkable with the way fat is loathed in our society. The same way that I, with a foot size 7, don’t expect to fit into a shoe sized 5 or 10, we shouldn’t expect people with different genetic makeups and body structure to all fit into the same size jeans. Having a healthy body image is possible.
Exercise for the sake of feeling more energetic or for the joy of moving one’s body whether in dance or tennis will cause one to enjoy exercise. Get rid of that drill sergeant in your head that screams “you must exercise, or else!”
Lastly, and after all the other intuitive eating principles are built upon, honor your health with food choices that taste good and make you feel good. There is no perfection here; no perfect way of eating, no condemnation for choosing a high-kcal, high-fat food. Progress towards health through making food your ally is the goal.
So, now that I’ve given you a lot of food for thought, what do you think? Do you want to make the first step towards intuitive eating? I assure you that as you make changes in the way you think about yourself, your body, and food, you will learn to feed your body what it wants, when it wants it, and be healthy in both mind and body. If you want more information you can go to the official website intuitiveeating.com, and as always, if you’d like to leave a comment or question, visit my site or email. I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for listening and I’ll see you next time!