Intuitive Eating is the gold standard of healing for people struggling with their relationship with food. But contrary to what some believe, it is not about just "eating what you want, when you want." Instead, it's about understanding what drives you to eat and how to decide whether or not to honor your hunger.
First off, Intuitive Eating (IE) is not a weight loss (or weight gain) program. It's also not the "f*** it" diet where you eat whatever you want, whenever you want.
Instead, it's about understanding what triggers you to over / under eat by exploring your food history, social / environmental triggers, and relationship with your body. Ultimately, it's about learning to enjoy the experience of eating again. It's learning to eat and move WITH your body instead of eating / moving in ways that change your body.
For people who are used to rigid health rules and eating patterns to manipulate the body, this can feel like a terrifying task. Because ultimately, it's about learning to trust your body - that the body knows when it's hungry and when it's full and the foods it needs to stay fueled, energized, satisfied, and healthy.
The dieting industry teaches us that bodies are not to be trusted. They are to be manipulated, changed, and controlled to fit in a certain mold. IE is about un-teaching the dieting principles. Because dieting disconnects us from our body and actually causes our body (and mind) to react in frightening ways. For some, dieting is deeply entrenched in our behavioral patterns (and society).
Here's a test. Which of the below are examples of dieting behaviors?
Clearly you guessed it. They are all examples of dieting. Shocked? So was I.
Normal eating is about giving attention to the space BETWEEN obsession and apathy. Because there's room for pleasure and health in the human existence.
Truthfully. When I first learned about IE I was frightened, dismayed, and embarrassed. It rejected much of what it meant for my practice as a dietitian and trainer. I was LITERALLY the food police - trained to know the "exact" chemistry that your body "needs" and extremely skilled at teaching people how to "restrict right."
In my "prime," I handed out 8-12 low calorie diets a day and yes, my clients lost weight...until they didn't anymore. And the weight came back (and then some). So I gave them another diet...and another diet....because clearly it was THEM, not the system.
But here was IE was telling me...
I'm not supposed to tell someone to "make-up" for "overeating" by exercising more or eating less?
Forcing people to eat a balanced plate actually makes them overeat?
"Healthy" foods aren't everything a human being needs?
Sugar doesn't cause diabetes?
Eliminating a food from your diet makes you want it more?
So where do I start?
If you're at the beginning of your IE journey, get a lay of the land.
If you'd like to learn more about IE, check out this YouTube video:
If you're ready to dive into IE on your own, you can purchase either the book or workbook depending on your style.
If you're not a reader and prefer to listen to stories, there are also some amazing dietitians spreading the message of IE. Here are some of my favorite podcasts
Intuitive eating isn't about right and wrong. Instead it's about finding what works for you as a whole person. I hope you check it out!
Stay Nourished Friends!
DISCLAIMER: The writing here is for informational and educational purposes only. It is NOT a substitute for individual care. Your needs may vary. or individual support, please contact a provider.
Please note it's been a number of years since I have updated these posts. The content and philosophies may have changed as I've grown as a provider. Please reach out with questions or concerns.
Dietitian, personal trainer, mother, wife, runner, and endurance athlete supporting well-being, one bit and bite at a time