#WednesdayWisdom Series // Intuitive Eating


🌿 This is going to be one of the longer #WedesdayWisdom posts because the topic is just so important and interesting. Before I get started, I want to encourage you to check out my IE/HAES resources and podcasts listed on my Useful Resources page and the profiles that I've linked to at the bottom of this post.

🙂Intuitive Eating (IE) is a nutrition philosophy based on the foundational understanding that becoming more attuned to hunger and fullness cues and developing a ‘normal’ relationship with food is a more effective way to reach a healthy weight for your unique body, rather than cutting out carbs/fat, calories, or any other form of dieting.

🤗This approach to eating fights against the fat phobia and weight stigma so present in our society (bias, assumptions, attitudes and treatment based on someone’s size), because this stigma has been shown to result in negative health outcomes (independent of their actual weight or size) for susceptible individuals over time.

❤️The term ‘intuitive eating’ was first described by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in their 1995 book by the same name. It is based on 10 key principles that aim to help you break free from the cycle of dieting and allow you to develop a ‘normal’ relationship with food, which we will look at here in a bit more detail.

🙅🏽‍♀️ REJECT THE DIET MENTALITY - IE is not a diet. In fact, one of its fundamental principles is to reject, and to learn to eat outside of, the diet mentality. Research shows that diets don’t work for 90-95% of people, and that dieting increases your risk of gaining weight in the long-term. This postwritten by McKenzie of 20-Something Nutrition is a great place to read a bit more about rejecting the diet mentality.

😔 HONOR YOUR HUNGER - Hunger isn’t your enemy, it’s the body’s natural response signaling the need for nourishment of some kind. Your body needs to know and trust that it has consistent access to food. More often than not, when we don’t honor our hunger the deprivation leads to ‘overeating’ later in the day, which further perpetuates the binge-restrict / guilt-deprivation cycle. Once again, this post written by McKenzie of 20-Something Nutrition is a great place to read a bit more about honouring your hunger.

🥐 MAKE PEACE WITH FOOD - IE encourages unconditional permission to eat all foods, and stands against categorising foods as good/bad, healthy/unhealthy, allowed/prohibited. No one food has enough power to make you healthy or unhealthy, and when we place rules on the food we eat the deprivation generally leads to us feeling deprived, which builds up into uncontrollable cravings and obsession for that food, ‘overeating’, and that same guilt-deprivation cycle described above.

👮🏻‍♂️ CHALLENGE THE FOOD POLICE - This involves challenging of the thoughts in our head that dictate that we should feel ‘good’ when we eat only salads, green tea, and ‘macro-friendly’ foods, and ‘bad’ when we eat sugar/carbohydrates/dessert etc. Other examples of the food police include thoughts like "I shouldn't eat X because I didn't exercise today", or "I really shouldn't eat a sandwich for lunch because I had toast for breakfast". Without this shift in our thinking, it is incredibly difficult to view eating as an enjoyable activity.

🤷🏼‍♀️ FEEL YOUR FULLNESS - Dieting leads to us becoming desensitized to and removes from our fullness cues. It causes us to feel like we have to eat X number of meals and snacks at certain times, and nothing else. IE teaches us to pause, and learn to listen to our hunger and fullness cues, which can be tricky, but allows us to approach food more mindfully and with better awareness. Sometimes this means eating a snack after a main meal, because you're still hungry, and other times it means leaving half of your food on the plate because you're full. The hunger-fullness scale that you can find here is pretty useful for this.

💁🏼‍♀️ DISCOVER THE SATISFACTION FACTOR - Often when we’re caught up in the diet mentality, striving to reach ‘perfection’ through the food we eat, and food becomes a stress that leaves us feeling rather unsatisfied in many ways. Instead of overlooking the pleasure associated with eating, intuitive eating strives to embrace it. When you start to eat what you truly want and get to experience it in all its fullness, you will feel more satisfied and content, and more often than not will find yourself feeling more satisfied than if you eat something you ‘should’ just because it meets the demands of the food police.

😶 HONOUR YOUR FEELINGS WITHOUT USING FOOD - Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger, sadness. Although there should never be judgement for moments when we use food for comfort (often it’s a safe and reasonable thing to fall back on), it’s important to acknowledge that food won’t fix big problems in the big scheme of things. As an important part of the intuitive eating journey, it’s important to discover ways to find comfort and resolve emotions without the need for food. If you are struggling, please seek out professional help or the counsel of a close friend 🤸🏻‍♂️Respect your body - Intuitive eating teaches you to learn to love and respect your body instead of looking in the mirror and criticizing all of your ‘flaws’. It can be one of the trickiest parts of the IE process, but without tackling this step it is difficult to reject the diet mentality.

🍏 HONOUR YOUR HEALTH - Gentle nutrition is the last step in the IE process, not because it isn’t important but because it’s so important to walk through each of the other steps beforehand so as not to get caught back up in the diet mentality. You don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy, and one ‘less healthy’ snack, meal, or day of eating won’t be detrimental to your health.Consistency and being able to keep it up in the long run is what matters. Over time IE allows you to discover what you actually like to eat, what actually makes you feel healthy and well (physically, psychologically, emotionally). Progress, not perfection, is what matters the most.

🤓 So why intuitive eating? Because food is not the enemy, and neither is your body. Because life can become devoid of all joy and pleasure when we become obsessive about ‘perfecting’ and engineering ourselves to fit the world’s idea of what is beautiful and worthy of love and respect. Because you are allowed to be set free from the bondage that an unhealthy relationship with food places on your life.