So, you’ve heard the buzz about Intuitive Eating, and you’re probably thinking, “What is intuitive eating?”
In a world where diet culture reigns supreme, Intuitive Eating emerges as a beacon of hope, offering a way of nourishing the body while cultivating a healthy relationship with food. But what exactly is Intuitive Eating, and how does it differ from mainstream nutrition advice? Let’s explore the core principles and benefits of this peaceful approach to food.
The authors of Intuitive Eating say that “Intuitive eating is a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to get your needs met.” p 4
Sounds simple enough, right? Just listen to your body and give it what it wants.
If only it were that easy.
Let’s explore why this concept is anything but easy.
The Art of Interoceptive Awareness: Tuning Into Your Tummy
At the heart of Intuitive Eating lies the concept of interoceptive awareness. Fancy term, right? Basically, it’s the skill of recognizing and responding to your body’s signals. It’s like your body has a secret language, and Intuitive Eating is your guidebook to deciphering it.
This step is priority one when I’m working with people. My own experience might mirror yours here. I started by ‘just’ eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. Long story short: a bag of cookies for dinner doesn’t build food trust, nor was I eating intuitively.
Interoceptive awareness is a two-fold process, encompassing awareness and responsiveness. Knowing you’re hungry is not the same as feeding yourself.
Let’s break that down.
Step 1: Learn what being hungry and full feels like.
You’ve had so much interference in this area. You’ve been conditioned to distrust your body and its cues.
This conditioning started in childhood when your caregiver told you to clean your plate to earn dessert. It was reinforced at school with the good and bad food lists in health class. By high school, you were probably dieting like everyone else – although you might have called it “just eating healthy.” Every plan came with another set of rules about what and when to eat and not eat, how much to eat, and how much water to drink.
Slowly but surely, the locust of control was moved out of your body and into the hands of some external controller. All of this is hindering the intuitive eating process.
Step 2: Respond to Your Body Cues
Tell me, how many times have you said, “I’ll grab something as soon as I finish this one thing,” and then find that hours have passed and you still haven’t eaten?
The magic of intuitive eating happens when you respond to your body cues in a timely manner in a way that aligns with your body’s needs.
Again, you may notice this seems so simple. And yet you know from experience it’s anything but.
Body Appreciation: The Key to Responsiveness
Turns out, appreciating our bodies is the key to unlocking the bridge between hearing our body’s cues and responding to those cues. But here’s the kicker – there’s this whole cultural mess with fashion, fitness, wellness culture.
They’ve been telling you since childhood, either explicitly through the ‘war on obesity’ messaging or implicitly through the lack of body diversity in media, that your body is wrong and needs to be fixed.
Every before and after photo, every ‘Are you actually going to eat that?’ remark, and every ‘OMG, you’ve lost weight! Tell me your secret’ comment erodes your body appreciation.
The good news is that just as we’ve learned to disparage our bodies, we can learn to appreciate them.
Diet and Wellness Culture is the common denominator
There is so much noise about what healthy and fit look like alongside the conflicting nutritional messages that we can’t hear ourselves well enough to simply ‘eat what we want when we want it without guilt’.
It’s like you’re in a quiet library, trying to concentrate on reading or studying (internal processes). Suddenly, a loud concert (external measurements) starts right outside the library. The noise disrupts your focus and makes it challenging to engage with your internal thoughts and tasks. Similarly, external measurements or distractions can interfere with your internal processes, making it harder to concentrate and work effectively.
That’s why Principle One of Intuitive Eating is Reject the Diet Mentality. As long as we remain focused on external measurements and expectations, hearing and honouring our personal body cues will continue to be difficult. Quieting the noise is the foundation of developing your interoceptive awareness.
You can start with my free guide: 12 Food Rules to Unlearn.
What Unconditional Permission to Eat Really Means
I’ve heard it a thousand times, and you’ve probably thought it. “Without any food rules, I’d just eat junk all day.”
This misconception that unconditional permission to eat will lead to an unhealthy, imbalanced diet has been proven false. Studies show that Intuitive Eaters have a wider variety of food intake and an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.
While intuitive eating IS about eating what you want, free from guilt and shame, it’s NOT about acting on every urge or craving.
I will reiterate a previous statement here: developing interoceptive awareness is priority one when I’m working with people. It’s hard to give yourself unconditional permission when it’s too noisy to hear yourself.
The Nutrition Fallacy:
Contrary to popular belief, Intuitive Eating does consider nutrition. It focuses on eating in a way that feels good, energizes you, and doesn’t involve a calculator.
By moving away from external variables like rules and restrictions, individuals can cultivate internal awareness and make balanced food choices.
I’d Never Stop Eating:
The fear of never stopping eating is a common concern. However, when you consistently feed yourself nourishing meals, that primal urge to eat subsides.
If you hold your breath, what happens? You’ll take big gulps of air, and your respiration rate will go up until you can breathe normally again. The same is true with food. Your body realizes it can finally relax at the dinner table because it knows you won’t deprive it tomorrow.
In conclusion, Intuitive Eating offers a refreshing departure from the confines of diet culture, promoting a sustainable and mindful approach to nourishment. By understanding its principles and dispelling myths, individuals can embark on a transformative journey toward healing their relationship with food and body. Remember, Intuitive Eating is a personal process, and there’s no “one size fits all” on this path to well-being.
Working with a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor can make a world of difference. You can find one near you here. I’m in that directory, and I’d be happy to chat about how intuitive eating could help you.
Until next time, Kerri
Ready to start quieting the noise? Download my free guide: 12 Food Rules to Unlearn