My spirited 3-year-old son, spends most of the time standing up in his chair or crawling on and off of my lap so we can eat together and on many occasions, he deliberately makes messes on the floor. The days of unwinding and relaxing with a quiet dinner are long gone for my husband and me.
But amid all this craziness surrounding dinnertime, I am blessed to witness something very beautiful. I’m able to watch my son eat his dinner in a way we all should be eating. No, not by making a huge mess on the floor, but by listening to his cues of hunger and fullness without judgment and without rules.
To my son, food is fun, it is comforting and it is nourishing. I wish it were always like that for me.
We are all born with this ability to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full. As children we listen to our body and give our body food that we really want to eat but somewhere along the way this important ability to tune in is lost. Food rules and diets are introduced, judgments and moral values on food are set in place and we begin to disconnect from our primal bodily signals. As we grow and become more aware of our environment we are taught that when we eat we can be “wrong” and “bad” or “right” and “good”. The crazy-making feeling around food begins and we cycle through periods of feeling deprived and miserable to periods of overload and miserable.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can make peace with food and this is how.
Welcome to Intuitive Eating.
Continuing on with this month’s theme of listening to your body, this week I’m writing about a big hot button topic. I normally don’t like writing about food and diet because it’s out of my scope of practice but considering this way of eating has been drilled into me for the past 10 years, I thought, why not!
So what the heck is intuitive eating anyway?
Here is a break down of the 10 main points of intuitive eating courtesy of my former dietician and the creator of the intuitive eating movement, Evelyn Tribole:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality: Diets don’t work! In order to completely eat intuitively you need to throw out any belief that the next diet you go on will be “the one”. Stop believing the lies the diet industry sells claiming that you are a failure because your last diet stopped working and that this new one is the ticket to all your weight loss hopes and dreams.
2. Honor Your Hunger: Keeping your body adequately fed is key. When we ignore our hunger signals because we are on a diet our primal drive to overeat grows louder and louder until we are stuffing our face with everything in sight at our first opportunity to eat. The first step to stop feeling out of control around food is to honor your hunger cues when you first feel them even if it isn’t “the right time” to eat yet.
3. Make Peace with Food: You are hereby granted the right to eat! Do you have a “forbidden food”? Time to toss it out. When you have foods that are off limits or they fall into the can’t eat category, intense feelings of deprivation are likely to fill your body which will eventually lead you to binge on the forbidden food itself followed by overwhelming guilt and shame (sounds lovely, right?)
4. Challenge the Food Police: No, these aren’t real police. Usually these police reside in your own mind. They are responsible for the thoughts that place a “good” label on one food or behavior and a “bad” label on another. They also love shouting out guilt-laden messages in hopes of bullying you into “better” behavior and habits.
5. Respect Your Fullness: Listen to your body and eat mindfully. This includes taking a moment to pause in the middle of a meal to observe your fullness as well as the other aspects of the food like it’s taste and texture.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor: The powerful pleasure of eating what you truly want in an inviting and pleasant environment helps you to feel more satisfied and content. This makes it easier to decide that you’ve had “enough”.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food: Eating (or not eating) will not fix your feelings anymore than it will fix a broken car. Developing alternative ways to nurture yourself when you are dealing with unpleasant emotions is extremely important. Food will never fix your feelings. And even though food may comfort you in the short term, you will only end up feeling worse in the long run.
8. Respect Your Body: This goes along with Set Point theory I wrote about last week. It’s difficult to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your own body’s size and shape.
9. Feel Your Exercise: Be active and focus on exercise as a way to feel good in your body rather than a way to burn off calories.
10. Honor Your Health: Make choices about your food that honor your health and your taste buds. You do not have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not be in a nutritional deficit from one snack or one meal.
So, reading this you might be thinking,
“If I ate what ever the heck I wanted to, I would eat (__fill in the blank__) all the time and the I would be so fat!”
And you know what? That’s what I used to think too until I actually did it. When I was in treatment for my eating disorder and we were learning to eat intuitively, we had to spend a day eating a food we thought we could never get enough of. Mine was ice cream. Yes – I spent an entire day eating nothing but ice cream all day for all 3 meals and 3 snacks and guess what happened? I HATED ice cream by the end of the day and felt sick. It was a really long time before I could really enjoy eating ice cream again and even then, I would hit my satisfaction point pretty early.
Another fear people have about eating like this is number 8, respecting and accepting your body. Many people (even health professions and trainers) have objections to developing their ‘body love’. Next week, I will go into these objections. So just in case you happen to have one you won’t want to miss next week. See you then!
For more info on intuitive eating visit Evelyn's webpage HERE
Navigating the Murky Waters of Body Positivity, Thin-Privilege and Eating Disorder Recovery: Part Two