Community Nutrition · Topic of the Week

Intuitive Eating

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If there is one thing I’ve really started to notice in the last few months, it’s that most people don’t give their bodies the respect that they deserve.

What do I mean by that? I mean that every time I get on Pinterest I see something someone has pinned about a new fad diet, or a way to drop 10 pounds in a week, or the new “superfood” that everyone should be eating. I see it on the side bar advertisements on Facebook. I see Instagram pictures of girls I went to high school with who are incredibly tiny, posing in a bikini, with a caption “not where I wanna be, but getting closer every day.” Almost every single day I hear someone justify a food choice or why they haven’t worked out.

The question that has come to my mind more and more recently when I see all these things happening is “is that what your body really wants? Is that what it really needs?”

Why do we feel like we need to all fit into a set of rules?

The more we focus on rules when it comes to eating and health, the more we teeter on a dangerously fine line that can lead to a full blown eating disorder.  The average individual who has a healthy, normal relationship with food spends about 10-20% of their day thinking about food.  Not that much time at all, right? Right.  Well, those who are dieting or have a disturbed eating pattern spend about 20-65% of their day thinking about food.  Those with bulimia spend 70-90% of their time thinking about food, and those with anorexia spend 90-100% of their time thinking about food.

Essentially, it’s not healthy to spend a significant amount of time thinking about food.  If you’re dieting to be “healthy” you might actually be setting yourself up for some not so healthy habits in the future.  Habits that in no way respect your body or it’s needs.

So what can we do to stop this?

The concept of intuitive eating was introduced to me a few weeks ago and I think it’s probably the answer we all need. Intuitive eating has 10 principles that focus on respecting and honoring your body instead of focusing on an arbitrary set of rule that we’ve set for ourselves.

1) Reject the diet mentality.  Stop dieting, it doesn’t work.  Sure, you may start a diet and see some instant results, but do they last? Likely not. There is nothing more depressing than losing weight and then gaining it all right back. The best thing we can all do is stop looking for those quick fixes, they can be detrimental to a healthy relationship with our bodies and food.

2) Honor your hunger. I think this is huge and can be a really scary step for a lot of people.  Our bodies need fuel throughout the day and it’s our responsibility to give our bodies the fuel that they need.  If we’re hungry and we don’t honor that hunger and try to fight it, we’re much more likely to overeat later once we’ve reached that ravenous hunger point. We need to learn to recognize our hunger and refuel our bodies with the appropriate amount of food. If you’re hungry, eat!

3) Make peace with food.  Stop fighting with food. Stop labeling it as “bad” or saying you “shouldn’t have it.” Depriving yourself of certain foods can lead to uncontrollable cravings and binges that lead to feelings of guilt, which is worse than just allowing yourself the food in the first place.

4) Challenge the food police.  The food police is that little voice in the back of your head that tells you you’re “good” for saying no to the cookie or that you’re “bad” for not ordering a salad at lunch instead of a sandwich.  Stop listening to the food police and start listening to your body.

5) Respect your fullness. Make sure you’re taking the time to think “Am I still hungry?” when you’re eating.  This often requires pausing in the middle of a meal and asking yourself if you’re full or if you need to keep eating.  Eat until you’re comfortably full, not until you’re absolutely stuffed.

6) Discover the satisfaction factor. Eating should be satisfying!  When you eat what you really want, it’s much more satisfying than when you eat what you “should.”  When you allow yourself to have a much more satisfying eating experience you often don’t need to eat as much to feel like you’ve had enough.

7) Honor your feelings without using food.  Don’t let food distract you from other emotions, it can’t fix them.  Allow yourself to take time to identify what you’re feeling and find more constructive ways to work through them.  Eating to fix emotions will likely leave you feeling worse in the long run.

8) Respect your body.  We are all uniquely made by our own genetic blueprints.  As soon as we accept our bodies the way they are and stop trying to change them we will feel much better about ourselves.  Stop being critical and learn to love the beautiful body that you’ve been given.

9) Exercise- Feel the difference. Exercise doesn’t have to be a structured routine you follow because you “have” to in order to lose weight or because it’s what you’re “supposed” to do. Exercise can be passive.  Any kind of active movement counts! Most importantly you should exercise because it makes you feel good, not because you have to. Focus on how great it feels to be active instead of how many calories you’ve burned or how many miles you’ve gone.

10) Honor your health. Remember, one good meal doesn’t make you healthy and one bad meal doesn’t make you unhealthy. It’s a balance over time. Being healthy is a lifestyle, not a trend or a fad that you only have to stick to for a period of time. Health looks different for each individual person, so stop comparing yourself to others and focus on your body and how you feel!

 

Although this is an approach commonly used for those suffering from an eating disorder, I think everyone can benefit from eating more intuitively because we all probably have more disordered eating habits than we would like to admit. We can learn so much from our bodies, the more we listen to them the more they can tell us what they need and in turn we can start living healthier lives!

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