I want to talk to you about diet you’ll never come off. In a nutshell, it’s like an alternative “no-diet diet”. Actually, it essentially banishes the word ‘diet’ from your vocabulary. It’s called intuitive eating, and it allows us to become experts at looking into ourselves, promotes eating without guilt or deprivation and builds a positive body image. Interested?
The concept originated in 1995 in the US, and was established by two dietitians (Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole) who realised that many of their patients who were trying to lose weight were failing miserably. Why? The process of being told what to eat and when caused more problems than it solved, and instead of seeing results, they became more obsessive about food. Their intuitive eating programme introduced a set of principles that would banish diets, body shaming, and obsessive behaviours and foster trust and wisdom, with the end aim of empowering their clients.
The 10 principles of intuitive eating
Traditionally there are ten principles of intuitive eating. These are:
1. Rejecting the diet mentality.
2. Honouring your hunger.
3. Making peace with food.
4. Challenging the food police.
5. Respecting your fullness.
6. Discovering the satisfaction factor.
7. Honouring your feelings, without using food.
8. Respecting your body.
9. Getting active and feeling the difference (not ignoring how your body feels during exercise).
10. Honouring your health.
This might all seem a bit much at first. In my practice I have added self-love into the mix, as I truly believe that all-round health starts with your relationship with yourself. Learning meditation and visualisation techniques can also allow you to connect to your intuition. Our relationship with food is ever-changing and very often extremely complex. How we eat is a direct mirror-image of how we’re treating ourselves and it’s no surprise that with our busy modern lifestyle, taking care of our bodies is not at the top of the to-do list.
The principles of intuitive eating teach us to slow down the pace and start “feeling into” our food choices. It allows us to distinguish the physical and emotional cues of hunger and acknowledge our choices. How do you want food to make you feel today? What do you feel your body needs? These are questions eating intuitively focuses on, helping you to re-establish a relationship with your intuition and break free from the ongoing battle with your body and your mind. In short, less judging, more eating and more satisfaction!
What kickstarted intuitive eating for me
I experienced two bouts of eating disorders: the first at age 14, and again in my early 20s. I was a woman obsessed with food. I would count calories, starve, binge and then get rid of anything I had eaten too much of by purging. This process went on over and over again, day in and day out. For me it was a sense of self-discipline that enabled me to feel in control of areas of my life that I felt out of control with.
While I grew out of the starving and bingeing, I soon developed an obsession with being “healthy”. Going to the gym seven days a week, only eating carbs for breakfast and on the surface, looking like a gym bunny who loved fitness. In reality, inside I was a mess. I was tearing myself apart whenever it came to meal times, meals out, drinking with friends…any situation that made me feel out of control.
I think that starting to “grow-up” played a huge part in my healing process, as did therapy, alongside training to become a nutritionist. The more I learned about my body and the processes that it enables to keep me alive, the more I respected it. I trained as a yoga teacher and also in meditation, which allowed me to connect with my body and my intuition. One day I came across a book on intuitive eating and it all made sense. I was working in the wellness world but for me much of it seems so controlling- “eat this, don’t eat this, kale is trendy, don’t eat sugar…” and so on ad infinitum. Enough. I wanted to feed my body what it needed, not according to what the latest research paper thought was good for me. I began living intuitively, eating intuitively, teaching intuitively and I haven’t once looked back.
A day in the life of an intuitive eater
If you’re stuck in the yo-yo dieting cycle, are feeling ashamed of your body, or simply want to rekindle your relationship with your intuition, the beauty of intuitive eating is that every day looks different. You eat based on what you feel your body needs, and you do not deprive yourself of anything. Each morning I begin with a quick body scan – how is my body and mind feeling today? This will determine my food choices throughout the day. For example, if it’s cold outside and you’re feeling a little groggy, turmeric porridge and some warm milk is just what you may need to feel nourished and prepared to start the day. If you’re really hungry, is it eggs that your body needs? The more you listen to your body and its signals, the more aware you become of your hunger. Are you really hungry or actually thirsty, or tired or emotional? If you have a big lunch, you might just fancy something lighter for dinner. If you do need something more substantial, it’s because that what your body required at that time.
You can’t fail at intuitive eating
A major advantage of intuitive eating is that it’s a practice that you will incorporate into your life forever and one that you can’t fail or slip up on. So, the first plus point is that you won’t ever feel bad about failing a diet again. Intuitive eating allows you to hear what your body needs. It promotes self-love and compassion and respect for your your body and the food you eat. It allows you to live without guilt, deprivation and instead with balance and in harmony with your body. We all want to eat well, have body acceptance and a peaceful relationship with food, and we all deserve to have these things. Intuitive eating allows us this.
…but intuitive eating isn’t for everyone
All of the above acknowledged, if you are dealing with the first stages of an eating disorder, I wouldn’t recommend taking the intuitive eating principles on board until you are well into recovery. In the first stages, you need a meal plan and guidance from a nutritionist professional and/or therapist. Trying to engage in your hunger when it’s out of balance is not going to help, so I would strongly advise seeing a specialist if this is the case (you can seek help and support by visiting the BEAT website).
Stopping the yo-yo cycle
On the other hand, if you see yourself as a yo-yo dieter, someone who never seems to lose weight, no matter how hard they try, someone who body shames or feels lost when faced with food, then intuitive eating really is for you. I’m not saying it’s easy, but give it a try. You just might be surprised at how much of your life opens up when you start trusting your body – and yourself.
My next ‘Intuitive Eating and Living’ programme launches on 17th October 2017. Each live webinar starts at 7pm and is recorded in case you miss a week.
September 24th 2017 /