Please don’t let the title put you off! I know everyone has had their fill of articles on weight loss, diets, fads, exercise routines, I don’t think I need to go on. And I know I have certainly had enough of the whole ‘perfect body’ culture, that anyone is less than if they don’t conform to some stereotypical magazine image (which are usually photoshopped). I have been on a myriad of diets, weight-loss programmes, exercise regimes in the last 30+ years to reach my ‘goal weight’ my ‘ideal body shape’. Until recently, never once has it occurred to me that these diets have actually ‘worked’ in the sense that I felt I had succeeded in accepting and celebrating my body and for that I have always blamed myself for not being ‘good enough’. If only I had more willpower, dedication, time, energy, insert ‘whichever personal failing’, then I would consistently be X weight, fit into a size X and proudly strut my stuff on the beach. As I have been exploring more around psychology, acceptance, mindful and intentional living, I have discovered ‘Intuitive Eating’ and it has really piqued my curiosity. So I have decided to start writing about my intuitive eating journey, as a way to hold myself accountable and hopefully to help others and evolve my learning. As the Latin proverb goes:
By teaching others you will learn yourself.G. I. Gurdjieff
So, what is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating was first espoused as an anti-diet by Evelyn Tribole (MS, RDN, CEDRD-S) and Elyse Resch (MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, FAND) as a book in 1995. It has since become the subject of many scientific studies, articles, books and has been boiled down to these three key features by Dr Tracy Tylka:
- Unconditional permission to eat when hungry and what food is desired
- Eating for physical than emotional reasons
- Reliance on internal hunger and satiety cues to determine when and how much to eat.
Essentially listening to our body and its’ cues on what and when to eat rather than external factors (including our mind), fully allowing any food to be eaten and accepting our body.
Pretty much contrary to every diet book or article I have read that has told me exactly what and how much I should eat or exercise. Listen to what I want and need is contrary to all the messages I have received.
They say that I have all the answers, not someone else.
That makes so much sense as I type it, but why does it feel so confronting?
Why Intuitive Eating?
I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of people, mostly women, have been on some form of diet or food restriction in their lives. I know I have tried virtually every diet going as I was hoping to achieve a certain size or shape for my wedding day, for a holiday, whatever. According to Tribole and Resch book:
In the United States alone, nearly half of Americans are dietingMundell 2018
A team of UCLA researchers reviewed 31 long-term studies on dieting and concluded that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight GAIN – up to two thirds of the people regained more weight than they lost.Mann et al. 2007
Intuitive eating turns all of diet culture on its head. It is about how about we truly listen to ourselves and what our bodies (not our minds!) want and need and listen and act on that. So we aren’t forcing ourselves to eat or not eat certain things and are fully allowing ourselves to listen, to intuit, ourselves not some outside source or society to tell us what we should eat, do or look like.
Pretty controversial stuff. Certainly not what the $254.9 billion weight-loss industry would like us to believe.
So, what are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating?
Here are the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating from Tribole and Resch’s books and what I will be learning and expanding more on in the coming weeks of my journey:
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honour your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Feel your fullness
- Cope with your emotions with kindness
- Respect your body
- Movement – feel the difference
- Honour your health – gentle nutrition.
I am going to be working through the book and workbook and learning more about the principles and my thoughts on them in the coming weeks. I have no idea if I will work on one a week or what, but will do my best to share the journey!
How will My Intuitive Eating Journey work?
Firstly an acknowledgment that we all start out in this world as intuitive eaters. As babies and toddlers we know if we want to eat, how much we want to eat and how and when we want to move our bodies. But as time, society, well-intentioned parents become a bigger part of the messages we receive, we learn more to “clean our plate” or to eat more or less of that, than to listen to what we truly want or need.
As I read the book it invites me to reflect on my eating, my relationship with my body and my mind thus far.
The authors have identified several eater or personality types from the ‘Careful Clean Eater’ to the ‘Professional Dieter’, the ‘Unconscious Eater (of which there are several types). I have probably been all of these at varying points in my life, but most recently I feel I am more of an emotional unconscious eater that turns to food to cope with emotions or reward myself (particularly as I no longer drink alcohol). Bringing my previous and current behaviours to light will help me understand the difference between listening to my mind and my body. As I have written about before the mind body spirit connection is something that I am keen to strengthen.
The workbook shares an interesting exercise in writing with my non-dominant hand and observing my thoughts around how the writing looks. Learning intuitive eating is a bit like writing with your non-dominant hand, not the norm, not what you are used to and it might not look pretty for some time. Intuitive Eating will be basically me trying to reverse a lot of what I have learnt and absorbed over the last 49 years and starting all over again. Something that will require a lot of patience and compassion (neither of which are my current strong points!) and also honesty and willingness (thankfully I am a bit better at those!)
I am going to be working through the book and workbook and diving into the principles and my thoughts on them in the coming weeks. I have also joined a couple of Facebook support groups, so I can learn and share with others – I am very conscious of needing support and encouragement for something that is essentially counter-culture. I have no idea if I will work on one principle a week or what, but I will do my best to share the journey! I would love to hear from others to about their questions, thoughts, feedback, ideas about intuitive eating or their body acceptance journey.
How do I feel as I embark on this Intuitive Eating journey?
I have to admit I am a combination of excited and apprehensive. I have been dabbling in learning about Intuitive Eating for several months, but now I want to really commit and explore this for me. I am keen to learn and try something new as I recognise that dieting has never really served me and has put me at war with my body and myself, not something I am proud of. That said I am also finding it hard to see that I will easily accept my body regardless of what happens with my eating. I think part of me is still approaching this journey in the hope that I will lose some weight. Already I have noticed as I have been writing this post that I would normally stop and need my usual mid-morning snack, but today I haven’t felt hungry – part of me is celebrating listening to my body and the other part of me is wondering whether it will mean I do actually lose some excess pounds?
What would actually be far more profound is if I will find true body acceptance. I remember first seeing Avicii vs Nicky Romero’s video for ‘I Could be the One’ several years ago and how empowering and sexy it was to see a woman fully embracing her body and totally shunning what everyone else thought.
That feels a way off, but this is a journey after all and it has to start somewhere.
After all, I could be the one that sets me free.
I hope you will join me for the first steps (you could also buy the book too!) and look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments below too…….