We have this notion that taking care of our health is about our diet and exercise and everyone needs to be a smaller body type to be healthy. That it is simple and easy to lose weight and if you cannot manage it, you are less deserving of being treated respectfully and you are failing at life. If following a strict diet and vigorous exercise routines were as easy as everyone talks about them as being, we would not have a new weight loss scheme on every corner and we wouldn’t have so many people struggling to take care of their health.
As an individual and someone working in the health industry, I reject the diet mentality and the idea that following a restricting eating regime is the answer to better health. I am much more on board with the intuitive eating approach and I want to break it down a little bit for people to understand.
In the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elysse Resch, they highlight 10 basic principles of intuitive eating.
1. Reject the diet mentality. The idea that there is a perfect diet out there that will make losing weight quick, easy and permanent. On average 95% of people fail at long term weight loss, that is not a human flaw, that is a strategy flaw.
2. Honour your hunger. Responding to the signs of your body that it is hungry. When you go excessively long without eating you trigger your primal drive to overeat.
3. Make peace with food. Stop fighting that internal battle with yourself, allow yourself unconditional permission to eat. When you restrict a food and tell yourself you cannot have it, it only makes you crave it more and eventually will lead to you binging on that food followed by overwhelming guilt.
4. Challenge the food police. Food is neither good nor bad and nor are you for eating any types of foods. Food is just food and it is not our enemy.
5. Discover the satisfaction factor. Find food that you actually enjoy, allow eating your food to be an experience of pleasure.
6. Feel your fullness. Learning to recognise what your body feels like when it is comfortably full and the signs that show when you are uncomfortably full.
7. Cope with your emotions with kindness. Emotional eating is incredibly common but what it results in is you feeling worst in the long run and your emotions not having been dealt with. Learning to find ways to be gentle with yourself and ways to deal with feelings like anger, loneliness, boredom and anxiety without always trying to numb them with food.
8. Respect your body. Being over-critical of your body size and shape only leads to you feeling terrible. Respect your body and acknowledge there is more to a body size then just diet and exercise. There is your genetic blueprint, your history, a great deal of an emotional component. Allow yourself the space to be kinder to yourself, all body sizes deserve dignity.
9. Movement – feel the difference. Feel into how your body feels when you exercise, rather than a rigid focus on calorie burning and building up a sweat. What exercise does your body love?
10. Honour your health – gentle nutrition. Make food choices that are going to honour your health and taste buds while making you feel good. You do not have to eat perfectly to be healthy. It is what you eat consistently over time that matters. One meal or snack is not going to suddenly undo your health.
Intuitive eating is more about getting to know your body, what it needs and what it likes and does not like. It is about checking in with yourself regularly throughout the day to find out how you are feeling, what you are needing and really listening to those cues. When we take all of that pressure off ourselves to be eating a particular way it allows the space for your natural internal signals to step up and your body is quite intelligent, it does actually know what it needs to feel satisfied and nourished. What is something you can do this week to lean more into taking the intuitive eating approach?