What is Intuitive Eating?
Let me begin by saying that this journey is all about self-compassion…
Re-learning how to be an intuitive eater is a work in progress, and one with many highs and lows. It is a form of self-exploration and self-discovery, where judgement and self-criticism will serve only to hold you back. Always remember that Intuitive Eating is evidence-based… it is not some flighty anti-diet ideal, but a concept which has proven health benefits (and by health I mean much more than just physical health).
It also pays to first explain what Intuitive Eating is NOT… It is NOT a fad “way of eating”. It is NOT about rules and regulations. It is NOT about eating anything and everything, and disregarding your health. It is NOT about weight loss. These are common myths (misconceptions) about Intuitive Eating which I (and all Intuitive Eating advocates) work tirelessly to debunk. The Intuitive Eating framework, which this series of blog posts is based upon, was created by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. The information in these posts is in line with their books Intuitive Eating and The Intuitive Eating Workbook (which are totally worth the investment if you’re interested…). So, what is this Intuitive Eating thing all about?
I like to think of Intuitive Eating as our call back to the wild – back to our childhood – back to a time when our body told us what to do and we listened. Simple really, huh? But the best explanation of Intuitive Eating comes from the founders themselves “…(it) is a dynamic mind-body integration of instinct, emotion and rational thought. It is a personal process of honouring your health by paying attention to the messages of your body and meeting your physical and emotional needs… (It) is about cultivating a healthy relationship with food, mind and body – it’s about self-care and body appreciation, regardless of size…” (Tribole & Resch). Intuitive eating is, in my opinion, the only antidote to weight stigma, diet culture and wellness culture. It is the only way to escape the food freak-out we find ourselves in today. It gives us permission to listen to ourselves and ignore all the nutrition gurus, food bloggers, scientists, government agencies, and documentary writers who have us petrified that if we eat the wrong thing, or not enough of the right thing, we will either die or get fat.
When working through the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating over the coming blog posts, it is really important to remember that these are just principles – they are guides. They are NOT another set of dietary rules, because that would be opposed to everything Intuitive Eating stands for. When reading through the principles, think of a child eating. Think of the way they just instinctively know what they want, when and how much of it. Think of their changeable appetite and their pure innocence when it comes to food – no rules, no worries, no hang-ups… just food for pleasure and food for energy. THIS is what we want to get back to with these Intuitive Eating principles. We are just rediscovering our birth right to enjoy food freely.
Just a little bit about the 10 principles we will be covering over upcoming posts: there are two ‘categories’ of guiding principles. Some focus on “cultivating attunement”, which means they help us to get back in touch with our own body wisdom. This is where work on mindful eating and mindfulness will really come into play. The other principles work on “removing obstacles to attunement”, so in other words they help to shut down societal and psychological blocks (like diet culture, the thin obsession, and the obesity epidemic rhetoric) so that we can start seeing food and eating without fear and judgement, the way in which nature intended.
Check out subsequent blog posts where we will be exploring each of the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating in turn. By the end of this series, you will be armed with all of the knowledge you need to either begin navigating your Intuitive Eating journey, or decide whether this is the right path for you and engage in the help of a professional to guide you.