Maybe you've heard about intuitive eating or maybe it's a term you've never come across until now. I talk a lot about intuitive eating. With clients, on my social media posts, whenever I get the chance really. It's something I feel passionate about helping my clients to re-discover for themselves and something that, in my own life, has been an invaluable tool in healing my relationship with food and body. So what is intuitive eating anyway?
In a sentence, intuitive eating is using the information provided by listening to our body’s internal cues, as well as our decision-making skills, to determine what, how much, when and how we eat, within the scope of what is available to us.
Born to Eat
Eating intuitively is actually just "normal" eating. It’s something we are born knowing how to do and is the way our bodies are designed to function around food. Think of a baby, they let you know when they’re hungry and what they want to eat, they eat until satisfied and then stop. However, we live in a diet-culture that completely undermines our own body trust by telling us that our innate ability to nourish ourselves, can’t be trusted. Diet culture can disciple us into believing that the way our bodies look directly represents our health, beauty and worth.
Diet culture says we aren’t enough but if we could just *insert food or body rule/standard* then we could be...
Diet culture says we aren’t enough but if we just *insert food or body rule/standard* then we could be. All those diet-y external food rules, coupled with our deep desire to feel worthy create the notion that our internal cues are somehow wrong and shameful. They cannot be trusted and must be overridden. When those internal cues are overridden and suppressed in favour of the external rules of say, the diet or meal plan we’re following, we can lose touch with our own internal cues. To get to the place where we can respond to our body’s signals, we need to re-learn how to listen, and perhaps most importantly, to listen without judgement.
When we do re-learn how to tune-in and honour those signals, what we also learn is that, rather than being something we need to “manage”, our bodies have incredible wisdom. They want variety, they don’t want too much of just one thing - the opposite of what can happen when we restrict food. We learn that our bodies can regulate the amount we eat in order to meet our energy requirements for physical function and activity, without having to think about it too much. However, eating intuitively in real life involves more than simply eating when hungry and stopping when full. We won't always have access to the food we feel hungry for the moment we feel a slight hunger pang, sometimes we will eat even when we aren't hungry, say, to feel part of a social occasion, and sometimes we will eat past the point of fullness. Once we’re able to tune in we can then start using the information and feedback from our bodies to make decisions around food that best serve us.
Both an Art and a Science
Think of it this way; if you knew that every few hours your body gives you the signal to use the toilet and you were about to embark on a long car journey, even if you didn’t need the toilet right at that moment you might go before you left the house anyway. You’ve used feedback from your body and made a practical decision with it. The same goes for eating. If we knew that in the next hour you’ll probably get hungry, as lunch was a while ago but you’re about to head into a meeting, you might have a snack before. You know that eating doughnuts for breakfast, although delicious, doesn’t leave you with much energy and so you might choose to have some porridge and banana on the morning of a busy day instead. Although intuitive eating does not have anything to do with outward appearances and is completely weight-neutral, it does involve making helpful and healthful food decision. However, until we can learn to listen to our bodies signals with neutrality and compassion, it's difficult for those decisions to be motivated by the desire to nourish not punish.
If you’d like to know more about intuitive eating check out the Intuitive Eating book. If you’re ready to find lasting freedom, peace and joy in your relationship with food then get in touch about nutrition coaching. I work with clients one-to-one and using a holistic, balanced and personalised approach help them to implement the principles of intuitive eating into their lives. If you feel unsure about whether or not this is for you, I offer a totally free 20-minute Intro Call so you can see if it would be a good fit - book yours here!
Andersson, M. A., & Christakis, N. A. (2016, 05). Desire for weight loss, weight-related social contact, and body mass outcomes. Obesity, 24(7), 1434-1437. doi:10.1002/oby.21512
Dyke, N. V., & Drinkwater, E. J. (2013, 08). Review Article Relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: Literature review. Public Health Nutrition, 17(08), 1757-1766. doi:10.1017/s1368980013002139