Let’s face it – diet culture has taken out the pleasure of eating for many people. Everything from upbringing, to pop culture, and even toxic Filipino culture of hearing “Uy, parang tumaba ka” (“Hey, you seem to have put on some weight”) from relatives we haven’t seen in a while are all factors that have complicated views of food and nutrition. Recently, however, intuitive eating has been tossed around as an alternative approach to nourishing ourselves. But is it just another fad diet?
What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is a mindful and holistic approach to nutrition and overall well-being, focusing on tuning into one's bodily cues and instincts rather than adhering to strict diets or external rules. It encourages individuals to develop a healthy relationship with food by honoring their hunger, recognizing their fullness, and respecting their cravings without guilt or judgment.
At its core, intuitive eating involves being attuned to internal signals of hunger and satiety, trusting one's body to guide food choices, and embracing the pleasure and satisfaction derived from eating. It also involves cultivating self-awareness around emotional eating triggers and learning to cope with feelings in a non food-related manner. By promoting self-compassion, body acceptance, and the removal of rigid food restrictions, intuitive eating empowers individuals to build sustainable, positive eating habits that contribute to better physical and mental health in the long term. So, the long and short of it is – no, it’s not another fad diet.
How is it different from other mainstream diets?
Intuitive eating stands apart from fad diets in its fundamental principles and approach to nourishing the body. While fad diets often promise quick fixes and emphasize rigid rules and restrictions, intuitive eating promotes a sustainable and balanced lifestyle. Unlike fad diets that focus on calorie counting, intuitive eating encourages individuals to listen to their internal cues of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. Instead of promoting a specific set of "good" or "bad" foods and categorizing them through this binary, intuitive eating allows for a wide variety of foods to be enjoyed without guilt or shame.
Intuitive eating aims to create a lasting and harmonious relationship with food, emphasizing self-care and body acceptance. Rather than chasing unrealistic ideals, intuitive eating promotes a focus on overall well-being and self-awareness, empowering individuals to make informed and compassionate choices for their health and happiness.
What are the principles of intuitive eating?
According to registered dietitian and intuitive eating counselor Marci Evans, M.S., CEDRD-S, L.D.N the 10 principles of intuitive eating include:
Rejecting diet mentality
Unlearn all the “trendy” diet rules you have been taught and exposed to that have guilt tripped you into believing that you are a failure if you can’t meet the requirements of a certain diet, or do not see results.
Honoring your hunger
Remain true to your ability to remain conscious about your personal hunger cues of when to eat so that you can satisfy yourself with the right energy, nutrients, and carbohydrates.
Making peace with food
Eat what you want when you want. Stop thinking that you can or cannot have a certain food, as this could lead you into feeling intensely deprived.
Challenging the food police
Stop with the need to punish or reward yourself for what you do or do not eat – you don’t need to reason with unreasonable existing diet rules.
Discovering the satisfaction of eating
See the inherent satisfaction and pleasure of eating foods you enjoy. This can lead to greater contentment.
Feeling your fullness
Trust yourself enough to know when your body tells you that it is full – and be conscious of the signs that tell you when it is, so it becomes habitual.
Coping with your emotions through kindness
Remember that restricting yourself with food can lead to emotional and disordered eating. Deal with the root cause of your emotions instead of addressing them with the short-term satisfaction of food.
Respecting your body
You deserve dignity and respect – and your clothing size does not and should not dictate that. Appreciate your body for what it is and what it does for you.
Instead of setting unrealistic expectations and targets, start with simple movements that you enjoy to get you going. Shift your focus into how good it feels to move your body, instead of pressuring yourself to do so.
Honoring your health with gentle nutrition
One other way to treat your body with respect is to nourish it and to make it feel good with foods you enjoy. Intuitive eating is about progress not perfection. Consistency is more important than anything else.
At the end of the day, however, you should consult with a professional to see if intuitive eating works for you, your lifestyle, and your health concerns. These principles should merely be used as a guide when you enjoy a meal to help you change your mindset and relationship towards food.
Intuitive eating and sustainability
Sustainability in terms of personal habits
Intuitive eating is inherently more sustainable compared to traditional dieting approaches because it fosters a long-term and flexible mindset towards food and health. Unlike restrictive diets that often lead to feelings of deprivation and a cycle of back-and-forth weight loss and gain, intuitive eating encourages individuals to build a genuine understanding of their body's needs and cues. By learning to trust and honor their hunger, fullness, and cravings, people can develop a healthier and more balanced relationship with food.
Intuitive eating is not a weight-centric approach and, instead, promotes lasting behavioral changes. Since it doesn't involve extreme restrictions, the risk of regaining lost weight is reduced, making it a more sustainable method for maintaining a healthy weight.
This sustainable approach allows for a greater variety of foods to be enjoyed in moderation, eliminating the feelings of guilt associated with "cheating" on diets. Moreover, intuitive eating addresses emotional eating and encourages healthier coping mechanisms for stress or emotional distress, promoting lasting behavioral changes. As a result, individuals are more likely to maintain their desired weight and experience improved mental and physical well-being, making intuitive eating a nourishing and sustainable lifestyle for the long run.
Sustainability in terms of the environment
Intuitive eating offers a positive impact on the environment by promoting sustainable and eco-friendly food choices. Because individuals listen to natural hunger and fullness cues, this can often lead to reduced food waste as you only purchase and consume what you genuinely need.
Additionally, intuitive eating favors a varied and balanced diet, including plant-based options that are generally more environmentally friendly than resource-intensive animal products. By tuning into seasonal and local food availability, intuitive eaters support local agriculture and reduce the carbon footprint associated with food transportation. Emphasizing whole and minimally processed foods, intuitive eating reduces the demand for heavily packaged and industrially produced products, contributing to a more sustainable food system. This holistic approach not only promotes personal well-being but also fosters a healthier planet by making conscious and environmentally responsible food choices.
It is also important to remember that privilege plays a part in the ability to practice intuitive eating. Having access to a diverse range of foods, fresh produce, and nutritional education is essential for intuitive eating to be personally sustainable.
One thing to note before trying out intuitive eating
Consulting a nutritionist or doctor before embarking on an intuitive eating journey is highly recommended to ensure that it is a suitable and safe approach for an individual's unique health and dietary needs. While intuitive eating can be a positive and sustainable way to develop a healthy relationship with food, it may not be appropriate for everyone, especially those with specific medical conditions, dietary restrictions, or nutritional deficiencies.
A qualified nutritionist or healthcare professional can provide personalized guidance, taking into account a person's medical history, lifestyle, and nutritional requirements. They can help individuals set realistic goals, address any concerns or challenges related to their eating habits, and tailor an intuitive eating plan that aligns with their health objectives.
Moreover, professionals can offer valuable support and resources to overcome emotional eating patterns or disordered eating behaviors that might interfere with intuitive eating progress. By seeking expert advice, individuals can approach intuitive eating in a safe and informed manner, optimizing their chances for success and fostering a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.
You don’t have to start alone. If intuitive eating calls out to you as something to try, Kindred will always be there to help you create a personalized care plan.