It seems like every year brings a few new diet or lifestyle trends that promises to help you lose weight or get a summer body – whatever that is. Just follow these rules, do this exercise, or buy this product and you’ll have the body that society currently finds acceptable. Diet culture is everywhere and it’s nearly impossible to avoid. We are inundated with television, print, and internet ads, we hear about it from our friends, and many of us are even steeped in diet culture from childhood by well-meaning parents or parents who have their own trauma around food and their bodies. It can feel impossible to know what is best for our bodies when we’re constantly told what to do with them. Intuitive Eating is another way, it’s a returning back to what we were all naturally born knowing how to do.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating (IE) is not a diet. In fact, IE is the anti-diet. Diets are not sustainable physically or emotionally. They actually worsen our relationship with food and the trust we have for ourselves around food. IE allows us to relearn to trust our bodies and ourselves. With its evidence-based approach (see my resource guide below for some excellent reading), IE focuses on each person and their needs as an individual. IE treats weight neutrally; it is not a weight loss program. It works by being mindful of your physical and emotional needs as food feeds the body and the soul. You can learn how to honor your hunger, to respect your fullness, and to eat without guilt, shame, or restrictions.
How to Get Started
- Use your internal hunger and fullness scales to learn what your body actually needs.
- Stop thinking of foods as good or bad. All food is morally neutral and our body knows how to use it as fuel and to keep us alive!
- Challenge the food police. Who are the food police? “The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche and its loudspeaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the food police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.” (pg. 94)
- Reject the diet mentality. Once you start doing this, you’ll see the negative impact diet culture has had on you – how much time, money, energy, and moments of joy it has stolen from you.
- Challenge yourself by eating foods that you previously considered off limits. Eat when you’re hungry, not around the hours you’ve been told it’s okay to eat. Midnight snack, here I come!
Tips on How Handle Common Struggles
Fear of gaining weight and negative body image
- This is one of the major benefits of IE. Once you start focusing on yourself as a person, on your values, and on just about everything else besides your pants size, you’ll start to see yourself as a whole person and not as a number on a scale.
- This is a tough one because diet culture is such a huge part of our daily lives especially with social media. Combat this by following others who support IE, unfollowing those who spread harmful ideas about diet and weight, and read books and listen to IE positive podcasts. Join a support group to meet others who are rejecting diet culture and learning to trust their own bodies.
Questioning if IE is healthy or right for you
- Health is about a lot more than your weight (which isn’t even an accurate measure of your health)! Health encompasses physical, mental, and emotional state. Even our relationships with others contribute significantly to our health. Choosing positive behaviors that nurture you as a whole person is what serves our overall wellbeing.
Lack of structure or feeling of control
- Control around food and our bodies can be powerful so giving that up can leave a void. Find other rituals or self-care routines that are nourishing. Challenge your ideas of what you can control and lean into acceptance of the things you cannot.
If you have interest in the positive impact IE can have on your life, check out some of these resources below:
Intuitive Eating, 4th Edition