If you follow me on Instagram, you may already know that I recently decided to ditch dieting and give Intuitive Eating a go. It seems kind of ridiculous that, at 52, I should be training myself to eat intuitively. I mean, when we’re born that’s precisely what we do, right? We cry when we’re hungry and turn away from the boob when we’re full. Somewhere in between then and now, though, many of us lose our way.
I’d say at least half of my girlfriends have endless conversations with themselves (and one another) about what they’re eating, and they’re not conversations that celebrate the pleasures of food. They’re conversations that are wracked with guilt and self-judgement. Not my daughter, though.
My daughter has Intuitive Eating nailed.
At just 17 (turning 18 in 9 days, OMG!), she’s the one that inspired me to give Intuitive Eating a try. I remember the moment the switch went off in my brain. We were in Ottawa visiting my BFF and her family for Thanksgiving. At the end of our meal, we all leaned back in our chairs, rubbed our bellies in despair, and acknowledged that we were STUFFED. All of us except for Anna, that is.
“I’m not stuffed,” she said. “I’m just satisfied.” (And then she looked at us as if we were the weird ones!)
I marvelled at what I thought was incredible self-control but actually isn’t. It’s just Intuitive Eating. And I thought to myself, I’m gonna try to be more like Anna. Eat until I’m satisfied and then stop.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Developed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating takes a pro-eating, anti-dieting approach to food. It’s based on 10 principles:
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honour your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Respect your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Honour your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Honour your health
No calorie counting. No forbidden foods. NO DIETING!!!
For the past six years or so, I’ve been yo-yo-dieting, trying to attain the body image in my head. No less than six times I’ve experienced the victory of getting there. But then anywhere from six months to one year later, I’ve regained the 15 to 20 pounds I lost. It’s not my willpower that’s failed me. It’s the very concept of dieting.
I have proven to myself that I can follow a program. I can live off one meal and two shakes a day if I have to. I can cut carbs out of my diet if I have to. I can count points for everything I eat and track them in an app if I have to. But eventually I always reach the point where I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO!
I’m done weighing myself every day. I’m done calling myself ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on what I eat. I’m done thinking about how I’ll compensate for that piece of cake I’m eating while I’m still eating it. I’m tired of the judgement I have around my eating habits. And I’m done supporting the multi-billion-dollar weight-loss industry.
Come January, I will be making only one resolution around food. Actually, I’ve already made it.
I resolve to listen to my body’s needs and cravings and submit to them.
Will I gain weight by doing so? Quite possibly, yes. But here’s the theory behind the Intuitive Eating approach. When you truly learn to abide by all of the principles above, you will not eat in excess.
Sure, cake is allowed and in keeping with principle #4, you will challenge any food police who try and tell you not to eat it. But by respecting your fullness (#5), you will stop when you are full. By honouring your feelings without food (#7), you will not eat cake just because you’re feeling sad. And by respecting your body (#8), you will not eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
On the flip side, by honouring your health (#10), you will eat plenty of nutritious foods. In fact, the more you allow yourself to indulge in foods you’ve previously considered forbidden, the less likely you will be to crave them. And in time (maybe weeks, maybe months), you will reach a place of balance.
In that place, whether you are 15 lbs heavier or lighter than you are now, you will ideally be consuming an appropriate balance of the foods that your body needs for fuel and the foods that your soul craves for pleasure. You will be satisfying the whole you. Not just your body, but also your spirit. I like the sound of that.
Greyhound, Poodle or Bullmastiff?
I can’t recall where, but I was reading something about dieting the other day. The message went something like this: Imagine you have a Bullmastiff and you think, “I’d like a skinnier dog. One that’s more like a Poodle. I know, I’ll put it on a diet.”
I was born a Retriever. Neither slim like a Poodle nor burly like a Bullmastiff. Yet I’ve been aspiring to the body type of a Greyhound. Several of my friends are naturally born Greyhounds. I am not, and it’s time for me to stop banging a square peg into a round hole.
If, like me, you want to give your body what it truly needs without depriving yourself of pleasure and without putting yourself down, respect it for what it is. Throw away your diet cookbooks, remove those calorie-counting apps from your phone, and learn how to eat in peace.
Viv for today xo
DISCLAIMER: I am not a dietitian and I have no medical expertise. I am writing as someone who is neither severely underweight nor severely overweight, and who has no significant health issues. If you have any health concerns, be they related or unrelated to your weight, please consult your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet.
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