What is intuitive eating? Experts Explain Misconceptions About This “Anti-Diet” Lifestyle

Experts explain what intuitive eating is, and why it’s not about losing weight or going on a diet. (Photo: Getty Creative)

Chances are, your vacation dinner conversations this year have included discussions about the latest fad diet. Maybe it’s your uncle who swears it keto gave her the best body ever, or the cousin who insists that a loved one cleaning juice is the perfect reset for losing weight during the New Year holidays. Or, maybe, it’s your social media feed that floods you with talk about food instead, with everyone from celebrities to your high school friends swearing they’ve found the perfect way to eat.

All of this is an example of diet culture, a pervasive condition in American society today, which places great value on thinness and the appearance of one’s body – usually at the cost of mental and physical well-being. It can be insidious: While some diets may claim to be health-focused, few can honestly say they separate weight loss from wellness. Enter Intuitive Eating, which asks people to shut down the food culture completely and focus on sticking to their hunger cues, eating foods that make them feel good, and don’t care about the number on the scale.

The concept of intuitive eating was invented by dieticians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. He has 10 principles, but they all boil down to the idea that people should eat in a way that makes them feel good physically and mentally, listen to their body’s natural signals, and eliminate any preconceptions about how they should eat or look.

Registered Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Consultant Christy Harrison, author of Anti-diet and co-author of The Make Peace With Food Card Game, told Yahoo Life, “I often say that intuitive eating is the ‘default mode’. It’s how we are born, knowing how to eat, recognizing hunger signals, stopping when we are full, and knowing that food will be available when we want to eat it again. These are the instincts we are born with. a lot of things, unfortunately, can interfere with these instincts. The diet culture is huge. Being told we need to lose weight, eat less, control our appetite, eat different kinds of food. It also includes food insecurity, which can interfere with our ability to know that food will be available again when we need it. “

In practice, intuitive eating is not just about eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. It is also about allowing the consumption of all the foods that are safe in your life and understanding that it is okay to enjoy food because of emotional satisfaction rather than just physical hunger. This means removing the guidelines put in place by diet culture, either explicitly or implicitly.

This can be scary for some people, who are concerned that if they eat what they want, they will turn to foods like candy, pizza, or other demonized foods whenever they want. Harrison says from his experience that this is just not true.

“I think people tend to overestimate how much food they’re going to eat when the breaks are interrupted. People think, ‘Oh, if I can eat what I want, when I want, then I will only eat Snickers bars for the rest of my life, “she explains.” You could have a honeymoon phase with one particular food, whatever you wanted when you were on a diet. Your brain may need to figure out that you will have access to these foods again, that it is not a trap and it is not another diet.You have the right to have them forever, but proving it to yourself may take some time . “

Harrison adds, “The honeymoon phase also lasts a lot shorter than most people realize. A lot of people will find that they are fed up with Snickers bars, or any other food, and they are up for something more balanced. or maintenance. “

Dietitian Kara Lydon, author of Feed your Namaste and blog creator The greedy dietitian, tells Yahoo Life that for people absorbed in the food culture, it can be difficult to break old habits, even with intuitive eating. This is because it can be difficult for many people to understand that the purpose of eating is not to make yourself smaller.

“Many of my clients who find their way to intuitive eating after decades of dieting may unwittingly find themselves turning intuitive eating into a diet, which I call the hunger satiety diet,” says Lydon. “Essentially, it’s about taking the two principles around respecting hunger and satiety and applying black and white thinking to them. It might sound like someone saying, ‘I can only eat. when I’m physically hungry ”or“ I always have to stop eating when I’m perfectly full. It then becomes a set of rules instead of embracing the nuance of eating as a human being – there are other reasons to eat beyond physical hunger, including the taste of something specific or of emotional satisfaction. “

Ultimately, intuitive eating means letting go of ideas about what idealized eating looks like and what your body should be like, in order to have true freedom over food. For some people, but not for everyone, this means gaining weight as their body adjusts to the state it is most naturally comfortable in.

“People don’t even realize they’re technically dieting when they eat smaller portions. [than they want to] or serve yourself less or avoid certain foods, ”says Harrison. “It could be in the guise of wellness, a healthy lifestyle, or a ‘keto model’ or a ‘Whole30 reset.’ But these are all diets. When people initially give up dieting, there is often a weight gain back to baseline. “

Harrison notes that this can be hard for people to hear, especially if they have been conditioned to lose weight in the past.

“Accepting where they’re at also comes into play,” she said. “It can be very difficult, especially if you are already in a bigger body. Gaining weight can come with a lot of weight-related stigma, both internal and external. We live in a culture that stigmatizes people with weight loss. heavier weight, so taking therapy to manage these triggers can be helpful for many people. ”

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call National Association of Eating Disorders hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

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