What's Intuitive Eating? Hint: Intuitive Eating isn't a Diet
If you’ve been following along, you may have heard by now that diets don’t work. Curious about trying something else? Here’s an overview of intuitive eating.
WTF is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating gives you a set of tools to help you find out what works for you, and what doesn’t. It’s a model of eating that helps you break the cycle of dieting and connect to your inner wisdom.
It’s centred on you being the expert on your body. Seems pretty obvious, huh?
Research shows that intuitive eaters are less likely to develop an eating disorder.
What intuitive eating isn’t.
Intuitive eating isn’t about woo-woo psychic powers. It’s about getting to a place where you can be a "normal eater,” without the control, restriction, and rules.
Intuitive eating also isn’t a free-for-all of chips and cookies. There’s a belief that intuitive eating means eat “junk food” whenever you want.
Full permission to eat all foods is one of the principles of intuitive eating. But it’s just one. And it doesn’t mean you’ll always do that.
The origins of intuitive eating.
The approach originated in the 1980s. By the mid-1990s, registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch published the first edition of “Intuitive Eating.” Their book outlines 10 principles to make peace with food, free yourself from chronic dieting, and rediscover the pleasures of eating.
But before I go on, I want to acknowledge that it’s a privilege to be able to choose what to eat. Millions of food insecure people in this country and in the world don’t have a choice.
As a nutritionist, I’m thrilled that people are thinking about where their food comes from, but I can’t get behind the message that if you’re not eating local, organic, homemade food, then you’re doing a bad job. That’s “clean eating” food shame. No thank you!
Why non-diet is better than a diet.
One-size-fits-all diets are a problem, because one size doesn’t fit all. Typical diets are too restrictive (to deliver faster weight loss results 🙄). They lack flexibility, so they don’t fit into your life. You’re supposed to plan your life around your diet. Right?
What you need to know about diet culture.
“Diet culture” is the idea that your body’s weight, shape, and size determines your value. It equates thinness with health.
Diet culture is sneaky. It’s everywhere, and it’s big business. $70 billion USD per year, big.
These days, “wellness” and “feeling good” are popular ways to mask diet culture messages. How can you tell if a “lifestyle program” is a diet in disguise? Refer back to the definition of diet culture.
If your body’s weight, shape, and size are being put ahead of your actual health and well-being (including physical, mental, and spiritual) then you’re looking at diet culture.
Why diet culture is dangerous.
You can’t hate yourself healthy.
Diet culture discredits your inner wisdom. Calorie counting (I never liked math…) and meal plans teach you that left to your own devices, you’ll make the wrong decisions. Like eat a 🧁. Heaven forbid!
But as I said before, no one knows your body better than you do.
With intuitive eating there are no forbidden foods. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to eat. Doesn’t that sound like a relief?
No, it’s not a matter of willpower. The best way to eat is the way that works for you.
Sharpen your food intuition.
With all the nutrition info out there, it’s easy to focus on what to eat. But as an Intuitive Eating Coach, I’m more interested in how you eat.
I totally get it. The idea of using your intuition to guide your eating may seem scary, confusing, or ridiculous. But remember, you were born an intuitive eater.
Kids do a great job of self-regulating their eating.
As a kid, you likely balanced your food intake. You ate when you were hungry, and stopped when you were full. You also knew how to enjoy food without guilt.
Some weeks you were probably ravenous, and other weeks you may have only nibbled on the food on your plate.
If you’re a parent, you know all about this.
When I put it this way, do you see how intuitive eating is more familiar than you think? It’s something you can work your way back to.
Eating gets complicated as you’re bombarded by diet culture’s messages that you can’t trust yourself, and taught by well-meaning parents that you need food rules and restrictions to be healthy.
The food rules complicate eating.
What food rules did you learn as a kid?
Did you have to finish everything on your plate?
Did you have to eat something, even though you didn’t like it?
Did you learn that dessert is a reward?
Did you learn that food is taken away if you misbehave? That you have to earn it?
Do you need to relearn how to eat?
As I mentioned above, intuitive eating isn’t a diet. It’s a way to eat outside of diet culture. Intuitive eating focuses on using your internal hunger, fullness, and satisfaction cues to guide eating choices. It also explores your food beliefs, behaviours, and self-talk.
Intuitive eating helps you cultivate a relationship with food and your body that’s rooted in taking care of yourself—in all areas: stress, sleep, food, and movement. Not in what other people say you should do.
Best of all, you can stop eating food that you don’t like because you think you “should.”
Intuitive eating helps you step off the diet roller coaster.
No diet plan can know what you enjoy, or how much you need to nourish yourself. Intuitive eating helps you reclaim that trust in yourself, without food rules.
You’re fully capable of connecting to and honouring your body’s signals, trusting yourself, and letting go of rules, restriction, and obsession.
Get back in touch with the intuitive eater inside of you.
Don’t worry if you’re like, “I don’t know how to know what my body needs!” If you’re inspired by intuitive eating, but are having a hard time breaking up with dieting, I can help you.
The best part? All the wisdom is within you right now. You just need just-for-you guidance and support to help you bring it out. Click here to book your 30-minute Free Discovery Session to learn about my coaching.
What do you think? Are there any food rules you learned that have clouded your intuitive eating?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meet Ellen Kaross (she/her), the Non-Diet Nutritionist and Intuitive Eating Coach behind The Good Yolk.
Ellen helps women-identifying folks uncover what their emotional eating can teach them, and find joy and balance in their relationship with food.
Her passion for advocacy informs her compassionate, non-judgmental approach.