Intuitive Eating is how we are wired to eat instinctively. In this post I am going to give you 4 reasons why Intuitive Eating will end your perpetual diet cycle, but first a story:
When I was working as a freelance hairdresser to pay for college (I was licensed in New York state) a cuban woman, and friend of my then future in-laws, hired me to give her a permanent. She requested an early morning appointment.
When I arrived at her home, she mentioned that she was very hungry. I offered to wait while she ate some breakfast. Her eyes grew wide and she said that would be impossible. I was puzzled.
She very excitedly explained in spanglish that getting wet, even just washing her hair, would be deadly. Didn’t I know that anyone who gets wet after eating could die!
It was a matter of life or death to wait at least 3 full hours after eating before getting get wet, because one might get a cramp and die. She went on to explain that this included showering, swimming and shampooing one’s hair.
I laughed to myself and forgot about it.
Later when my kids were small, I was reminded by my cuban in-laws never to bathe my children or take them to swimming lessons after breakfast or lunch.
I was to wait 3 hours before letting my kids get wet or they would get a cramp and die.
Apparently this stems from a story in Cuba where someone went in the ocean after eating, got a cramp and drowned or nearly drowned. The story got passed along and it became an absolute necessity to stay away from all forms of water within 3 hours of eating.
Of course we now know that it’s a good idea to let food digest a bit before going for a swim. But to believe that we will get a cramp and die from shampooing our hair is catastrophic thinking.
Catastrophic thinking is dramatic and exaggerated.
Catastrophic thinking is common in diet culture.
For example, it is a popular belief that eating carbs will make a person fat. Somewhere in diet culture, someone lost temporary weight from eliminating some carbohydrates in their diet, and it snowballed into the belief all carbs are bad.
This is also binary thinking….black or white…all or nothing. In binary thinking, foods are either good or bad. We can either have a food or we are forbidden to have it. There is no in-between.
For years I believed sugar was evil, and of so course I craved sugar.
I also believed that sugar was addictive. In fact I warned my kids that sugar was more addictive than many illegal drugs. (Sorry kids!) I was a catastrophic and binary thinker, like all dieters.
The truth is if you believe food rules are absolute truths for everyone, or that a certain foods are truly addictive, then you will experience a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is zero judgment here.
I bought into many food rules over the years. I once even bought a book by a NY times best selling author, called Food Rules and it said things like ‘don’t eat food that comes out of a box’, or ‘don’t eat anything that you cannot pronounce’.
Trying to follow all the food rules will ignite guilt and shame and eventually an “F-off” attitude of defiance. Who hasn’t at one time or another thought “Screw it…I am going to eat whatever I want rules or no rules”
Cue up Intuitive Eating.
What the Heck is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is how we are wired to eat instinctively.
Babies cry when they are hungry, they get fed and they and stop when they are full. The environment and our culture over time influence us to ignore our intuition.
As children, we were taught to eat according to our parents’ concept of what is ‘good’ for us and slowly our intuitive eating instincts became blunted. As adults, we listened to the latest nutrition advice from sources like our government, (remember the Food Pyramid or My Plate?) or popular diet programs or detoxes.
The pure intuitive eating principles we were born with became unlearned.
This is a problem because we need to know how to recognize hunger and fullness. Diets and detoxes have robbed us of this instinct.No wonder there is an obesity epidemic.
Intuitive Eating (IE) It is not a diet.
Intuitive Eating was officially introduced in 1995 in the book, Intuitive Eating, by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole, and Elyse Resch. Now on its third edition, the concept is based on re-learning to eat intuitively so that you can ‘normalize your body size, free yourself from chronic dieting, and rediscover the pleasures of eating’
Why bother to re-learn intuitive eating?
1. Intuitive Eating teaches you to trust your fullness and honor your hunger meters.
Traditional diets rely on willpower to delay eating until set meal times and in set amounts. Beginning with our parents, most of us were taught when and how much to eat, thwarting our natural hunger and fullness cues. I’m sure we all have memories of being a kid or parent and suffering through a tense dinner hour because little Julie isn’t eating as much as her parents think she should. IE puts us back in touch with our natural appetite regulators.
2. Intuitive Eating teaches us to reject the ‘food police’
The ‘Food police’ are described in the book as demons that lurk in our psyche that scold us when we break the food rules. This leads to loads of guilt and shame. The food police have been working on our guilt and shame for most of our lives.
Depending on the diet, the food police tell us that certain foods are bad or good and that WE are bad or good for eating them.
Remember eggs? They were bad, then the whites were ok, then they became good again. They are still the same old eggs.
Food is morally neutral. It is neither good nor evil*.
As time goes on and diet trends come and go. There will be new food demons and the food police in our brain will have more food rules to learn and make us feel guilty over. Conversations like this have been going on for generations, both inside our heads and with others. The diet mentality feeds into a perfectionist mindset. Intuitive Eating ends the war with the food police, and the all or nothing perfectionist trap.
*unless you have a true allergy
3. Intuitive Eating is the ultimate guilt releaser because you can’t make a mistake.
This is a process with no end date. No food is demonized. No choices are bad. There are no reasons to feel guilty. Imagine if donuts or peanut butter were not an issue?
What happens for intuitive eaters is that once the food becomes unrestricted, and the person knows she can have it whenever she wants, the allure of cheating or coveting it is diminished.
Even if you eat donuts for breakfast every day, your overall intake will balance out because you are in tune with your hunger fullness and satiety. You will become keenly aware of how your food choices make you feel.
Your choices will even out once you tune into your hunger fullness and satiety. You will enjoy carrots as much as cake.
What happens is that you will eventually tire of these formerly forbidden foods after having them. They lose the appeal of being untouchable. In the book, this is referred to habituation. They will become morally neutral and you will enjoy them within reason.
Because you can eat them whenever you want they lose the excitement of cheating. The cheating attitude is an exciting one because it is forbidden. There is something alluring about getting away with cheating… until your clothes don’t fit and the shame sets in once again. IE gets rid of this cycle.
4. Intuitive Eaters are satisfied.
Satisfied eaters do not binge. As humans eating is a pleasurable experience. We are not engines that merely gas up at the table.
Taking away the pleasure of eating, such as during dieting, set us up for future failure. When your meals are satisfying, you will not eat larger quantities. This is an about-face from the attitude of volume eating, where people eat large quantities of low-calorie food to feel full.
They might feel physically full, but the satisfaction factor is absent. Can you relate to craving something super delicious when you were physically full because your meal was tasteless?
Intuitive Eating is not a short-term weight loss plan.
But guess what? If you are holding extra weight, your weight is likely to normalize. Your body size is secondary to eating for hunger and health and stopping when full.
If you have a distorted view of what your healthy weight is, for example, if you are never satisfied with your weight no matter how thin you are, you will probably not lose weight as an intuitive eater. In other words, if you are trying to achieve some random tiny number on the scale, you won’t. Intuitive eating is not about being thin. It is about being healthy long term.