Listening to your body -Bowl of healthy food with a blue paint background

How to reject the diet mentality and tune into your needs

Even if you haven’t put on weight over the lockdown period, there is so much propaganda about weight loss, that you feel as though you should be aiming to be slimmer.  This is diet culture.  Our society is obsessed with losing weight and the notion that ‘thin is best’, even when a person does not have a medical reason to need to lose weight. But what if you don’t need to lose half a stone to become the best version of yourself?  What if we could be kind to our bodies and appreciate them for what they are, as opposed to what they look like? What if we could be anti diets and tune into our bodies instead?

Intuitive eating aims to do just that.  It is based on 10 principles, which aim to shun fad dieting, promote body acceptance while also allowing you to eat healthfully and move joyfully.  Two dietitians in America found that teaching people how to tune into their own internal cues of hunger, fullness and satisfaction, meant that they reached a weight that was healthy for them, and improved their relationship with food and their body image.

THE PRINCIPLES OF INTUITIVE EATING

  1. Reject diet mentality: stop thinking that you need to be or are on a strict ‘diet’. Realise that 80% of fad diets do not work.
  2. Start to tune into your hunger signals. This does not mean eating only when you feel physical hunger pangs, but also acknowledging that you may eat for reasons other than hunger sometimes, and this is ok!
  3. Make peace with food: allow all foods to be part of your life. When you don’t allow yourself a food, and then eat it (because you are human!), you are likely to feel guilty.
  4. Challenge the ‘food police’ inside your head: stop listening to the rules you have made yourself around food.
  5. Observe your body and stop eating when you feel comfortably full. Don’t feel you have to finish everything on your plate
  6. Choose foods you feel like eating, rather than choosing based on what you think is healthy
  7. Find ways to comfort and look after yourself without using food. Food does not suppress your feelings for any length of time, and normally adds to feelings of failure and guilt
  8. Treat your body kindly and meet your basic physiological needs. Your body deserves to be fed and deserves to be dressed comfortably (rather than squeezed into a size 12 when you are actually a size 14!).
  9. Focus on joyful movement and how it feels to move your body. Focus on the positives of exercise away from calorie burning.
  10. Honour your health with gentle nutrition: by relaxing the rules around food, and the associated guilt, people will generally choose a balanced healthy food intake, as it physically feels good.

THE PROS

This approach allows you to relax rules around eating and join in with social events.

Encourages you to feel your feelings rather than using food to supress feelings, meaning you are likely to live a more authentic and whole-hearted life.

Food is longer “good” or “bad”

Food no longer has the capacity to make you feel guilty or ashamed.

Food and body shape is no longer a preoccupation, meaning you have more time and energy to give to the rest of life.

For many, this is the first time they have enjoyed eating and exercise.

Food and exercise are not supposed to be punishments – they can be, and should be, a joyful part of life. 

THE CONS

It’s a very hard switch to make.

Often we have learnt not to trust our bodies and minds, which means we’re very out of touch of listening to them.

For some people, for example with eating disorders, this is not an appropriate first line treatment. People with eating disorders have often spent years ignoring their body’s signals, which means those signals cannot always be relied upon to begin with.

You won’t necessarily lose weight. That’s not to say you won’t.  But weight loss will no longer be your focus.  For many that is a very difficult part of intuitive eating to accept.

For more information on Intuitive Eating see the following books:

“Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

“Just Eat It” by Laura Thomas.