Chances are, if you or a loved one has been in treatment for any kind of eating concerns, you have heard your dietician or therapist talk about “intuitive eating”. I want to take some time to break down exactly what we are talking about with this concept, as it is far removed from the cultural ideas we have surrounding eating. For the next few blogs, I will be highlighting principles to help you grow in your mastery of intuitive eating.
“Intuitive Eating” is a book written by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. With their expertise in eating, eating disorders, and eating recovery, it is a valuable resource for anyone looking to sharpen their skills and strengthen or heal their relationship with food.
Eating intuitively is an instinct that we are born with. I like to help clients recollect a time they were feeding an infant- babies are born with the instincts to cry and demand food when they are hungry and to turn away and reject the breast or bottle when full. Eating becomes complicated as we grow older and are subjected to cultural ideas of what food consumption- and bodies- “should” look like. Often, these ideas get in the way of what our bodies began life knowing how to manage instinctively!
By focusing on principles of eating intuitively, dietitians and therapists are helping your body and mind reset from the programing of diet culture. I love to use the book “Intuitive Eating” as a guide, and in the book, there are ten principles laid out to help you rediscover your internal intuitive eater. Today, I want to focus on the first principle, “Reject the Diet Mentality”.
First, we have to identify and call out diet culture for what it is. You may come to this concept without even realizing you’ve been duped- that’s what they wanted- to keep you from even questioning if this was normative eating behavior or not!
Diet culture is sneaky, often touting itself as “a healthy lifestyle” or masquerading around as being focused on “pure/whole foods/plants” and so on. On the surface, that all sounds great, right? But let’s step back and break that down. Is the “lifestyle” making you feel bad about your body? Is it making you identify “good” foods and “bad” foods? Is it complicating your awareness of your biological hunger? Then it’s a diet.
But, isn’t dieting just a part of having a body to maintain? Doesn’t everyone do it? Why is it bad? Research shows that dieting doesn’t produce the lasting health dividends we’ve been indoctrinated to believe it does. In fact, dieting often leaves you in a much worse place than it found you, both emotionally and physically. Undereating often triggers overeating- as research has shown, people reliably experience weight gain post dieting. Your body is smart, and your biology is designed to keep you alive. When you diet, your body loses trust that food is readily available, and begins thinking, “hey, we just went through this crazy famine, we gotta start stocking up for when that goes down again!” Boom. Enter biological, primal cravings to eat. And the weight cycling continues, again and again. Say it with me: you didn’t fail at that diet, it failed you.
Don’t lose sight of the truth that you don’t have to live in conflict with food. You can break free from the diet police and live a life at peace with eating. You can rebuild trust with your body, knowing that diets are a set up for failure. The first step is acknowledging the crazy making culture of diet mentality.