Happy Wednesday everyone! It’s time to talk about Wellness again. As you may remember from the post What Is Wellness, part of the definition of wellness, according to UC Davis, is “the process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life.”
In our quest to make those choices toward a healthy life, sometimes we end up getting waaayyy off track! The area where this happens more often than any other is with our eating.
“Good” foods, “bad” foods; “always” eat this, “never” eat that…. We’ve become obsessed with nutrition information while at the same time, we’ve become more and more unhealthy.
We get on the diet roller coaster and don’t seem to be able to get off.
Diet can refer simply to eating patterns — what we eat in a given day, but it can also refer to the restriction of calories, certain foods or nutrients, etc.. The latter is what I’m talking about here.
Obviously, some health challenges require us to abide by a certain eating patterns or restrictions and if we’ve been advised to do that, we need to stick to it. It’s always helpful to work with a Registered Dietitian when we have specialized nutritional needs.
For the rest of us, though, maybe it’s time to get off that diet roller coaster. I’m not advocating throwing healthful eating out the window, but I wanted to talk a little about an approach to eating that could help us stop letting an unhealthy relationship with food rule our lives.
Have you ever heard the term intuitive eating? I was introduced to this approach many years ago at a fitness conference I went to. I took this workshop because I wanted to help my clients get out from under the guilt and feelings of failure they had every time a diet didn’t work out. So many times people go on a super-restrictive diet, have some initial success, then when they can’t stick with it long-term, they feel they’ve failed. It’s not the person who has failed, though. It’s the diet mentality that has failed them.
The intuitive eating program was developed by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A.. They encourage people to ditch the diets and listen to their body, to reconnect with their inner intuitive eater.
So how do we know if we’re in touch with ours? Let’s look at what intuitive eaters do: “Intuitive Eaters march to their inner hunger signals, and eat whatever they choose without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma.”
As they describe it, we are naturally intuitive eaters. In their book, Intuitive Eating, they reference toddlers and their innate wisdom about food if we don’t interfere with it. They state that “….study after study shows that if you let a toddler eat spontaneously, he will eat what he needs when given free access to food.”
The problem comes in when we start assigning human attributes to food — i.e., good or bad foods, deprive ourselves of the things we really love, and start to feel guilty when we eat something we “shouldn’t” eat. This sets us up for unhealthy attitudes centered around eating, and makes mealtime more of a chore than a time of day we can use to reconnect with family around the table and enjoy each others’ company.
So how do we get back to being the natural intuitive eater that we used to be?
Tribole and Resch outline 10 Principles for Intuitive Eating on their website. These principles include rejecting the diet mentality, honoring your hunger, and challenging the Food Police, just to name a few.
If you’d like to learn more about Intuitive Eating, you can check out their website, www.intuitiveeating.org or their book, Intuitive Eating. My copy of the book is older than dirt (okay, it’s only 16 years old) but they’ve published an updated one, as well as a workbook, which are both available on Amazon.
Getting back in touch with our inner intuitive eater can help us get off the diet roller coaster, learn to enjoy food again, and restore a healthy relationship with food. When we’re able to eat healthfully, enjoy our food, and not beat ourselves up when we indulge in that occasional treat, we reap the benefits in both the physical and emotional dimensions of wellness.
Are you familiar with the concept of Intuitive Eating? Would you say that you’re an intuitive eater? Please share!
Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program That Works, 2nd ed, 2003, Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A., St. Martin’s Press, New York, New York