Do you trust your intuition, or that gut feeling to make decisions and avoid getting into unhealthy situations? We often rely on these instinctual responses, or “uh-oh” body sensations pertaining to experiences we encounter. But, sometimes our thoughts and emotions get in the way, and we second guess our initial reactions. Learning to tap into our pure intuition takes time to develop, but it can be an invaluable tool. We can also incorporate this innate mechanism to improve our health and well-being, including our daily eating habits.
Take a minute and think about your relationship with food. Chances are it’s not a healthy one! We have guilt and anxiety about what we should eat to stay healthy, and try to stave off cravings for foods we consider to be “bad” for us. First and foremost, we need to stop labeling foods as “good or bad.” Our mindset matters in our food choices, and consuming all the nutrients we need for health and satisfaction. This includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, but also carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. If you’ve ever tried dieting, you know that most diets don’t sustain weight loss in the long run. Is there a way to reconcile our food and dieting obsessions?
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating (IE) is a novel approach that was developed by two registered dieticians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Ten science-based principles discard the notions of dieting, willpower and control over eating. The emphasis is on getting in touch with innate body signals associated with hunger, fullness and satiety. This is in contrast to dieting which ignores signals of hunger and fullness in order to follow a strict set of rules. Counting calories, measuring portions and food restrictions are discarded in favor of focusing on internal, rather than external cues. This allows us to eat when and what we want instead of being preoccupied with body weight issues. What a concept!
Intuitive vs. Mindful Eating
How does intuitive eating differ from mindful eating? According to Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Maria Scrimenti, both intuitive eating and mindful eating aim to transform the way we nourish our bodies, and form a positive relationship with food. Unlike mindful eating, however, intuitive eating is a specific model. Scrimenti states that “intuitive eating speaks to how deeply problematic dieting is for your physical and psychological well-being and takes a firm stand against toxic diet culture, weight stigma and weight discrimination.” She also points out that “you can be a mindful eater without being an intuitive eater, but you can’t be an intuitive eater without also being a mindful eater.”
Intuitive eating is more inclusive than mindful eating because it encompasses other areas besides food. While you still observe body senses and how food makes you feel, it’s also about increasing enjoyment at meal times. Your body is meant to be nourished. Your mind should be on the process of eating as you savor the food, and notice the appearance, taste, smell and texture. There shouldn’t be any emotional labeling attached to eating. That detracts from the experience of eating, and how we feel about ourselves. In other words, judgment, guilt and shame are replaced by pleasant thoughts and sensations about food and eating.
How Does Intuitive Eating Work?
You’re probably wondering about self-control and how to avoid binge eating with the IE model. On the contrary, it’s stringent dieting that often leads to binge eating as a physical reaction to hunger and starvation. It’s uncertain whether there is such a thing as a “food addiction,” so don’t assume you’re genetically predisposed to fail at intuitive eating. Fear of getting fat has been ingrained in us by societal standards and social media pressures. This is a difficult process to undo, considering the rigid rules that we have followed pertaining to our eating habits. It literally feeds into our perception of food as scary, albeit exciting and forbidden. The “forbidden fruit” is all the more tempting unless we give ourselves permission to have it.
Once the so-called “magic” wears off, habituation will eventually set in. Habituation in this context refers to getting tired of eating the same food even if it is your favorite food. The act of giving yourself permission eliminates the need for self-control. There are no self-imposed restrictions about dieting or calories because you are responding to your own body signals.
The Benefits of “Minding Your Body”
The idea of adopting a judgment-free lifestyle is appealing on many levels. It enables us to embrace the mind-body connection, and foster acceptance of our individual body types. This coincides with the principles of health psychology in its emphasis on the unified relationship between the mind and the body. One can’t function without the other, as they indistinguishably function as one system.
Intuitive eating leads to greater satisfaction towards eating, as well as promoting overall wellness. Travis’ Twelve Dimensional Model of Wellness places an emphasis on eating, breathing, and sensing. This model is often used by wellness coaches to explore of the role of eating and how this improves meaning and purpose in their clients’ lives. It shifts the focus from dieting to a broader understanding of eating behavior in a more conscious way.
When we feel more self-confident, and respect the needs of our bodies, we also heal our relationship with food. Somewhere along the line, we have stopped trusting our bodies, and ignoring our internal cues. Learning to follow our hunger and fullness cues takes time to understand, but ultimately builds greater satisfaction towards eating. Although our intuition may not always be 100% right, tuning into our internal body cues is a gut reaction worthy of our time and attention.
Written by: Dr. Alice Schluger
Article Originally Published at: CLICK HERE.
Dr. Alice Schluger has taught online Psychology and Health Psychology courses since 2010. Dr. Schluger earned a Ph.D. in Psychology (Health Psychology specialization) from Capella University. Her dissertation research “Disordered Eating Attitudes and Behaviors in College Dance Students: Comparison of Modern Dance and Ballet Dance Majors” was published in The North American Journal of Psychology. Dr. Schluger writes monthly blogs for PsychologyToday.com for her column “Words of Wellness.” She is also a Life & Wellness Coach and a Certified Wellness Practitioner with an established Wellness Coaching Practice for non-professional and professional dancers (www.wellnessfordancers.com).