Can “Intuitive Eating” Still Be Nutritious?
I'm proud to have partnered with Libby Parker, MS, RD, for this blog post! We both have a passion for helping others end the diet cycle and promote intuitive eating.
Libby is an eating disorder dietitian and owner of “Not Your Average Nutritionist” in California. Check out her debut book on Amazon, Permission To Eat: a practical guide to working yourself out of an eating disorder during college, while celebrating the awesomeness that is you! Find out more info here as well.
Intuitive eating (“IE” for short) is a coined term for the natural process of listening to your body in regards to eating. We are born eating intuitively; knowing exactly what and how much we need to satisfy our body. This is the natural reaction of how our biofeedback mechanisms work in the body. Think of feeding a baby. When they are hungry they let you know! When they are done eating you can’t push any more food into their mouth – it comes right back out, or they don’t open their lips at all. This is intuitive eating in the primal stage.
I love intuitive eating. It is something I work on with all of my clients, because they all came from the ability to eat intuitively. Socio-cultural acceptability of when/what to eat makes it hard to follow intuition. We are told “eat this, don’t eat that,” and “dinner is served at 6, no snacking,” or, if you follow this low-calorie diet you’ll look a certain way. All of which ruin our trust with our own hunger cues.
When I start working with someone on IE a question that gets asked over and over is some variation of: “if I eat whatever I want whenever I want, won’t I overeat? I’ll just eat all the “junk” food!* I don’t like vegetables!” or, “Whenever I get access to [binge food] I eat so much. What will prevent me from over-doing it?” They fear letting go of the (perceived) control over food.
*I hate terms like “junk food,” but I’m making a point here. All foods fit in a healthy diet. - From this RD to you.
But the fact is, they don’t have control. If you overeat when you get access to your forbidden food, that’s not control. If a diet dictates your food choices, that’s not control. If you fear your favorite food, that’s not control.
I get why it is scary to eat whatever you intuitively want. Why wouldn’t I eat pan after pan of brownies? I love brownies! I’m not a fan of broccoli, will I never eat broccoli again? The simple fact is, that when you truly listen to your body, you won’t crave only “junk” food, you will also crave veggies. Your body inherently knows to eat a variety of foods so that you get a mixture of nutrients (There is a lot more to the science of this, but to keep this short I’ll leave it at that).
I’m not saying this is easy. The first week or few most of the people I have known transition onto IE after a bad relationship with food do ‘binge’ (subjectively, or objectively). But if you keep the food around, it loses its power. It’s just another food you allow. There is no urgency. The ‘binge’ period will subside, and you will crave “healthy” foods.
Your body wants to take care of you. People have successfully been eating food to keep them alive and nourished since the beginning; and they didn’t have diets, calorie counts, and “off-limit” foods (other than poisonous). In fact, until the 1990’s nutrition facts labels were not mandatory on food packaging. We made it thousands of years relying on our body cues. You can too. I promise, it is much easier that what you are currently doing.
Say goodbye to food anxiety, and hello to peace by putting your trust in your amazing body.
You got this!
Thanks Libby for all you do!!!