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10 Benefits of Intuitive Eating

No more dieting

The first principle of Intuitive Eating is Reject the Diet Mentality. Why is this so important?

Diets have taught you not to listen to your body. The good news is that you can re-learn by practicing the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating.

Diets don’t teach you how to have a healthy relationship with food which is an essential to reaching “gentle nutrition” which is the end goal of Intuitive Eating. Diets may give you short term weight loss but it’s almost always followed by regaining the weight and often more. Diets aren’t meant to be sustainable. Remember, diets are designed for short term “success” with repeat business as billion dollar industry!

No more trying to ‘control’ hunger

The second principle of Intuitive Eating is foundational. It focuses on a critical skill that you may have lost due to diet culture – honoring your own individual hunger.

You may have learned to ignore your hunger through diets, skipping meals, intermittent fasting etc. But your body is asking for the exact opposite – to listen for your body’s cues telling you that you need energy and respond when hunger feels gentle. Why? Because once you feel ravenous (hangry!), all bets are off for eating to comfortable fullness.

♡ KEY POINT: Honoring your hunger when it’s gentle is foundational to honoring comfortable fullness.

No more ‘forbidden’ foods

Nothing intensifies a craving like restriction

What if having donuts (insert your forbidden food) in your house was no big deal?

Perhaps there’s a family member in your house that may grab a donut, cookie, brownie and moves on. No guilt for eating it. No desire to eat the whole bag. This is the way a non dieter’s mind works according to research.

Through an evidence process called habituation, you too can have a healthy relationship with all foods including your ‘forbidden’ foods.

No more food rules, cheat days

Diets and eating plans are full of food rules. Once you break one by eating a “bad” food, you feel like you failed. This is madness.

Consider that every year new “plans” (diets) come out that often contradict the rules of previous diets – don’t eat fat, eat mostly fat (yes I remember the eat fat free food rules which have been replaced by eat fat according to the Keto diet). Sigh.

You don’t need a set of rules to eat healthy. Instead you will learn how to listen to your body and eat healthy foods for the most part as healthy eating isn’t perfect eating.

No more dissatisfied, pleasureless eating

In Intuitive Eating, finding satisfaction in your eating experiences is important. Let me share an infographic to illustrate what happens when we “diet” and have “forbidden” foods.

Dieting mindset versus Intuitive Eater mindset

Humans are designed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. So you will continue to seek pleasure and satisfaction until you get it (notice how much food was eaten by the dieter versus the Intuitive Eater (non dieter).

No more controlled portion sizes

In order to honor fullness, you first learn how to honor your hunger needs.

Next, ditch controlled portion sizes because they’re not one size fits all – meaning that your body’s unique energy needs change every day.

Instead you learn how feel your body’s cues of comfortable fullness.

Hunger and fullness scale

No more beating yourself up for ‘emotional’ eating

Emotional eating is demonized in diet culture which is deeply imbedded in Western culture as “bad” and something to fix. The truth is that we are all emotional eaters to some degree as we’ve learned since infancy to equate food with love, comfort and pleasure. So it makes perfect sense that we go to food as a quick fix to feel or not feel. The solution is to have a toolbox of coping mechanisms to go to beyond food.

And there’s one other cause of emotional eating: dieting, restricting your food. Nothing will make you feel more emotional than not getting your energy needs met and not being allowed to eat a food you love because it’s forbidden on your plan.

No more body bashing

Learning to respect body is critical to your self-care. Diet culture is based in body shame. It teaches you that there’s only one body size that’s healthy and that your body should never change as you move through the stages of life. All of this is BS.

Unlearning toxic body image messages

Through Intuitive Eating you learn how to honor your unique diverse body with self love, not self-control. Having a healthy body image isn’t about what your body looks like. Instead, it’s about your mindset toward your body and separating your self-worth from your appearance.

No more exercise to “burn and earn” food

In Intuitive Eating principle 9, you learn to decouple moving your body from diet culture – as merely a means to changing your body, focusing on the scale as “success.”

Could you move your body because there are a ton of benefits of exercise that don’t have you focused on your weight such as getting stronger, feeling more empowered, energized, confident and overall improving the quality of your life?

No more ‘perfect eating’ to be healthy

The final principle of Intuitive Eating is Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition. It’s the last guideline because you first have to learn how to listen to your body’s signals to guide you in principles 1 – 9. Now you will be able to listen for how your food choices make you feel versus external food rules.

And most of all, you learn that what you eat is just a piece of your whole health so you don’t need to eat “perfectly” because there’s a complex set of factors that affects your well-being including the social determinants of health. Healthy eating is what you eat consistently over time – for the most part eating!

* Have a question about Intuitive Eating? I’d love to hear from you, Tanya

P.S. Want to learn more? Check out The Anti-Diet is called Intuitive Eating.

The anti-diet is called Intuitive Eating

“Eating low-carb is part of my healthy lifestyle.”

“I have to have a meal plan to eat healthy.”

“I’m a sugarholic — I’m addicted to brownies.”

“Without portion sizes, I’ll overeat.”

Healthy eating has become synonymous with food rules, labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” eliminating gluten, dairy, sugar and processed foods, and restricting the evil macronutrient of the year — currently carbs. It has become “normal” to control your eating to get “healthy.”

But notice how this restrictive approach feels. It’s wrought with guilt and shame. It’s filled with fear and a preoccupation with food, creating a stressful relationship to food.

Relying on external rules to determine what we should eat disconnects us from trusting our inner signals to guide us to eat healthfully. We were born with this instinct and can return to our birthright through the process of intuitive eating.

What’s intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is an evidence-based, compassionate self-care eating framework with 10 principles created by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch as a solution to a problem they faced more than 25 years ago: “Dieting” doesn’t work.

The 10 principles are designed to enhance or remove obstacles to interoceptive awareness — considered intuitive eating’s “superpower” — a process in which your brain perceives physical sensations arising from the body such as heartbeat, breathing, hunger and fullness.

The 10 principles of Intuitive Eating

  • Reject the diet mentality
  • Honor your hunger
  • Make peace with food
  • Challenge the Food Police
  • Discover the satisfaction factor
  • Feel your fullness
  • Cope with your emotions with kindness
  • Respect your body
  • Move and feel the difference
  • Honor your health with gentle nutrition.

Only recently has intuitive eating gained popularity. Since this summer’s fourth edition release of Tribole and Resch’s 1995 book, “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach,” articles regularly appear in mainstream media such as Self and Real Simple magazines and Goop.com.

Why intuitive eating now?

Because we’re tired of being at war with our bodies. We’re fed up with the 95% failure rate of restrictive diets that an estimated 45 million Americans return to year after year. See BostonMedical.org. We’re frustrated by the dismal statistics that report two-thirds of dieters regain the weight, plus more, within two to five years. We’re craving both the happy and healthy relationship with food and our bodies that intuitive eating delivers.

The intuitive eating process begins with “reject the diet mentality.” But you may say, “I’m not dieting. I’m just eating healthy.” Most of us don’t realize that we’re swimming in diet culture. As Tribole says, we’re like fish in water: We’re not conscious of it.

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear conversations about being “good” for skipping dessert, needing to make up for “overeating” by skipping a meal or burning it off with exercise, and ordering bunless burgers. This is diet mentality, which has become a “normal” part of “healthy” eating. Thus we must opt out of the diet mentality to engage fully in the intuitive eating process.

Intuitive Eating is an empowerment tool to healthy eating

With popularity comes confusion

Perhaps you’ve read that intuitive eating is just a mindfulness diet or a hunger/fullness diet.

Yes, it includes eating with awareness and honoring satiety is key. But these descriptions oversimplify the process of intuitive eating by cherry-picking one or two of the 10 principles, which are designed to be practiced together, synergistically.

Furthermore, the principles are guidelines, not rules to pass or fail. Instead the process emphasizes a self-compassionate, curious, “for the most part” mindset. There’s no room for restriction, guilt, shame, judgment or the black-and-white thinking of diet culture in intuitive eating.

“Make peace with food” focuses on unconditional permission to eat all foods, especially the ones you feel are your “problem” foods.

Take the pan of brownies. You feel you can’t trust yourself to have them in your house because you’re “addicted” to sugar and will eat them all. But by practicing an evidence-based strategy called habituation — repeated exposures to a food making it less appealing — you can make peace with the brownies.

Common food “problems” such as cravings, emotional eating, binge eating, overeating are often caused by the restrictive, “I can’t have” mentality.

Intuitive Eating is not a weight loss plan

If you encounter an “intuitive eating” plan that promises weight loss, Tribole says to “run away.” Recognize that it’s sneaky diet culture co-opting the term.

Putting weight loss on the back burner is critical to becoming an intuitive eater. Focusing on your weight interferes with your ability to perceive the physical sensations that arise from within your body.

“Honor your health — gentle nutrition” is the 10th principle of intuitive eating. To make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well, you must ditch diet culture confusion that muddles your mind, master interceptive awareness and experience all the principles of intuitive eating.

Finally, Tribole and Resch remind us that healthy eating isn’t perfect eating. “You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one food, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters; progress not perfection is what counts.”

After learning, practicing and experiencing the 10 principles of intuitive eating, the conversations about healthy eating sound different:

* “I can enjoy sandwiches again, guilt-free.”

* “I don’t need a meal plan, because healthy eating isn’t complicated.”

* “Dinner didn’t fill me up, but it felt good not to have the negative head space about getting seconds.”

* “My husband is thrilled that having a pan of brownies in the house is no big deal anymore, just a pleasurable food to enjoy.”

Ah, yes, that last statement was one of my shifts.

Intuitive eating, the “revolutionary” anti-diet approach, is changing lives and healing relationships with food and body. Be a rebel. Let it change yours, too.

To your happiness and health,

  • Tanya

Ready to learn how to eat intuitively? Get started!

(This article was originally published in the September 20, 2020 Jackson Hole News and Guide).

Enough with the War on our Bodies

We’re suffering from another health crisis.

“Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat,” says Lindo Bacon, author, researcher, and professor, Ph.D., MA, MA.

So what’s driving this war on our bodies?

It’s diet culture’s weight-centric portrayal of wellness — thin equals healthy and it’s solution… dieting.

The Body Hate/Diet Cycle

It begins when you compare your body to health and fitness culture’s perfectionist and unrealistic body ideals. You “feel” unhealthy, dislike your body, and/or feel “fat.”

Then, when you most likely don’t measure up (because only 5% of women naturally possess the body type diet culture models as healthy), you fall prey to diet culture’s solution to fix it: the latest fad eating plan to “fix” your body.

You choose a diet that restricts what, when, or how much to eat.

At first you “feel better” – lose weight. It’s “working!”

Until it’s not.

Eventually, you feel deprived and struggle.

Then, the “diet backlash” kicks in and you crave – the “bad” and “forbidden” foods or you just feel hungry.

You “fall off the wagon” and “cheat.”

You feel guilt, shame, frustration for not having enough willpower judging yourself as the failure, not the restrictive approach.

The months pass and you regain some, all, or even more weight than when you began.

Then, back in body hate, you repeat – hoping the newest plan will work and you’ll be one of the 5% of dieters (the unicorns) that can change your body size permanently — sustain it.

Thus, you remain stuck in the body hate/diet cycle, year after year, passing it down, generation after generation — leading to a lifetime of feeling like you and your body are not enough, unhealthy.

It’s a helluva business plan. By 2025, the worldwide weight management market profits are expected to reach $442.3 billion according to Grandviewresearch.com.

The good news is there’s an antidote to this body hate/diet madness.

We stop believing thin is always healthy and fat is always bad and explore new health paradigms.

Re-examine weight science

In Body of Truth: How Science, History and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight – and What We Can Do About It by Harriet Brown, we are encouraged to think critically about the scientific research on weight science as “some of the contradictory findings on weight reflect our incomplete understanding of highly complex mechanisms and systems.”

The “complexity doesn’t come across very well in headlines or sound bites,” thus the “nuances of the research on weight and health often get lost in the rhetoric,” says Brown.

In her book, Brown breaks downs the “Four Big Fat Lies About Weight and Health” – Americans are getting fatter and fatter; Obesity can take a decade or more off your life; Being fat causes heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and other serious illnesses; and Dieting makes us thinner and healthier.

Dr. Bacon concurs, “the misconceptions around weight science are astounding.” In Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift, Bacon and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD detail how our current weight-centric model of health is ineffective at producing healthier bodies. And it may have unintended consequences “contributing to food and body preoccupation, repeated cycles of weight loss and regain, distractions from other personal health goals and wider health determinants, reduced self-esteem, eating disorders, other health decrements, and weight stigmatization and discrimination.” If you think your body is the problem and that diets are the solution, I ask you to think critically and remember that it’s diet culture that is driving and profiting off of these assumptions, and to explore alternative approaches to wellness.

A New Wellness Approach to Consider

“What If Doctors Stopped Prescribing Weight Loss” by Virginia Sole-Smith, also breaks down how focusing on body size isn’t making people healthier.

Because “research has shown that it is the behaviors people practice—not the size of their bodies—that have the biggest impact on mortality,” some clinicians are trying a weight-neutral approach called Health at Every Size (HAES).

Health at Every Size, trademarked and founded by the Association of Size Diversity and Health, is an anti-diet approach to healthcare. It’s known as the “new peace movement” because it strives to end the war on bodies and defines health in a more inclusive way.

It eliminates weight stigma, respects diversity and focuses on compassionate self-care such as “finding the joy in one’s body and being physically active and eating in a flexible and attuned manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite, while respecting the social conditions that frame eating options,” says Bacon and Aphramor in Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Leave out, Get Wrong and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight.

Sole-Smith describes the impact of having a doctor who removes weight from health care as “literally life-changing.”

You can heal from this health crisis.

You don’t have to be at war with your body — stuck in the body hate/restriction cycle to take care of your health.

You deserve peace and food and body freedom.

Be critical of weight science.

Be open to new health paradigms.

Be a rebel.

Dear diet — it’s not me, it’s you, so goodbye

Dear Diet Culture,

Things just aren’t working out between us.

You make me feel ashamed when I’ve eaten a “bad” food. You make me feel dirty if I haven’t eaten “clean.” You’ve taken away my personal autonomy to choose what to eat and enjoy eating.

I will no longer allow you to judge my self-worth by my food choices or my body size or shape. You’ve kept me from having the relationship that I truly I desire — peace with food and my body.

While I used to feel guilty for cheating on you, I’ve learned that there’s no cheating when it comes to food. I did not marry kale and go behind its back to rendezvous with chocolate chip cookies.

My self-trust and ability to sense true biological hunger and fullness has eroded. Your restriction and deprivation intensify my cravings and make me feel like I am overeating or a failure when I inevitably desire half-in-half in my morning coffee.

You’ve made me a slave to the scale and its number, deciding for me whether I am going to have a good or bad day. You’ve made me feel dissatisfied with my body unless it fits culture’s “ideal.” And I am angry with you for judging me by my body size and shape assuming that I don’t take care of myself.

I will no longer socially isolate myself in order to control my food more easily. You’ve made me preoccupied with food, especially those dang carbohydrates. I’m breaking up with you because I don’t believe that bread is inherently bad. Especially if it’s a slice of crispy, warm Persephone Bakery bread.

You’ve promised me a better life with a new and improved body, but I know that this awesome life is happening now, not if or when.

I know that you will try to seduce me into staying in this relationship by enticing me with the latest, greatest eating plan in the New Year. I know there’s a better way for me to take care of my health and make peace with food and my body.

You’re just not right for me. I am so over you.

Yet I’ll be honest. I am afraid to break up with you.

I am fearful that without you I won’t know how to control my food and my body. If diets worked, the one I started with you last January would have done the trick and I wouldn’t be thinking about the next one.

And you don’t fool me. I know that “diets” are out. In order to stay hip and relevant and market to the next wave of dieters, you, the $70-billion diet industry, have ditched the word diet and hijacked the words “wellness,” “health” and “clean eating” to focus my attention away from the negative press that diets don’t work. But the strategies remain the same — restrictive eating with short-lived results. You seduce me with quick fixes, 30-day plans, 10-day detoxes, promising it will be different this time, because it’s not a diet.

You’ve lured me into pseudo-dieting, unconscious dieting. I might not be on a eating plan but I’m still stuck in dieting mentality. I limit my carbohydrate grams. I am obsessed with eating only foods that are healthy, also known as orthorexia. I have rules about when I should eat. I pay penance for eating “bad” foods by doing extra exercise. I sometimes put on a “false food face” in public by skipping the dessert at dinner to then go home and eat my sweets in privacy, feeling guilty when I eat nutritionally deficient foods.

No matter what you call it, a diet is still a diet if you “eat sparingly or according to prescribed rules,” at least according to Merriam-Webster. The language may have changed but the diet remains.

Diet Culture, you’re the problem. It’s not me. Nor is my body the problem.

In 2019 I’m starting a new relationship. I will nourish not only my physical health, but also the health of my mind and spirit. Because what’s health if it doesn’t take into consideration stress levels and my mental health?

And nope, Diet Culture, you will no longer dictate my ideal body shape.

My ideal body shape is whatever shape my body is when I am nourishing it without restriction and participating in movement without obligation.

Diet Culture, we’re breaking up. It’s not me. It’s you.

No longer yours,

Radical Acceptance

(This article was published in the December 27, 2018 Jackson Hole News and Guide).

Healthy Eating Doesn’t Mean Perfect Eating

Do you know what’s healthier than kale? A good relationship with food and your body.

If our pursuit of healthy eating doesn’t consider our relationship with food we are missing a critical ingredient.

While we understand the importance of healthy human relationships we often overlook our relationship with food, though it’s one of the longest relationships we’ll ever have. When it comes to healthy eating, we’re often only told what to eat — or, more commonly, what not to eat — without taking into account the person, the human being, doing the eating.

Eat this, not that. Kale is good. Cake is bad.

But clearly, more nutritional information isn’t solving the epidemic of health problems in our nation.

Nutrients are only part of it

Healthy eating is about more than nutrients; it’s more than making righteous choices aimed at upholding our culture’s perfectionist and unrealistic body standards.

Our culture has created an urgency to control and perfect our eating with that mythical perfect body waiting for us as a reward. That constant pursuit creates a vicious cycle known as the dieter’s dilemma.

Put simply, the dieter’s dilemma is driven by a desire to be thinner. We restrict, and maybe we lose weight. But we are also faced with cravings and what feels like a lack of self-control. We eat. Maybe we binge. We regain the weight we had lost. Rinse and repeat.

Does that sound healthy?

Eating healthy has become a difficult struggle, rigid and controlled. The messages we see everyday further solidify that black and white of what’s healthy. Those nutritional absolutes set us up for failure. Perfect eating is impossible — and also not a part of healthy eating.

“All or nothing descriptions can pressure us into developing problematic self-perceptions,” said Alyssa Pike, a registered dietitian who is part of the International Food Information Council Foundation. “The way we describe food can morph into the way we describe ourselves for eating that food.”

We feel bad eating the cake. We believe we are bad because we feel this way. But guilt and shame are worse for our health than anything on our plates.

Don’t follow trends

Beyond absolutes, perfectionist eating is also full of rules and opposing nutritional philosophies that create endless confusion.

One moment dietary fat is out; the next it’s the star of your plate. Nutritional science is constantly changing.

We may also blame ourselves or find others judging us for an assumed lack of willpower. We are labeled lazy and uncommitted. And for most of us, that isn’t true. We have tried to eat healthy for years and years. We have tried everything.

We aren’t the problem. It’s the controlled, restrictive approach that we’ve been taught that creates an unhealthy relationship with food and causes us to continue to struggle with food year and year.

Too much of a good thing

Perhaps you don’t struggle with eating healthfully. In fact you’ve perfected it.

I fell into that trap after nutrition school. I ate perfectly to the point of obsession, known as orthorexia, and never considered that it was a strain on my relationship with food.

It doesn’t help that perfectionist eating is often applauded in our culture because it’s portrayed as the ultimate goal.

“Orthorexia, to the untrained eye, may seem like healthy eating,” said Dr. Sadie Monaghan, a psychologist in Jackson Hole.

But I had to consider the side effects of my approach and how it affected my quality of life. It wasn’t easy to keep all the plates spinning, pardon the phrase.

Does how or what you eat cause any of the following: struggle, worry, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, frustration, failure, dissatisfaction, deprivation, social isolation or an excessive preoccupation with food and your body?

Stressing about food is stress on the body. Thoughts, worries or beliefs about food will engage your body’s sympathetic nervous response, the stress response.

The Mayo Clinic reports that chronic activation of that system puts you at risk for anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight challenges and memory and concentration impairment. The World Health Organization has even named stress the “health epidemic of the 21st century.”

There are a lot of stressors we can’t control. A stressful relationship with food and our body is one we can choose to free ourselves from.

Honor thy body

Just like in healthy human relationships, a good relationship with food involves trust, respect, connection and communication — with our body.

A healthy relationship with food means trusting yourself, honoring hunger and fullness cues, differentiating between physical and emotional hunger and eating for pleasure and satisfaction while honoring our whole health. It respects body diversity as part of the human experience and recognizes that healthy bodies come in all sizes and shapes.

All of those positive relationship traits can be learned through exploring intuitive eating, a non-diet approach to health and wellness.

Building a healthy relationship with food and our body takes time and attention. Expect ups and downs. But also expect that over time your hard work will pay off. You’ll reduce the stress you feel over food. You’ll reduce the stress you feel about your body. You’ll stop worrying about the cake and you’ll enjoy it. As you should.

Nourishment is not just “nutrition.” Nourishment is the nutrients in the food, the taste, the aroma, the ambiance of the room, the conversation at the table, the love and the inspiration in the cooking and the joy of the entire eating experience.

The next time your friend says “I’m so bad for eating this cake” or is forcing down a kale smoothie in the name of health, remember that healthy eating doesn’t truly exist without a healthy relationship with food.

(This article was published in the March 6, 2019 Jackson Hole News and Guide).