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Intuitive Eating

Posted Aug 24 2008 9:14pm


Though I am still not through The Four-Day Win by Martha Beck , I’d been wanting to read Intuitive Eating for a long time now.

I finally bit the bullet this weekend when it became available through my library’s inter-library exchange program. (Beware: long blog entry ahead!)

Within the first few pages, I realized I am a restrictive eater, even when trying not to be.

I also realized that my “thesis” that dieting led to my disordered eating was proven, granting me a strange sense of validation. In fact, there’s even a whole chapter in this second edition book titled “Intuitive Eating: The Ultimate Path Toward Healing from Eating Disorders,” which I found compelling and timely.

Though “eating disorders” are mostly described, they do also use the expression “disordered eating” several times. And in nearly every case study they offer, it was dieting and the subsequent euphoria/confidence from it that compelled these subjects to, in time, engage in self-destructive behaviors.

I know in my heart of hearts that I didn’t have a problem with eating before dieting and finding success with Weight Watchers.

And though I can’t blame my disordered eating habits solely on food issues–I understand now that it’s a coping mechanism for anxiety–I know that I still do not have a healthy, “normal” relationship with food or exercise.

I still live in a very black-and-white world where, even if I am not obsessing, I am still exercising every day using a heart-rate-monitor that tells me how many calories I am burning, and I am still journaling every Point I eat.

This is progress, as before blogging and therapy, I didn’t feel comfortable taking rest days, and would push my body even when I was tired to see 500 vs 460 calories burned, for example. And back then, in addition to journaling on Weight Watchers, I was counting calories on Sparkpeople, too. Fortunately, I’ve stopped obsessing so much, but I am not there yet.

I read the book cover-to-cover: in bed, at the gym, and laying in our hammock outside. I read it voraciously and absorbed as much as I could.

Today, I’d like to share with you the basic tenets of Intuitive Eating, from www.intuitiveeating.com , the site maintained by the authors of Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.D.A. who are, as you can see, both registered dieticians.

These are their descriptions, not mine, and if you follow Weight Watchers’ Core Program, which encourages eating only til satisfaction, you’ll notice that many of these principles are similar.

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.

2. Honor Your Hunger

Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.

3. Make Peace with Food

Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.

4. Challenge the Food Police.

Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating under 1000 calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.

5. Respect Your Fullness

Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food

Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.

8. Respect Your Body Accept your genetic blueprint.

Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.

9. Exercise–Feel the Difference

Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.

10 Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition

Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.

So now I have read the book and shared the basic principles. I believe I am in the right place now, mentally, physically and emotionally, to learn to eat intuitively, to trust myself and go back to my infant mentality toward food that we all shared.

This weekend I actually practiced several tenets which are combined in these examples. I had several meals out, and really listened to my body and stopped when I was full, still making healthy choices along the way.

For example, this meant eating half my salmon filet and all my broccoli at lunch (taking the rest to go), and enjoying three toasted pita points and tzatziki (my fave) plus a Greek salad with chicken for dinner and taking some of the chicken home with me for later. And while this is how I have always eaten for a long time now on WW, it was the first time I realized why I was eating this way; not because of Points in the bank, but because of reaching genuine satisfaction. I was actually in tune with my body.

On Saturday, I ate real ice cream with a friend (thanks, D!) for the very first time in adult recollection (even before WW, I always ordered fat-free frozen yogurt, Tasti-DLite, or some other kind of reduced-fat soft-serve). This time, I ate a normal, healthy scoop of butter pecan and savored every bite. No Food Police here!! I gave in to a real, rich food–enjoyed it–and moved on.

Sunday, I honored my hunger when I started to feel tummy rumbles in between brunch and dinner, and ate an apple with 1/2 T peanut butter. Totally did the trick. And at dinner, I stuck to healthy portions of BBQ chicken, homemade sweet potato “fries” and roasted asparagus. No guilt.

So now what?

I believe the next logical step would be for me to go a week without journaling, weighing and measuring and to revert back to Core–what I keep telling myself I will do.

Despite eating healthy on Flex, I just am not quite ready for that just yet. I mean, I still eat mostly Core foods, but the “not journaling” business truthfully scares me right now; food is the only thing I can control at the moment, and I don’t mean control in a negative way. Journaling helps keep my sanity during especially tough times; it’s reliable and keeps me feeling in control of “something” when all else around me isn’t mine to manage.

I am willing to try it for a day, but I just don’t think it’ll be today. Here’s why … I think the toughest tenet to get a grip on will be #7, Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food, and right now is probably the best–and worst–time for me to try to work on this one, given the tenuous situation at home.

(In fact, Dr. G. basically said we’re not even talking about food issues right now; she wants me to get through these five weeks (now down to 3.75 weeks) and focus on coping with that anxiety before we tackle any food issues).

So… I will try to practice these tenets as much as I can each day and make a concerted effort–once my home is mine again (or if I feel confident/secure enough to bite the bullet) to go without journaling/weighing/measuring.

Because that is the one thing holding me back from truly being in touch with my body, its needs and wants, and is ultimately blocking my own path to healthy, 100% guilt-free living and enlightenment.

How about you? Have you ever read Intuitive Eating or applied any of these principles successfully? Which ones, if any, are you interested in applying?

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