Embarking on the journey of intuitive eating is a beautiful way of respecting your body and tuning into its inner wisdom, while opening doors to a healthier relationship with food and your body. In this blog, we delve into the essence of intuitive eating with Krista Beck, a Canadian registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor. Her mission is clear – to debunk the myths of diet culture and help people approach foods differently (with no labeling) so that we can overcome the mental restriction to starting intuitive eating.
“I went through periods where I absolutely hated my body, and I was trying so hard to change it to now just totally accepting it, and also just being prepared to accept any future changes that do come with my body.”
Krista’s own mindset shift around food encapsulates the core philosophy of intuitive eating: acceptance and self-compassion. Krista previously had a terrible relationship with food. She feared food so much that she would feel guilty about eating certain foods and restricted herself as a result. Her diet really interfered with how she lived her life and she knew it wasn’t serving her at all. When she discovered intuitive eating, she soon accepted it and adopted its principles which have transformed her relationship with food and her body.
But how do we know intuitive eating is not just “another diet” to follow?
Diets are always aimed at losing weight and there’s always some kind of restriction that comes into play. Whether you’re trying to cut back on carbs, or following a points system or a container system – that is the restriction component. And that’s where all those disorder behaviors arise which eventually backfire. Whereas if you look at intuitive eating, it’s very different. It’s the anti-diet, non-weight focused approach.
When we say “non-weight focused”, that doesn’t mean weight loss has to become a taboo topic. It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have this desire for weight loss, it just means that it’s not the goal you’re striving for because we know weight loss interventions don’t work. Instead, the goal you’re striving for is doing things that feel good to your body.
Intuitive eating is a self-care approach in which you honor your health and every single time you go to eat something or you’re debating whether to exercise, you ask yourself, ‘what’s going to feel good to my body?’
Some of the benefits of intuitive eating include:
- improved self-esteem
- better quality of life and life satisfaction
- Getting a greater variety of nutrients because you’re eating a greater variety of food
- Experiencing more pleasure with eating
- Decreases in blood lipid levels like triglycerides and cholesterols
- Better blood sugar controls
- Decreased binge eating and overeating episodes–something that’s highly associated with restriction and dieting
- Lower blood pressure and weight maintenance
Overcoming “fear foods”
The problem is, most of us have had a lifetime of believing donuts are bad for us because they’re going to make us fat. That means we can’t just snap our fingers and give ourselves permission to eat donuts without some of that guilt and fear coming back. It takes time to overcome all of these rules and restrictions swimming around our brain.
Eating regularly is the first place to start. If someone’s skipping meals and you say to them, ‘oh, you should let yourself eat whatever you want, whenever you want’ – that’s not going to end well. You have to make sure you’re getting sufficient fuel in the first place. Only when you’re on a regular eating schedule is it possible to really start making peace with food and introduce “fear foods”.
Typically, you would introduce one “fear food” at a time and habituate them. You keep a large amount of that food in your house at a time and you tell yourself that you can have it whenever you want–but you don’t go for it when you’re super hungry. You keep yourself fueled and you have set times that you’re going to start introducing these foods, which you do slowly over time.
Eventually that food is habituated and you don’t have these intense cravings or desires for the food, and then you can move on to other foods. The habituation then transfers to other foods over time, you don’t necessarily have to do this process with every “fear food”.
Overcoming mental hurdles
In addition to the physical restriction component, there’s also the mental component to overcome. Physically you may not be restricting yourself anymore and allowing yourself to have those fear foods, but mentally, if you’re still telling yourself, ‘this is bad, I shouldn’t be doing this’ then it’s not going to work. You have to overcome both of those pieces and one way to overcome that food guilt is to stop labeling foods as good or bad.
If you truly listened to all the food rules out there, you would literally have nothing left to eat. So it’s really about assessing those rules and considering where there is actually any evidence backing them. Does your body really just store all your food as fat after 7:00 PM? Does your body really forget how to digest food and metabolize food? No!
if we just stuck to the basic knowledge and really listened to our bodies, we would be a lot better off. Unfortunately diet culture has come into play far too much now, meaning the intuition we are born with is essentially lost.
Meal planning for intuitive eating
In a world accustomed to the rigidity of diets and structured meal plans, you might think intuitive eating would discard the concept of planning altogether. Instead, it marries structure with flexibility.
Meal planning offers a roadmap for the week, ensuring you have the necessary ingredients for well-balanced and satisfying meals. Importantly, it promotes the convenience of having a plan, and reduces the chaos associated with last-minute decisions.
Instead of grocery lists dominated by “allowed” and “forbidden” items, the focus shifts to getting a diverse range of foods that align with individual preferences and nutritional needs.
Your grocery list should not be a confining set of rules, but a tool to support the intention of providing nourishing options. It becomes a practical expression of self-care—ensuring your kitchen is stocked with foods that bring both pleasure and sustenance.
Intuitive eating embraces planning for convenience while leaving room for the spontaneity of life.
As you embark on your intuitive eating journey, consider how these practical aspects can become tools for self-nourishment rather than instruments of control. It’s a paradigm shift which transforms meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal prepping into expressions of self-care, empowerment, and, ultimately, a more fulfilling relationship with food.
Easing into intuitive eating is a gradual, mindful journey in which individuals have to overcome both physical and mental restrictions, learn to trust their bodies, and dismantle ingrained food rules. As you begin to unravel the layers of diet culture and embrace a more intuitive mindset, you will pave the way for a more liberated and enjoyable approach to eating.
Want to find out more about listening to the wisdom our bodies hold and cultivating a sustainable, joyful relationship with food? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.