Written By: Fannie Dancose, August 2020
Have you or someone you know ever tried to lose weight by dieting? The answer is probably yes. And it’s not surprising as one third of Americans were dieting in 2018 and as between 13 and 34% of women were dissatisfied with their body based on a study done in 2014 (1, 2).
Wanting to lose weight is a valid desire. Our society is embedded in diet culture which is a system of beliefs that glorifies thinness, compares being thin to being healthy, promotes weight loss, demonizes certain foods and ways of eating, and oppresses people that don’t conform to it (3). So, if you ever thought of going on a diet to lose weight, it is normal and understandable. However, Intuitive eating can help you break free from this diet mentality.
What is intuitive eating (IE) ?
It is a process based on 10 principles elaborated by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. They describe it as “a weight-inclusive, evidence-based model and self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought” (4). It is a process that respects physical and mental health and that is aligned with the Health at Every Size approach.
Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Diets don’t work. In fact, they don’t work 95% of the time (5) so get rid of all books or magazines that will lead you into the false hope of losing weight. It is not worthy of your time nor your health. This is the first step of your IE journey where you recognize and acknowledge the damages that diets can cause. It is the time to reflect on past dieting experiences.
Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger
Listen to your body and nourish it with the appropriate amount of calorie, carbohydrate, protein, and fat. If you let yourself go hungry to the point you are ravenous, you will trigger overeating and eating in a conscious and moderate way will become impossible. This step will help you rebuild trust in your body and in food.
Principle 3: Make Peace With Food
When we think we shouldn't eat a certain food and we restrict ourselves, it can lead to a sense of deprivation which can then result in uncontrollable cravings and sometimes bingeing. After “failing” and eating your forbidden food, you will probably feel a lot of guilt and shame. The way to prevent this is to give yourself unconditional permission to eat.
Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police
The food police is the little voice in your head commenting or criticizing the food you eat. It dictates the food you choose with unreasonable rules coming from diet culture. Now, say a loud No to it and find other inner narrators to experience a more neutral relationship with food.
Principle 5: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
When you eat food that is truly what you want, you will discover the pleasure of being satisfied and content with what you eat. This feeling will guide you through eating experiences by helping you find what tastes and feels best in your unique body.
Principle 6: Feel Your Fullness
Trust yourself and your body when you eat foods you desire. Take a pause during a meal to check your body signals of satiety, your hunger levels, and to ask yourself if the food still is satisfying. This will bring you to become more aware of when you are comfortably full and when you can stop eating.
Principle 7: Cope With Your Emotions With Kindness
Food can feel like a solution to your problems when you feel stressed or anxious. It can feel soothing for a moment but your problems will still be present and food won’t solve them. Explore new ways to cope with your emotions and solutions to the underlying problem.
Principle 8: Respect Your Body
Accept your genetic background that makes your eyes a certain colour, your feet a certain size and your body a certain weight. Respect your body so you can be comfortable in it and with whom you are. All bodies deserve dignity.
Principle 9: Movement—Feel the Difference
Choose an activity that makes you move a certain way and that you can feel a difference. No need to suffer through a gym session. Change your focus from calorie burning to your well-being.
Principle 10: Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition
“Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good.” (6) It doesn’t need to be perfect to make you healthy and you won’t develop a health problem over a snack, a meal, or a desert. Look at the overall picture.
To Go Further
Eating intuitively is a journey. It will have its ups and downs and uncertainties but it is worth it when you realize how much liberty and lightness you will feel around eating. If you are interested in IE there are plenty of resources out there to name a few: Intuitive Eating books and workbooks, the Anti-Diet book and FoodPsych podcast by Christy Harrison, and Health at Every Size community.
You can also head to Facebook and join Remix Snacks’ Mindful Snacking Community to begin your journey! @remixsnacks
International Food Information Council (2018). 13th Annual Food and Health Survey. Retrieved at https://foodinsight.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-FHS-Report-FINAL.pdf
Fallon, E. A., Harris, B. S., & Johnson, P. (2014). Prevalence of body dissatisfaction among a United States adult sample. Eating Behaviors, 15(1), 151-158.
Harrison, C. (2018). What Is Diet Culture? Retrieved at https://christyharrison.com/blog/what-is-diet-culture
Tribole, E. (2019). Definition of Intuitive Eating. Retrieved at https://www.intuitiveeating.org/definition-of-intuitive-eating/
Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A. M., Samuels, B., & Chatman, J. (2007). Medicare's search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. The American psychologist, 62(3), 220–233.
Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2019). 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. Retrieved at https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/