If you’ve been following me for even a short time, you probably know that I am passionate about Intuitive Eating. It is my absolute delight to help my clients free themselves from diet mentality and develop healthy relationships with food and themselves. The holiday season is upon us and I know many of us might be worrying about all the opportunities to consume sweets, treats, and delicious food. You might be starting to set food rules for yourself or worrying about weight gain. Well, I want to invite you to stop that right now! In this article I am going to bust some common Intuitive Eating myths and answer your frequently asked questions so you can enjoy all your holiday food without guilt!
Before we get started, I know you might be wondering what Intuitive Eating really is, so let’s first define it!
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is an evidenced-based self-care eating framework that was developed by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. According to Tribole, “Intuitive Eating is a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs.”
Most importantly to me, Intuitive Eating can help you let go of your struggles with food, help you finally make peace with yourself, and learn to trust your body again, so you can enjoy your food without guilt like you did when you were a young child!
Intuitive Eating is not a diet or a food plan. There is nothing to count, no right or wrong, and no rules to follow. Instead, there are 10 Principles that give you the freedom to follow your own intuition when it comes to food and your body.
Let’s Bust Some Common Intuitive Eating Myths!
Myth 1: There is no concern for health or nutrition with Intuitive Eating.
This is not true!
In fact, the 10th Principle of Intuitive Eating is “Honoring Your Health with Gentle Nutrition.” This is the last of the principles on purpose because it is important to “Make Peace with Food” and “Honor Your Hunger” before you can focus on nutrition. If you are focusing on nutrition first, you might be tempted to turn Intuitive Eating into a diet rather than actually healing your relationship with food.
In the book, Intuitive Eating, co-authors Tribole and Resch say that Intuitive Eating is “a dynamic attunement process of your mind, body, and food.” The practice of gentle nutrition is combining your inner attunement with your feelings, your thoughts, and your hunger cues, with external practices such as eating a wide variety of foods and increasing your intake of nutrient-rich foods.
Myth 2: Intuitive Eating Means Eating Whatever You Want Whenever You Want.
Nope, not true.
Yes, the 3rd principle of Intuitive Eating is “Make Peace with Food” and that includes giving yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods. But according to Tribole this is often a misunderstood principle and it does not necessarily mean to eat whatever you want, whenever you want.
The truth is that Intuitive Eaters become very good at using interoceptive awareness, which is our ability to perceive our body’s natural sensations of hunger and fullness.
Evelyn Tribole says, “I think interoceptive awareness is our superpower. When we have a connection to the felt sense of our body, we have a treasure trove of information to get our needs met.”
When you first start practicing Intuitive Eating, you might feel like eating your “forbidden” foods all the time and that is normal. Allow yourself to do it! But, as you become more attuned to your body’s cues and you learn to trust them, you’ll start to want a variety of foods and those “forbidden” foods will actually become less exciting. They may not even taste as good as you used to think they did and you might even notice your body doesn’t feel as good when you eat them. But if this doesn’t happen, don’t worry. Allow yourself to eat those foods without guilt. You won’t actually want to eat them until you explode. If you don’t believe me, give it a try and see!
Myth 3: If I allow myself to eat my “forbidden” foods I will never stop eating!
Myth 2 leads very nicely into Myth 3 which is also untrue, of course.
You won’t eat donuts, or chips, or ice cream, or whatever your forbidden food is until you explode. You will want to stop eating.
And as I said before, if you don’t believe me, try it. Try eating just one food and only that food for the next two days—for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks… don’t eat any other food. How many meals do you think you could go on for?
How do you feel even imagining eating only that one food? Do you think you’d really want to keep eating that food for more than a few meals?
That’s how giving yourself unconditional permission to eat works.
The reason you feel like you’d never stop eating certain foods is because you are in some way restricting that food. You are either mentally or emotionally restricting it or you are actually restricting it. Maybe you have a rule about how much of that food you are allowed to eat, or when you are allowed to eat it. You might have made a rule not to eat it all. Are you aware of the rule you’ve set for that food?
Try giving yourself full permission to eat it. Then, eat it with complete allowance and enjoyment. See how long it takes before that food loses its power over you. Try it out and let me know how it goes. I can’t wait to hear!
Now Let’s Answer Some of Your Most Frequently Asked Questions!
Will I lose weight with Intuitive Eating?
Such a common question! The answer is you might, but you also might not. You also might gain weight and this is often common, at least at first. If you’ve been restricting and you start allowing yourself to eat, you will most likely gain some weight. It’s a very normal part of the process. As you get more comfortable with Intuitive Eating your body will find its set point weight range which is the weight range your body is meant to settle at and is happiest at. Your set point weight range can fluctuate 15 – 20 pounds and that is completely normal.
Here’s the thing about Intuitive Eating – it’s not a diet and its focus is not on weight at all! Intuitive eaters reject diet mentality and focus on accepting their bodies as they are. That is a key understanding of Intuitive Eating.
Isn’t it bad to eat too much sugar?
Obviously this is a topic that a lot of people are very passionate about. Sugar has been given a bad rap and been called things like poison and toxic and addictive. I’ve read research on this and sugar is not necessarily bad. Our bodies actually need it. When you practice Intuitive Eating and you get good at interoceptive awareness you’ll get good at paying attention to how much sugar your body needs. Maybe some days it’s more than others. But please don’t call sugar such bad names. That’s diet culture talking! When we practice Intuitive Eating we don’t have “good” food and “bad” food. We just have food. There is no morality associated with the foods we eat. We can eat what makes our body happy.
Aren’t I allowed to diet if I want to?
Of course you are! We are free to do anything we want with our own bodies. What we are not free to do is comment on what other people are eating or how they look. Our bodies are our business. We are free to diet or to free ourselves from diet culture if we choose to. Judgment from others about our health or our choices is not welcome.
Of course, these are only a few of the common myths and questions about Intuitive Eating. You may have more, and if you do then please reach out and ask me. I’d love to answer your questions and talk with you about this topic.
As far as the holidays go: please, please, please, enjoy your food! Ideally, my hope for you is that you’ll let go of guilt and enjoy your food all the time, not just at the holidays. I know this may sound hard. It may even seem impossible. I get it.
3 Tips that can help you begin to let go of guilt and make peace with food and your body!
1. Notice Your Food Rules.
You may have rules you don’t even know you have. For example, I used to have a rule that I couldn’t eat after a certain time at night. I also had a rule that I needed to eat a vegetable with every meal. When I started to notice those rules I realized they were meaningless and only there so I could feel a sense of control. The truth is, our body doesn’t stop digesting food at any particular time of day. I love vegetables and I can eat them whenever I want to. I don’t need to have a rule about them.
What rules do you have that you could let go of?
2. Eat the foods you love the most.
You actually have to eat so why not eat foods you enjoy? Our culture tells us that pleasure is bad but it’s not. We deserve to eat foods that bring us pleasure.
Give yourself permission to eat and enjoy your favorite foods. Really taste them and enjoy them, at the holidays, and all the time.
3. Try being curious rather than judgmental
Notice if you find yourself judging your choices (or someone else’s). Instead of judging, try being curious about your judgment. What’s making you judgemental? Is it fear? Do you have beliefs and rules that are causing the judgment?
I hope these tips are helpful so you can enjoy your holiday food this year without the guilt. And if learning more about Intuitive Eating sounds interesting to you, please reach out. I have so many resources I can share with you to help get you started.
If you’d like to read a little about the beginning of my journey, here’s an article I wrote at the beginning of the year.
I wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season and I hope you can find peace with yourself and enjoy your food without the guilt!