There are many myths about food and eating that affect how we feel about our bodies. It is important to remember that how we eat over time, and not just what we eat in one day, is what matters. Building a positive relationship with food and our bodies by becoming intuitive brings back the joy into eating and eliminates guilt. Intuitive eating makes food enjoyable and fun to eat, and helps us realize that eating should feel good since food nourishes our bodies and feeds our minds.
Eating should not be stressful and should not include dieting. Listening to our bodies’ hunger cues will lead us to make enjoyable food choices without any stress or guilt.
Nutrition is NOT:
- Choosing or eliminating whole food groups from your diet.
- Counting numbers such as calories, carbohydrates, or fat.
- Trusting yourself to recognize what and how much food you need.
- Giving yourself permission to eat.
Normal eating is…
- Going to the table hungry, and eating until you are satisfied.
- Being able to choose food you enjoy and to eat it and truly get enough of it – not just stop eating because you think you should.
- Being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.
- Giving yourself permission to eat because you are happy, sad, or bored, or just because it feels good.
- Mostly three meals a day – or four to five – or it can be choosing to munch along the way.
- Leaving cookies on the plate because you will let yourself have the cookies again tomorrow, or eating more now because they taste so great!
- Overeating at times, and feeling stuffed and uncomfortable… and undereating at times, and wishing you had more.
- Trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
- Taking up some of your time and attention, but keeping its place as only one important area of your life.
- Flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your food, and your feelings.
By Ellyn Satter at Ellyn Satter Institute.
BMI, or body mass index, is a ratio of weight and height that is used as a measure of health. This is a problem since BMI does not distinguish between body fat and muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat. That means a body heavy with muscle and a body heavy with fat can fall within the same BMI weight categories. Therefore, BMI can easily overestimate or underestimate body fat and has no connection to being “healthy” or “unhealthy”.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “BMI is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems for adults. However, BMI is not a diagnostic tool. To determine if excess weight is a health risk, a healthcare provider would need to perform further assessments. These assessments might include skinfold thickness measurements, evaluations of diet, physical activity, family history, and other appropriate health screenings.”
Dieting is defined as participating in restricted, irrational behavior with food in an attempt to change one’s weight. Not only is this behavior harmful to your body, but dieting does not work. Approximately 95% of people who diet regain the weight lost within 1-5 years. This is because strict dieting lowers the body’s metabolism, meaning it cannot use as much energy as it used to. When the body is less efficient at using energy, weight gain may be a result.
5 reasons to stop dieting
- Diets don’t work. If you lose weight, you’ll likely gain it all back or gain more than you lost.
- Diets take the joy out of eating by making food seem like the enemy.
- Diets rob you of energy by depriving your body of what it needs.
- The obsession to be thin can lead to eating disorders.
- Learning to love and accept yourself just as you are will give you self-confidence, better health, and a sense of well-being. A diet can’t do this!
Side effects of dieting
- Body and food preoccupation
- Body dissatisfaction
- Increased stress
- Disordered eating
- Eating disorders
- Lowered self-esteem
- Depression and anxiety
- Weight cycling
Intuitive eating is an evidence-based practice that teaches you how to get back in touch with your body. It helps you relearn your body’s hunger and satiety cues to determine what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. To sum it up, intuitive eating is learning to honor and trust your hunger, your food, your feelings, and your choices without any guilt.
Benefits of intuitive eating
Blood glucose control
Binge eating / disinhibited eating
Body appreciation and satisfaction
Interceptive awareness and responsiveness
LDL “bad” cholesterol
Positive emotional functioning
Unconditional self-regard and optimism
Greater motivation to exercise for enjoyment rather than guilt or appearance
HDL “good” cholesterol
HAES, or Health at Every Size, acknowledges that well-being and healthy habits are more important than the number on the scale. In other words, your health is on the inside, not the outside. HAES works on disproving societal expectation of thinness by proving that health is independent of body size.
Check out this animated video from the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) on HAES called The Problem with Poodle Science.
Principles of HAES
- Accept your size. Love and appreciate the body you have. Self-acceptance empowers you to move on and make positive changes.
- Trust yourself. We all have internal systems designed to keep us healthy — and at a healthy weight. Support your body in naturally finding its appropriate weight by honoring its signals of hunger, fullness, and appetite.
- Adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Develop and nurture connections with others and look for purpose and meaning in your life. Fulfilling your social, emotional, and spiritual needs restores food to its rightful place as a source of nourishment and pleasure.
- Find the joy in moving your body and becoming more physically present in your everyday life.
- Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and seek out pleasurable and satisfying foods.
- Tailor your tastes so that you enjoy more nutritious foods, staying mindful that there is plenty of room for less nutritious choices in the context of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.
- Embrace size diversity. Humans come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Open yourself to the beauty found across the spectrum and support others in recognizing their unique attractiveness.
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon
Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor
Just Eat It by Laura Thomas
Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield
Embody by Connie Sobczak
Food Psych by Christy Harrison
Don’t Salt My Game by Laura Thomas
Fearless Rebelle Radio by Summer Innanen
Nutrition Matters by Paige Smathers
Love, Food by Julie Duffy Dillon