Intuitive Eating 101 & why diets don’t work?

Intuitive eating is quite a buzzword at the moment, but from what I am seeing it is being used in all sorts of ways that just are wrong!

I am so passionate about intuitive eating and letting go of diet culture, because doing so didn’t just change my relationship with food but also with my body and my life! And now I help clients do the same. So, I am really excited to tell you all about intuitive eating in this post!

How intuitive eating came about?

Two dieticains, Tribole and Resch, set out to understand why there was a growing obesity problem whilst diet industry was becoming more and more prevalent.

What they noticed was that with a weight centric approach to health and wellness, people were yo-yoing from diet to binge and in doing so their weight was increasing overall. And this is a phenomenon that has been observed in many research studies since.

Did you know that 94% of people return to their starting weight or higher within six years of a diet1 AND one third regained weight after one year2.

But this is not just something we just see in research studie and articles, we see it again and again in real life.

You know your friend that went to Weight Watchers lost a tonne of weight only to have put it all on (and more) a few years later). And maybe you have gone from fad diet to fad diet yoyo dieting too? That is exactly what we are talking about here!

What really makes me really angry about all of this is that diet industry sells us products and services again and again, knowing that they are NOT sustainable, knowing that their customers will gain the weight back and more.  And worse than that they tell you that you weren’t motivated enough, didn’t have enough willpower etc. so you buy from them again when actually these diets are physiologically not supposed to work.

I know, how fucking screwed up is that!!

The benefits of intuitive eating

What we see from a weight neutral, health focused approach is that people actually become a tonne happier and healthier for lots of reasons.

By making food just food and releasing the pressure on their body shape and weight, they can make healthier more balanced choices and free themselves from the diet-binge cycle that keeps their set point weight slowly creeping up.

But it doesn’t stop there, here are just some of the other amazing benefits of intuitive eating:

  • Higher self-esteem
  • Set for life – adaptation of hunger & fullness to different requirements
  • Better body image
  • Healthier coping
  • Lower rates of emotional and disordered eating
  • Intuitive eating leading to intuitive living

All of which I think are pretty fucking cool!!

How do I eat intuitively?

So now you might be thinking: ‘Chloe, this all sounds great, but how on earth do I eat intuitively’. And I promise you, you won’t be alone in thinking that this is some fairytale.

But we were all born intuitive, crying when we were hungry, stopping when we were full, moving when we had energy, sleeping when we are tired. It is the diet culture we live in that screwed that up for us. But it can be undone.

It is so simple once we get past our diet programming and learn to see food as just food, but when our brains are so muddled with diet culture it can be harder said than done, so here are the 10 principles of intuitive eating, I have also popped a hunger and fullness scale below to help you:

Reject Diet Mentality

Notice when you or someone else celebrates themselves for skipping a meal, having lost weight, moaning about going up a dress size. You may even notice that in films the heroine is normally stick thin and fits all the cultural beauty ideals yet the fat friend is left alone and sad – that is diet culture engrained in our media.

Honour Your Hunger

Before we even think about looking at fullness we get to learn to honour our hunger and ditch the guilt we have around it. Hunger isn’t your body tricking you, it is your body telling you it needs more food. Simple!

Make Peace with Food

In intuitive eating we celebrate all food being just food, and in doing so we neutralise it. By seeing ice cream, chocolate and cakes as having the same moral value as kale, broccoli and lentils, we lesson emotional eating and we help ourselves tap into what our body really wants!

Challenge the Food Police

Fuck what people say about your food, if someone comments on your lunch, tries to sell you a fad diet, challenge them. Do your research on intuitive eating, the benefits of it and ask them for their actual proof that their diets are sustainable (newsflash – they aren’t)

Discover the Satisfaction Factor

When we tap into knowing what the body wants, what flavours, textures, temperatures of food we want, we can start to discover real food satisfaction. If you want a slice of cake, have a slice of cake, 10 chocolate Special K bars just won’t cut it (I can tell you that from experience).

Feel Your Fullness

Once you have mastered all of the above you can learn to feel your fullness!

Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Emotional eating isn’t a problem with willpower, eating disorders aren’t about the fucking food, obsessive exercise has nothing to do with moving our bodies at all. They are all coping mechanisms, and unless we learn to deal with our emotions properly we will never truly be free!

Respect for Your Body

We spend so much time seeing our body as an ornament, something that should be ‘slim’, ‘attractive’, ‘toned’ etc. that we forget how amazing our bodies are. Your body manages your oxygen levels, digestion, constantly grows new cells, lets you move around, talk to people and so much more!

Movement – Feel the Difference

With intuitive eating comes intuitive exercise, move because you want to, not because you feel you ‘should’ (I so hate that word). Just as our body knows what, when and how much fuel it needs, it can do the same with exercise.

Honour Your Health – Gentle Nutrition

With intuitive eating, we want you to feel your best! So once you have got all the other principles down we can start to look at gentle nutrition, with small changes to help you get the most out of the fuel you put in your body. This is nutrition in a way that promotes supporting your body, not starving it. I know this step can look so alluring in the ‘health’ obsessed world we live in, but this is the last step, so don’t skip ahead to this one. It is this late in the process for a reason, promise!

As you can probably tell, I have a lot to say about intuitive eating and the shitty diet culture taking over our world but I will leave it there for now and save some more for another blog!

But if you want to get started with healing your relationship with food and body, I have a fab free training to help you get the ball rolling! All you need to do is register below.

1 Sarlio-Lahteenkorva et al, 2000

2 Wadden et al, 2004