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Alyssa Simpson RD, CDE, CLT
Alyssa Simpson

RD, CDE, CLT​

Tired of Food Rules and Diet Culture? Intuitive Eating May Be Your Answer

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Tired of Food Rules and Diet Culture

Do you remember what it was like to eat as a little kid?

Before you were exposed to food rules and diet culture, you probably ate when you were hungry and stopped when you were full without giving it much thought.

But as we get older, we are inundated by opinions and social expectations of both what to eat and when to eat.

Have you ever…

? Gone hungry because you were trying to lose weight?

? Picked at your food on a date because women aren’t really supposed to eat?

? Eaten low fat or low carb because that’s what everyone was doing?

? Controlled your food as a means of changing your body?

Most of us have made some attempts at following the food rules. Our cultural obsession with thinness has taken its toll. And when one diet stops working, public attention shifts toward the latest and greatest craze. So the food rules are always changing.

Over the decades diet culture has cycled through low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb and all the variations that fall into and between these categories.

? Because everyone’s body is different, an eating style that works for one person may cause imbalances and nutritional deficiencies for another.

? Choosing what you eat based on a set of predetermined rules can cause you to lose touch with your body’s unique needs.

? When you eat based on intellectual decisions, you stop listening to and trusting your own body. And then food becomes the enemy.

Decades of culturally sanctioned dieting and food rules have changed the way we think about and interact with food. Many of us have forgotten how to listen to our bodies. And we overthink our food.

For the next few weeks, we’re going to get back to listening to our bodies. Like when we were kids, we can learn to tune into what our bodies are telling us. This can inform what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat. This participation in tuning into your body’s needs is called intuitive eating.

If you’re used to eating based on someone else’s rules, it may take some time to learn to hear what your own body is telling you. But don’t worry. Your body has mechanisms that can guide you on what and when to eat:

✔ Hunger and fullness cues

✔ Cravings

✔ Negative reactions to foods that don’t agree with you

✔ Increased energy and improved health when you get the nutrients your body needs

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is not a diet or prescribed eating program. When you eat intuitively, YOU become the expert on what you need. You learn to listen to the signals your body gives you. And you eat based on your unique needs instead of a prescribed diet. You follow your body’s cues instead of a set of rules.

I’m not talking about giving up on a therapeutic protocol. If you have a condition like SIBO or IBS and your practitioner has you on a special protocol, please stay on it. Therapeutic diets are often a necessary step in the healing process.

But even if you do have health-related dietary restrictions, you can still apply some of the principles of intuitive eating. We’ll get into how to do that in future weeks. For now, make sure you talk with your practitioner before you make any changes.

The 10 principles of intuitive eating1

Reject the Diet Mentality.

For most of your life, you’ve been told what to eat. And your eating has likely been goal-oriented. With intuitive eating, you can let go of the diet mentality. You can stop judging yourself for whether or not you succeed or fail at following a plan and losing weight. It’s time to stop fighting that battle.

Honor Your Hunger

If you are one of the countless people who have ignored their hunger in an effort to lose weight, it may take a little while to start trusting your hunger and fullness signals again. But with intuitive eating, it’s okay to eat when you’re hungry. Eating when you’re hungry can actually help you subvert the tendency to overeat.

Make Peace with Food

Let go of the idea that foods are either bad or good. Easier said than done for sure. But food is morally neutral. Your value or goodness as a human has nothing to do with whether you choose the salad or the brownie. Once you make peace with food, you are much less likely to feel deprived and binge eat.

Challenge the Food Police

Let go of the food rules. You might want to consider unfollowing people on social media who are directing you to follow a prescribed eating pattern. But again, you aren’t “bad” because you ate the brownie instead of the salad. The food police have no jurisdiction over you anymore.

Discover the Satisfaction Factor

It’s okay to enjoy your food. Eating can be a pleasurable experience. If you’ve got guilt tied in with your eating experience, you probably aren’t fully present in the moment while you eat. And this makes it harder to listen to your body’s cues.

Feel Your Fullness

As you step away from the food rules, you’ll start learning to recognize your body’s signals. It takes some practice. But you can learn to pay attention and stop eating when you’ve had enough. It’s time to let go of the “clean your plate” message you may have heard as a child. And if you’re still weighing or measuring your portions, it’s okay to let that go too.

Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Eating to soothe emotions is normal. But it isn’t always beneficial. And if you’re feeling deprived from following strict food rules or ignoring your hunger, emotional eating is more likely. Start learning other ways to cope with emotions like journaling, taking a walk, or talking with a friend.

Respect Your Body

Everyone’s body is unique and beautiful. Tall bodies, short bodies, thin bodies, fat bodies. All bodies are valid. The way your body is shaped has a lot to do with genetics. While your body may not fit the cultural ideal, that doesn’t make it any less valid. It takes time to unlearn these judgments. But your body is amazing. If you need some help with this, check out the book My Body, My Home by Victoria Emanuela and Caitlin Metz.

Movement — Feel the Difference

If the thought of exercise conjures up images of miserable hours in the gym trying to reshape your body, this intuitive eating concept can help you find a better way. Movement is about health — physical and mental. It’s okay to let go of your exercise goals and engage in movement that feels good.

Honor Your Health — Gentle Nutrition

Food should taste good. But it should also make you feel good. Intuitive eating is about listening to your body and making food choices that make you feel good. But it’s not about eating “perfectly” either.

If you’re dealing with IBS, SIBO, or other digestive issues, you’re probably wondering how intuitive eating can work for you. Stay tuned! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be diving into intuitive eating and how it can help you with your IBS symptoms as well.

If you’d like to talk one-on-one with me about how to incorporate intuitive eating into your life, schedule a consultation by clicking the link below.

1 https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/

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