In the past few months I have shifted the focus of my practice to Intuitive Eating. After reading books and research paper after research paper it was clear that Intuitive Eating is the best approach for better health outcomes, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
If you’ve never heard of Intuitive Eating I wrote a whole other blog post explaining what it is. You can read it here: What is Intuitive Eating.
The more I talk about Intuitive Eating the more questions I get about it. Many times the questions are similar in nature. So today I’m answering the most frequently asked questions! I want you to get a clear understanding of what Intuitive Eating is and isn’t and how it works. So here we go…
What is the difference between Mindful Eating and Intuitive Eating?
Mindfulness is a vaguely defined term generally used to describe attentive eating – a way of eating that increases awareness and attention to what and how you are eating. Mindful eating is a concept. Intuitive Eating (IE) is a model, which means it is a process based approach that has been proven effective through research. While IE most definitely incorporates mindfulness it is much more than that. IE is based on 10 integrated principles that each fall into one of 3 IE elements: unconditional permission to eat, reliance on hunger/satiety cues, and eating for physical rather than emotional reasons.
If I give myself full permission to eat everything I’m afraid I’ll just eat junk food - How will I ever stop?
I completely understand this concern. However, imagine allowing yourself a donut for dinner. At first the thought may excite you. But how do you think you will feel on the 5th night of having donuts for dinner? You will likely experience food habituation – which is when the novelty and reward stimulated by a certain food wears off and it is no longer as desirable. While IE gives full permission to eat whatever you want, it is important to note that it is with the condition of attunement. Which means tuning in to your hunger and fullness cues and how the food makes you feel. I’m willing to bet eating foods that aren’t nutrient dense for a long period of time will not make you feel good. But you will only learn this with direct experience and trust.
Will it help me lose weight?
I get asked this one a lot. Intuitive eating requires you to remove all external factors that drive your eating behavior. That includes your weight. I know, this can feel uncomfortable and scary for most. But there is an accumulating body of research teaching us that health is not, as we wrongly believed for so long, related to weight. And that one can be healthy at every size as health outcomes are a result of healthy behavior and lifestyle, regardless of weight. That being said, IE will get you to your body’s natural set point – the weight it fights to be at. For some that means they will lose weight by default, other will gain weight as they likely have been restricting for too long to keep the weight down, while some will stay the same. The great thing is that IE stops weight cycling, which is unhealthy – once you do get to your set weight point you will no longer experience weight fluctuations . Either way, weight needs to be on the back burner if you want Intuitive Eating to work.
Do I need to be motivated?
Intuitive Eating isn’t a program that lasts “x” amount of days or weeks where you need to build up all your motivation and “willpower” to complete. It is the opposite. It is a process that requires time and patience – which yields a happier and healthier life if you learn to trust it. However, you do need to be ready to embark on the journey. You need to be willing to work on your beliefs and fears around food so you can make peace with food.
What if I have a chronic illness?
You can still learn to be an intuitive eater! Even with illness, you first need to build a healthy relationship with food before implementing nutrition education. For example, a diabetic may be binging on candy even though he knows it isn’t good for him. When full permission is given to explore what he truly enjoys and he does not fear restriction that person may find that he either doesn’t even like the candy or that 1 or 2 is enough to satisfy him, thereby significantly decreasing the amount of candies he eats which leads to better blood sugar control and better health outcomes. Also, it is worthy to note that shame and guilt around eating is not good for your health regardless of your condition, which is why IE benefits everyone!
How long will it take me to become an Intuitive Eater?
I can’t give you an answer on this one. Each person has their own timeline. It depends on your dieting history and how damaged your relationship with food is. The more disordered eating you have and the longer you have been in a diet mentality, the longer it will likely take. Some people can learn to be intuitive eaters in just a few months, others need years (such as people with eating disorders). The good news is, both will eventually get to a place of peace with food and will have healthier outcomes. It is not a diet, there is no definitive end date.
I hope I have cleared up some of your questions! Intuitive Eating, above all, is a process and a journey of self discovery. It isn’t a program you follow to get “x” results in “x” amount of time. It is learning how to make peace with food and become the expert of your body. It gives you food freedom for life. It will help you build trust and confidence in yourself and in your food choices so you no longer have to fear, worry, or stress out about food. So you can enjoy food again without having food thoughts cluttering up your brain space, so you can live life fully, beyond the plate!
Are you an Emotional Eater?
Learn why you may be over eating and what you can do about with my guide:
3 Steps to Overcome Emotional Eating!
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