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Introduction to Intuitive Eating

June 30, 2011

I am a big fan of nutrition and diet books and always have one on my bedside table. There is a giant pool ocean of these books on the market these days, ranging from self-help to counsel you through your food dilemmas to medical journals that explain various biological stages that your body goes through during digestion. The quality of these books is widely varying. I’ve come across way too many that are pretty ill-written with the author citing one research study after another and not adding any new insight or only promoting their own “product” (whether a website, drug, diet program, whatever). So far, my two favorite books are Eat to Live (eye opening with the focus on cutting out animal products and eating primarily fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes) and You on a Diet (where Dr. Oz and his loyal sidekick embark on a journey of turning complicated medical concepts into simple speak and cool cartoons, and then deriving a diet to optimize your body’s function.)

Both of these books are available on my Amazon store. Speaking of those annoying writers who self-promote their own products, have you checked out my Amazon store yet? Smile The link is available at the top right menu so you can visit it anytime to buy the products I blog about.

I was skeptical about the Intuitive Eating book, but noticed one of my favorite bloggers (Monica @runeatrepeat) recommending it, so I decided to give it a try. I’ve covered three chapters so far (I am a slow reader) and I wanted to share my learnings with you. I expect this to be a series of blog posts as I continue reading the book, reflecting on my current relationship with food and documenting changes in my eating style.

First chapter is pretty standard and describes why dieting doesn’t work long term. Most people that lose weight while dieting end up gaining most of it back due to diet backlash or side effects:

– Dieting brings on urges and cravings for “sinful” foods

– Food binges often follow diet completion (Dieting is a form of starvation, given an opportunity to eat, it becomes an uncontrollable and desperate act.)

– Developing of negative feelings towards food (lack of trust in yourself, no appreciation for tasty things you eat, strong sense of guilt when eating “bad” foods)

– The last supper pattern (“Overeating the night before and starting a new diet the next day” cycle)

– Social withdrawal (It’s hard to attend dinners out or parties with friends if you are on a diet.)

– Sluggish metabolism due to restricted calorie consumption

– Overusing caffeine as an appetite suppressant

– Eating disorders

Second chapter is a self-assessment to determine your eating personality. They had me pegged as a careful eater that on the surface may seem very fitness- and health- conscious and appears to be a perfect eater, yet anguishes over each food and its effect on the body. This does not seem to be too bad; however, they claim that these people tend to have an unhealthy relationship with food. The thing that caught my attention was an example of one of their clients, who like myself, was a careful eater. He ate a light breakfast, biked up the hill for an hour, and had salad for lunch. He did not consume nearly enough calories during the first half of the day, so needless to say it led to overconsumption at night. I think I might be in that camp as well, especially on days I work out in the morning. Something to ponder.

After describing various eating styles, they introduce the intuitive eater who is controlled purely by internal hunger signals and eats whatever they want without an ethical dilemma. They draw some parallels between infants who are born as intuitive eaters to adults who no longer are. They go on explaining on how we lose our intuitive eating instincts. They also compare street cats who tend to overeat because food is limited vs. home cats who have a constant supply of food. I am conflicted on this argument as I’ve seen many cats who are very overweight.

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Chapter 3 lays out the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating. You can see full description on the Intuitive Eating website but here is my summary.

1. Reject the Diet Mentality Diets don’t work.

2. Honor Your Hunger Eat when hungry. There is a reason your body is telling you to eat.

3. Make Peace with Food No food is off-limits, have whatever you want to avoid deprivation and overindulging later on.

4. Challenge the Food Police Stop judging yourself as "good" for eating under 1000 calories or "bad" because you ate a piece of chocolate cake.

5. Respect Your Fullness Listen to your body, recognize when you are full and stop! Remember you can have another meal again soon, unlike those street cats, so there is no reason to overstuff yourself.

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor Eat whatever you want and enjoy it so you can feel satisfied and content.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract yourself, and resolve issues without using food.

8. Respect Your Body Accept your genetics and the way your body is meant to be, stop setting unrealistic expectations. Not everyone can be a size 2 no matter how little they eat.

9. Exercise–Feel the Difference Focus on how exercising makes you feel (strong, healthy, empowered) rather than doing it to lose weight. 

10 Honor Your Health Make wholesome, nutritious choices. Eat food that’s good for your body, mind and soul. Food that helps fight diseases, makes you feel good, gives you energy and keeps you young.

As I am finding the Intuitive Eater within, my first step is to stop counting calories (hence my commitment to stop tracking this week) and instead listen to my body’s hunger signals which aligns with steps 1 and 2. More details on how to implement those two steps will be in my next post (as I have not read those chapters yet) but I am pretty sure I on the right track with eating half my dinner tonight and stopping when recognizing I was full.

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Instead I left room for a vitamuffin berry dessert.

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Last week, I would have eaten my entire plate and stuffed myself with dessert afterwards, and now I have a delicious leftover salad ready for tomorrow’s lunch.

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Are you an intuitive eater?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2011 7:28 pm

    Yes, I am! Glad I found your site, if you have any questions about intuitive eating, let me know!

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