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  • Writer's pictureJenny Sokolowski

What is Intuitive Eating? HumanKind’s Guide to Intuitive Eating

What is Intuitive Eating? In the age of endless diets and restrictive meal plans, intuitive eating is a refreshing approach to health and well-being. Rather than being dictated by external societal rules when it comes to food, it emphasizes internal cues, urging you to tune into your body’s signals. Intuitive eating encourages you to honor your hunger, understand the concept of gentle nutrition, and release the guilt associated with certain food choices. This framework helps us reclaim the peaceful, internally-driven style of eating we’re all born with, and ditch the punishing and harsh rules we’ve been conditioned to follow by diet culture.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is an approach that honors our needs and allows us to be gentle with ourselves. Contrary to some portrayals in the media that make it seem like intuitive eating is about indiscriminately eating whatever you want, it's more profound and intentional than that. Intuitive eating is all about:

Listening to Your Body's Needs

Central to intuitive eating is the emphasis on recognizing and honoring your hunger and fullness cues. It's about understanding what you want to eat and giving yourself the freedom to eat it.

Gentle Nutrition

Another key principle is 'gentle nutrition.' While you might sometimes crave foods that are less nutritious, using a flexible and gentle awareness of nutrition can help you balance things out and ensure you’re eating in ways that feel good and nourishing to your body.

No Shame in Choices

Eating is a multifaceted experience. Food can fulfill not just physical needs (like fuel) but also emotional needs, and there's no shame in that. In the realm of intuitive eating, there's no moral judgment attached to your food choices.

Going Back to Our Instincts

Many factors, including the harsh influence of diet culture, can distance us from understanding our hunger and fullness. Children often exhibit intuitive eating behaviors naturally – they eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full. As adults, navigating a world filled with diets and narrow body ideals, reclaiming this intuitive approach becomes even more vital.

Beating Psychological Deprivation

Sometimes, even when people allow themselves to eat what they want, they still feel guilt. This guilt can create a sense of psychological deprivation, making you feel guilt or shame even as you eat. Intuitive eating is about breaking these mental “food rules” and putting all food on an equal playing field. When there are no “good” or “bad” foods, and all foods are always available, you can start making food choices that serve you best.

Intuitive eating is about reconnecting with the internal cues that guide our food choices and developing a healthy, guilt-free relationship with food. It's an approach that recognizes the complexity of eating in today's world, seeking to make the process more instinctual and joyous.

How to Get Started With Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating is a liberating journey that redefines your relationship with food, urging you to listen to your body's signals rather than external diet rules. Beginning this journey means acknowledging your hunger cues and granting yourself permission to eat without guilt. Step away from seeing foods as "good" or "bad" and instead, embrace every food choice. Remember, food has no moral value. We need to view food as a way of fueling and caring for ourselves. Internally, it's about silencing that critic in your mind that dictates what you should or shouldn't eat, and realizing that food choices don't determine your worth. Dive deep into the experience of eating and allowing yourself to truly enjoy the process. As you become more in tune with your body, you'll start to recognize when you're full, preventing overeating. It's also about diversifying how you cope with emotions without solely relying on food. Acceptance is key, appreciating your unique body, its needs, and all it does for you. Movement becomes a celebration and a form of self-care, not a punishment, and making health choices evolves into a balance between what is pleasurable and what is nourishing. Remember, intuitive eating is about allowing yourself to have ups and downs and not judging yourself for that.

What if I Lose Control?

Embracing intuitive eating can initially spark fears of losing control around food, especially for those accustomed to restrictive diets. This is common and often stems from the "Last Supper" mentality—overeating certain foods, fearing future deprivation. However, the essence of intuitive eating is granting yourself unconditional permission to eat without rigid rules. Over time, as you consistently allow these once "forbidden" foods, their overwhelming allure fades. The cornerstone of intuitive eating is rejecting the restrictive diet mentality. The goal isn't to chase weight loss, but to foster a harmonious relationship with food. Understandably, starting this journey might seem daunting. But by focusing on satisfaction, trusting your body, and dismissing societal food judgments, you embark on a path to guilt-free, enjoyable eating.

Intuitive Eating and Weight Loss

Intuitive eating challenges many of the preconceptions we have about weight loss. Contrary to what diet culture might suggest, much of our weight is influenced by our genetic makeup. In fact, research indicates that 40-70% of our weight is determined by our genetics. Here's the crucial point: regular dieting might inadvertently increase our natural weight over time. When we consistently restrict our intake, our body interprets this as a potential famine, thus reacting by adjusting its "set point" weight. The infamous Minnesota starvation study sheds light on this; healthy participants subjected to calorie restrictions began exhibiting unhealthy obsessions with food and body image. Shockingly, statistics reveal that within five years, about one-third of dieters regain their lost weight, with 95% not seeing prolonged results.

What is Set Point Theory?

The Set Point Theory posits that our body maintains a particular weight range, largely determined by genetics. This 'set point' can account for up to 70% of our weight. When individuals diet, the body, in its bid to protect itself, may interpret this as a signal of scarcity, reacting by slowing metabolism and conserving energy. This survival mechanism might result in the upward adjustment of one's set point after each dieting cycle. In essence, the body has an innate weight range it tries to maintain, and any attempts to drastically change this can have counterproductive results. This theory provides an insightful perspective on the challenges many face with traditional dieting approaches.

Intuitive eating isn't just about eating—it's about reconnecting with yourself. Recognize your needs, diversify coping mechanisms, and appreciate your body's uniqueness. It isn't about perfection but growth. Additionally, understanding concepts like the influence of genetics on weight and the Set Point Theory can reshape how you view traditional dieting.

Embarking on the intuitive eating journey might feel overwhelming, but the rewards of a guilt-free, enjoyable eating experience are profound. If you're intrigued and need guidance on your intuitive eating journey or have questions about the process, don't hesitate to reach out or schedule an appointment. Your journey to a harmonious relationship with food awaits.

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