Recently, somewhere on the web, I read an article by a woman who detailed (in great detail!) what she ate to avoid being fat.
Now, her eating habits are totally her choice. I get that. As is her desire to weigh a certain weight.
But I still felt sad after reading the article. Sadness which I grant that the original author may not feel but sadness nevertheless. Sadness because the daily diet of sameness implied that food was an enemy, to be kept at bay with a strict routine and self discipline.
And it reminded me to pick up my copy of Intuitive Eating once again. Because intuitive eating is all about making peace with food.
Food and hunger are not the enemy.
Nothing is. Really.
It’s just life and choices and enjoyment and health, all stirred together with a dash of exercise and a sprinkling of self care. Like chocolate and bananas in the same meal.
What is intuitive eating? The book outlines ten principles (Note to self and others: principles, to be tried over time and re-visited. Not rules):
- Reject the Diet Mentality.
- Honour your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
- Respect your Body
- Exercise – Feel the Difference
- Honour your Health
This is a gentle approach to nutrition, exercise and self care. It builds on what nutritionist Ellyn Satter calls the ‘competent eating ‘ model.
Satter notes that child who hasn’t been pressured to eat or not eat certain foods, who hasn’t been pressured to have a different body size to that which is natural for them, is a competent eater, one who feels good about eating…and eats as much as they need.
It really is that simple. Indeed, research shows that prescribed dietary guidelines most often result in restrictive eating, weight preoccupation and conflict or anxiety. In adults and in children.
The alternative is the intuitive eating model.
- Eat competently (Are you hungry? Are you using food to cover another need or emotion? What are you hungry for? Eat it. Stop when satisfied..).
- Allow for sustainable activity (Being active in every day life, finding movement and exercise that you like to do and/or that fits into your life so that you don’t neglect other parts of your life and don’t beat yourself up over a magical amount of time for exercise).
- Work on physical esteem (Valuing all people and all bodies, including yourself and your own).
What does that mean in reality? Many people have written of their experience in making peace with food and exercise. For me, this week, it has meant a lot of walking, both in my work and as part of my use of public transport (I don’t own a car), but little formal exercise. I often do yoga or light weights or cardio but I have a cold and listening to my body meant rest apart from my active life.
It is a similar tale with food. I have been craving fish the last two days, and eaten fish each of these days. As it turns out, fish is incredibly healthy for those with colds and a weaker immune system. In listening to my body, I have fed my nutritional needs.
As Evelyn Tribole notes, in Intuitive Eating: If you don’t love it, don’t eat it, and if you love it, savour it.
The same really could be said of life.