According to Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Jordann Kearns, we are all born knowing the right way to eat. It's when we stop trusting that ability problems with weight and eating disorders come into play. Jordann stopped by our studio to tell us how Intuitive eating can help.
What is intuitive eating?
We all know that dieting doesn't work. The research is pretty clear about that. There was a great TED Talk that recently broke down the research about why dieting doesn't work. Intuitive eating, however, has been shown to improve health in the long run by improving our relationship with food. Intuitive Eating is a philosophy of eating which is based on the belief that you are born knowing how to eat. That includes knowing when you're hungry and full, knowing your taste preferences, and knowing how your body feels after making a food choices. Many people, for various reasons, lose trust in this natural Intuitive Eater at an early age.
Watch a child eat and in that experience you will witness the most organic definition of Intuitive Eating. If they're young enough to not be negatively influenced by our cultures rules around food, they tend to have a very natural ability to intuitively eat. My two year old knows when she's hungry, she stops when she's full, she gets up from a meal and moves on with her life. She never thinks "Oh no, I just ate a cheese stick now I need to do twenty lunges to make up for it!"
Do you find that lots of people try Intuitive Eating only to eat too much - is it too testing for most people's self control?
I look at the question in a different way. Intuitive Eating is not about will power or self-control. Instead, it's about trusting the body to give us accurate information about the what, when, and how much to eat. You learn this ability after practicing Intuitive Eating over time. And Intuitive Eating is just that, it is a practice. It takes a lifetime to learn all the ins and outs of your own body's wisdom.
What are your top practical tips for making the most of intuitive eating?
1) The most practical tip I can give is to find satisfaction in your eating experience. People have this idea that eating is supposed to be boring and maybe that food is just for fuel. I say enjoy your food. Find pleasure in the experience. Enjoy the myriad of tastes, revel in the experience. That is ok. It is ok to find pleasure in food.
2) But in order to find pleasure and satisfaction with our food, we need to pay attention to the eating environment. You'll find more satisfaction when there is a lack of emotional tension and stress in your eating environment. Experiment with clearing off the dinner tables, turning off the TV, try ignoring your emails and other notifications while you're eating. Ask yourself, "If I really sat down to slow down and enjoy that ___, would it be satisfying to me?" Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no.
3) Give yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods. This one is a hard one for most people. It's important to make peace with all foods, so no food is forbidden. In our diet-centric culture, you have likely absorbed judgments about "good" and "bad" food, and when and how you should eat it. This labeling of food and the restrictions that come as a result often creates a sense of deprivation. And often this feeling of deprivation leads to a period of overeating which then leads to shame which often leads to another period of overeating and so the cycle continues.
4) The fourth principle is to Honor your hunger. When you feel stomach hunger, your body is asking for food. Despite what our culture tells us, this is not something that you need to ignore. Sometimes there's even a feeling of virtue when we're able to ignore hunger. But in Intuitive Eating, you are allowed to honor it. You are allowed to answer your body's request for food.
5) In the same respect, you also want to honor your fullness. When you feel satisfied, it is ok to get up from a meal. Your past history may tell you that you have to clean the plate in order to not waste money. But you are allowed to listen to your body before listening to food rules. You can leave food on the plate because that honors your body telling you that it has had enough.
For more information about Intuitive Eating, check out my blog, or this article or this research.