Intuitive Eating – or Should You Manage Addictions?
by Joan Kent, PhD
A colleague asked me what I thought of the so-called "diet backlash."
Well, I completely understand rebelling against diets. That information is literally everywhere, along with pressure to look a certain way. It's not surprising that people get tired of running into it and being expected to live by it.
In response to this dieting madness, an alternative has appeared: Intuitive Eating.
Something intuitive is perceived independently of rational thought or any reasoning process. It's spontaneous, instinctual, innate.
Do you eat intuitively? Do you want to?
What Are the Rules for Intuitive Eating?
Below is a list distilled from several lists. Many of the items overlapped, so I've condensed them and put them into 5 groups.
I offer my thoughts below each group.
• Enjoy and appreciate your food: the sight, the aromas, the eating environment.
• Reject diet mentality, restriction, deprivation, and the latest diet fads.
• Respect your body; don't compare it to someone else's.
I agree that enjoying your food and rejecting diet mentality are a healthful way to go.
Respecting your body and not comparing yourself to others is a wonderful guideline that appears to be linked to the HAES movement: Health At Every Size. Much good comes from pursuing health, not compulsive weight loss, and getting away from body shaming and diet obsession.
• Let food rules go.
• Challenge the food police.
Yes! Don't allow your food selections to define you or your value in the world.
As for the food police, I've written posts on those folks at holiday time. Yet the concept is the same all year long. Stay aware of food policing from friends, coworkers and family members. Request their support, not their continued policing. Above all, don't let other people's ideas of how you should look and eat influence you.
• Eat foods that make you feel good.
• Stop viewing foods as good or bad, so you don't crave forbidden foods, binge on them later, and then feel shame and self-loathing.
"Eat foods that make you feel good" is a poor guideline for a food addict. As an expert in food addictions and a specialist in sugar addiction, I'm aware of the addictive nature of certain foods and the genetic predisposition of some people to specific food addictions.
Yes, addictive foods make the addict feel good – but only because eating them takes away the withdrawal symptoms of going without them for any length of time.
Consequently, I can't and won't stop calling some foods good or bad. They really are. The response of sugar addicts to sugary foods, for example, makes those foods bad for those people. Avoiding the word "bad" won't help. At all.
If addictive foods remain in the diet, they will interfere with any attempt to eat intuitively. Also, the health of a food addict can be compromised by keeping addictive foods in the diet.
• Eat when you're hungry.
• Learn to stop eating when you've had enough.
• Don't feel pressured to clean your plate.
These remind me of the food rules by Hirschmann and Munter, who wrote Overcoming Overeating back in 1988. They're good rules. But 'eat when you're hungry and stop when you've had enough' have a learning curve. It can take time to recognize the body's signals – often subtle – for hunger and satiation.
Meanwhile, sugar can change those signals. I've had sugar-addicted clients who don't experience hunger and don't know they need food until they get headaches – which is probably a withdrawal symptom, not hunger.
As for knowing when you've had enough, sugar can modify satiety, so we want more and more food and don't know when to stop. That's why sugar addicts may eat till they feel sick.
• Don't track meals or exercise sessions.
• Eat and exercise for health, rather than weight loss.
• Choose exercises you like and feel energized from, not based on how many calories they burn.
I agree with exercising for health, not just weight loss. But a solid fitness program should be organized. Pick activities you enjoy, then structure your fitness program around them.
Intuitive Eating completely overlooks the addictive properties of certain foods and the genetic predisposition of certain people to those addictions. Food addictions are physiological and should be taken seriously.
When addictive foods are removed from the diet, then intuition can be relied upon to steer us in the right direction.
If you want to eat intuitively, take a few steps first:
1. Self-assess. Determine if you have any food addictions.
2. Eliminate those foods from your diet. Remember, help is available.
3. Add healthful foods to your diet.
After dealing with your food addictions and stabilizing your glucose and your brain chem, you'll be able to trust your intuition to steer you in the right direction. This may take time.
If you'd like help with your eating intuition from someone who understands food & sugar addictions, I would love to help. Just visit www.LastResortNutrition.com and grab your free Empowered Eating Consult. Discover how easy it is to put a plan in place that allows you to follow your food intuition. Intuitive Eating is something you can do – just get yourself set up for best results first!
Brought to you by Dr. Joan Kent, best-selling author of Stronger Than Sugar: 7 Simple Steps to Defeat Sugar Addiction, Lift Your Mood, and Transform Your Health.