Intuitive eating: an approach for the chronic dieter
This guest post provided by Heidi_PsyD
Maria grew up in a family of 8 children. “It was very regimented,” she says. “It didn’t matter whether I liked bologna and cheese, that was lunch.” As a result of her upbringing Maria lost touch with many of her needs, and experiences such as going to restaurants is overwhelming. “There are just too many choices. I have no idea what to pick. I limit myself to a few choices.” Maria has become a chronic dieter and alternates between severely restricting food intake and binging past the point of fullness.
Chronic dieting underlies many eating disorders. Women in particular are constantly bombarded with the next “miracle” cure to erase those pesky 10 lbs. But the diet mentality is just the thing that fuels eating disorders and distances us from our body’s natural cues.
The answer – intuitive eating. In a recent article in Renfrew Center’s Perspective, Evelyn Tribole (author of the book Intuitive Eating) states that men and women with eating disorders are the polar opposite of Intuitive Eaters.
Intuitive Eaters possess three core characteristics, they:
• Eat for Physical Rather than Emotional Reasons.
• Rely on Internal Hunger and Satiety Cues.
• Unconditional Permission to Eat.
Intuitive eating teaches those with eating issues how to create a healthy relationship with food, mind, and body. By eating in response to internal cues of hunger and fullness, while allowing all foods to be part of the diet, a person can maintain their weight to one’s “natural” weight. Natural weight is the weight range predetermined by genetics. For many with eating disorders the quest to become thinner and thinner disregards what weight is natural and attainable for them. If you wore a size 7 shoe you wouldn’t try to fit into a size 5.
Those who are intuitive eaters do not eat emotionally. Find ways to self-soothe, comfort, distract, and address life’s stresses without using food. It is important to know which emotions trigger overeating. Try to ask yourself how you are feeling when hunger strikes suddenly. You may be surprised that the emotion is not always a negative one. If you are using food to appease or avoid issues, you will not address issues directly and the end result will be avoidance and upset with overeating.
Intuitive eating also means respecting feelings of hunger or fullness. This is called satiety. When someone is disconnected from his or her internal cues of satiety, they may be triggered by external reasons to eat, such as emotions, the clock or opportunity. One way to determine satiety levels is to pause in the middle of a meal and ask yourself how the food tastes, and how full you are on a scale of 1-10.
The final, but perhaps most important component of intuitive eating is making peace with food. This means giving yourself permission to eat when you are hungry. There are no “good” or “bad” foods. With eating disorders there are often distinct rules around what is safe to eat. Discarding these rules and also allows you to challenge the internal voice that says you are “bad” for eating a slice of cake.