This guest post is brought to you by my lovely dietetic intern Shannon @dietishan on Instagram! Shannon walks us through 3 Intuitive Eating Tips for Beginners, especially to know before you get started with Intuitive Eating. I am so impressed with the advice in this post, and I hope you find it helpful, too.
3 Intuitive Eating Tips for Beginners
I was volunteering at a health fair when I overheard a few girls talking about an anti-diet diet. Finally! A health brochure that told them they could stop dieting if they followed this anti-diet diet. On this diet, they could eat anything they wanted, following a few basic guidelines, while losing weight and becoming healthy. It turns out the pamphlet they were reading was about the Mediterranean Diet.
As an Intuitive Eating advocate, I instantly thought it sounded misleading. The true Mediterranean Diet is traditionally a cultural cuisine, but in this case it has been manipulated into another diet promoting weight loss. As I reflected on these girls misinterpreting another restrictive diet as a healthy lifestyle, I thought: “What if people misinterpret intuitive eating in the same way? What if people view Intuitive Eating as another anti-diet diet? One that will ultimately help them lose weight?” That’s when I realized the necessity to share with you these three tips before you begin Intuitive Eating.
Tip #1: Intuitive Eating is Not a Weight Loss Tactic
First and foremost, Intuitive Eating is not a diet or weight-loss tactic. Intuitive Eating is a weight neutral, anti-diet approach to health that focuses on food freedom, body acceptance, and mindfulness. I have spoken with many people, my former self included, who are fed up with dieting to lose weight, shaming themselves when the number on the scale refuses to go down. These are the same people that are intrigued by Intuitive Eating.
After years, and for some people decades, of dieting, it becomes difficult to release yourself from the diet mentality. The diet mentality reinforces the thoughts in the back of your mind like “ If I stop dieting, I’ll gain more weight” or “I ate really bad today, I probably shouldn’t eat dinner, even though I’m hungry”…sound familiar? If your underlying hope of Intuitive Eating is to lose weight or eat “good” all the time, you miss out on the freeing benefits that Intuitive Eating provides.
As it has been ingrained in our heads by society that a smaller body is better, it is normal to have dieting thoughts throughout your Intuitive Eating journey. These thoughts don’t make you a bad intuitive eater, they are simply important to recognize. Ask yourself who is talking. Your intuitive eating voice or dieting voice?
Tip #2: Weight ≠ Health
Have you been told that you need to lose weight in order to improve your health? What if you could improve your health, without focusing on weight? Health at Every Size® (HAES) is a weight inclusive movement that recognizes the health and worth of all body shapes and sizes. The movement acknowledges a fact that most health professionals have a hard time understanding. Can you guess what it is? [hint, it’s the title of this section] That’s right, weight does not equal health!
For example, a research study followed two groups of women with obese class BMIs. One group of women took part in a conventional weight loss program while the other group took part in a HAES program. Even though the women in the HAES group showed no weight loss, they showed significantly decreased LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol), increased physical activity, increased intuitive eating, and decreased dietary risk. On the flip side, while the weight-loss group did lose weight and increase their physical activity, no other health improvements were made. (1)
If you’re thinking that something seems fishy, you’re absolutely right. Remember the diet mentality we talked about earlier? That comes from the media and many health professionals that tell you in order to be healthy you must lose weight. Fortunately, new research is helping to squash the stigma that weight equals health.
According to an article published by the International Journal of Exercise Science, weight cycling, or yoyo dieting, is more detrimental to health than being at a heavier weight (2). Weight cycling increases one’s risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. This means that by making intuitive lifestyle choices, you can allow your body to determine the weight it’s comfortable at, rather than the weight society is comfortable with. What if you allowed your body to be at its comfortable weight, versus the weight society is comfortable with? It just might be time to forgive and forget the long-standing myth that weight equals health.
Tip #3: Letting Go Doesn’t Mean “Letting Go”
Another common fear people have when beginning Intuitive Eating is “letting themselves go”. If I let myself eat the cookies, I can’t stop. Eventually, I will just let myself go. I understand the discomfort that comes with such a thought, but the meaning of a phrase can change. Let’s try it here, shall we?
What if “letting go” simply referred to letting go of that which no longer serves you?
Take a brief moment to pause and think about something that no longer serves you. Did you think of dieting? Letting go of the diet mentality is a freeing experience that provides space for compassion, self-love, and health. Letting go of restrictive thoughts does not mean you are “letting yourself go”. Instead, you’re taking your life back into your own hands. What is interesting about Intuitive Eating is that while you’re working towards making peace with your body, you’re also working towards reframing your thoughts. A beautiful shift happens when you allow yourself to let go of society’s perception of health and beauty and embrace your own view that serves you in your journey to become your best self.
Everglow Nutrition’s Key Takeaways
In summary, as you begin Intuitive Eating remember that it’s not another weight loss prescription, weight does not equal health, and you have the power to let go of that which no longer serves you. Intuitive Eating is not a linear journey so offer yourself compassion and grace throughout. If you’re feeling ready to jump on the Intuitive Eating train, you can learn more about each principle right here! Start with How to Ditch Dieting for Good, and get ready to heal your relationship with food. Which Intuitive Eating Tip for Beginners did you find most helpful?
Mediterranean diet: Facts, benefits, and tips. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/149090#nutrients
Mensinger, J. L., Calogero, R. M., Stranges, S., & Tylka, T. L. (2016). A weight-neutral versus weight-loss approach for health promotion in women with high BMI: A randomized-controlled trial. Appetite, 105, 364–374. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.06.006
Strohacker, K., Carpenter, K. C., & McFarlin, B. K. (2009, July 15). Consequences of Weight Cycling: An Increase in Disease Risk? Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241770/
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (1996). Intuitive eating: a recovery book for the chronic dieter: rediscover the pleasures of eating and rebuild your body image. New York: St. Martins Paperbacks.