Intuitive Eating

If you have ever watched a toddler eat, you already understand intuitive eating. They cry when they're hungry, refuse food once they're full (despite your attempts to pretend the food is an airplane. Who thought of that?)  And they will likely throw food on the floor if they don't like how it tastes. 

 

This is me at age 4.  I enjoyed foods I loved without guilt or moral judgement. I said no to foods I didn't like. And, apparently, I made quite a mess of myself with chocolate cake. I had no sense of how my body looked. No "image." That wasn't a thing. I knew how I felt and I acted accordingly.

But as we grow up, we learn to override our intuition, our hunger and fullness cues, our sense of satisfaction and enjoyment of food.

We learn and internalize food rules.

 Not long after this photo was taken, I began learning that there were "healthy" foods and "junk" foods and "fattening" foods. I saw my mother and other women criticize, hate, and work to change their bodies. They were all on diets.  They talked about thighs with cellulite; "fat" bellies; big butts and hips. These were to be avoided at all costs because they made you unattractive, I learned. So,  foods that could change my body in these negative (and frankly scary) ways became "bad.," "fattening,""empty calories," or "junk." Foods that would help prevent that became "good," healthy," "nutritious." That's how we learn diet culture. And it gets deeply ingrained. We develop a fraught relationship with food and eating becomes stressful. 

It gets more serious in adolescence as our girl bodies become women's bodies with more bumps and curves. We naturally put on weight as we enter our fertile years -- but we are warned of the dire consequences of that weight gain. We become acutely aware of our size and shape and exactly how to eat and move to control them. We get hungry but don't eat. We stop eating before we are full. We go on diets. We choose celery sticks when we want ice cream (which makes us want ice cream SO much more!) In short, we lose connection with what our bodies want and need to eat. We eat according to the "Rules."

Intuitive eating means reconnecting with our inner signals and physical sensations

and letting them (rather than external food rules) guide our food choices.

 

It means rediscovering the freedom and joy we had with food as babies and toddlers.

 

No judgement. No shame. No counting, measuring, or weighing.

 

It means you trust yourself again.

 

Does that sound reckless, crazy, even frightening? 

 

Are you thinking, "if I start eating anything I want I'll never stop. I will be out control. What about my health?"

 

There is a growing body of research showing that restriction is MORE LIKELY to lead to weight gain the intuitive eating.

When people restrict food to lose weight, their efforts fail 90-95% of the time. Over the long term, dieters re-gain the weight they lost and often more. Perhaps this has happened to you. More than once? And weight, in and of itself, has little effect on health outcomes.

 

When we restrict, we swing to the other extreme and overeat. When we stop restricting, we feel remarkably calm and in control of our food choices and health decisions. The pendulum eventually comes to rest in the middle.

It's a process with many stages. You'll need guidance and support. You will need to move at your own pace.

But the science is indisputable.

 

It works.

(c) Dana L. Barron, PhD, 2020

www.danabarronphd.com

dana@danabarronphd.com