If you’ve been on the dieting rollercoaster for years, your relationship with food and your body has probably become… well… a little complicated (to say the least). Last week I shared with you the False Promises of Dieting. If you missed it (especially if you’re new to the non-diet, weight-inclusive approach), I suggest you read it before continuing here.
But what’s the alternative?
In this blog I’m going to talk to you about a way of relating to food that will bring you peace and freedom: it incorporates Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating.
I’ll tell you what they are and share 5 ways that these practices will transform your relationship with food.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating was developed by 2 dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch with whom I took my professional training. They developed it in the mid 1990s as a response to what they saw happening in their practices: clients struggling to lose weight and maintain it. They realised that weight control is a set-up for failure and instead wanted to help their clients normalise their relationship with food and their bodies.
Intuitive Eating is really about relearning how to trust your body to guide you with your eating. This means getting back into a dialogue with your body so you can listen to and honour its signals: for food, water, movement and rest. It’s also about learning how to recognise feedback from your body so you can make choices that work for you.
But it’s not just about the body – Intuitive Eating involves managing your mind too – because if you’ve been dieting for years, you’ll have internalised the Diet Police – rules picked up or made up, about what, when and how much to eat and exercise; as well as harsh criticisms about your body and how you should look and beliefs about how your health, your life and your prospects are dependent on your weight. All these messages need to be recognised and challenged so you can stop fighting with your body and food – and live more peacefully as a result.
Intuitive Eating also involves learning how to meet your needs and manage your emotional life without resorting to food by default, and over time, getting into a balanced and nurturing relationship with food and exercise.
What about Mindful Eating?
Mindful Eating is a mindfulness practice. You’ve probably heard about mindfulness as it has gained popularity in many areas of life over the last few decades. In a nutshell, being mindful means being aware in the present moment, of one’s sensory experience, thoughts and feelings without judgement. It’s essentially about awareness and acceptance of what is, at any moment.
Mindful eating then, is being aware of:
- your thoughts (about the food, your body, or in fact anything else that might arise in your mind as you’re eating);
- your physical sensations, which would include you hunger, fullness and satisfaction levels;
- the taste of the food, how it smells and looks, and the sounds you’re aware of as you’re eating;
- as well as any emotional feelings that may be present.
If you decide to banish diets from your life, and I really hope you will, because let’s face it, it’s a miserable existence, and you decide instead to embrace intuitive and mindful eating, you won’t look back!
Here are 5 ways your life will change:
Benefit #1: No more guilt!
Imagine being able to eat again without feeling guilty! No more ‘guilty pleasures!’ Ugh – I detest that term! Why should eating ever be something to feel guilty about? When you learn to give yourself unconditional permission to eat what you want, when you want, your cravings will radically reduce – they’ll become more physically based, rather than a reaction to restriction or deprivation.
Benefit #2: No more food crazies!
You won’t be thinking about food from the time you open your eyes in the morning to the time you close them again at night. You’ll wake up with other things to think about, not whether you’ll fit into your clothes today, or berating yourself for how you ate yesterday – or worried about how you’ll eat today.
You’ll come to a place where most of the time, you think about food when you’re getting hungry, when you need to cook or do the grocery shopping.
And when you do sometimes eat for reasons other than hunger, you’ll be okay with it, because you’ll know that everyone overeats sometimes. No big deal. You’ll move on and think about food again when you’re hungry.
Benefit #3: No more bingeing!
Can you see that when you’re not judging foods as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, not forbidding any foods, not going hungry, not restricting or counting macros or calories – but rather, eating a variety of foods mostly according to your hunger and satisfaction cues, and accepting yourself as you are, that you will at the very least, radically reduce, and likely stop bingeing altogether? I have seen this happen again and again, and it’s possible for you too!
Benefit #4: Let your body find its happy weight
Over time, as Mindful and Intuitive Eating become more natural to you, your body will find its happy weight. This is a weight your body can easily sustain when you’re eating mostly when you’re hungry, stopping most of the time when you’re comfortably full, eating a variety of foods without restricting anything and moving your body in ways you enjoy. It’s the weight that is healthiest for your individual body.
Benefit #5: More enjoyment and energy for other things
With less mental energy expended on thinking and worrying about your body, weight and food, you’ll be freed up to create, to participate in and enjoy life! As you disentangle yourself from the grip of diet mentality, you’ll find more enjoyment in life.
Instead of making yourself go to the gym to do a hard workout when you’re dog-tired, you might choose a hot bath, or a yoga class – or going to a movie with a friend. You might look at a restaurant menu with real curiosity about the options, rather than look for the option with the least carbs or calories or, on the other side of the continuum, choose the ‘cheat meal’ even though you’re not that hungry.
You’ll loosen up.
You’ll become more flexible in your thinking and your behaviour – and not just about food! This means that…
THE QUALITY OF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WILL IMPROVE!
Eating is meant to be natural, not stressful or confusing. We don’t need charts, lists and rules to feed ourselves well.
And yet it’s a primary way of taking care of ourselves. Without food, well… 💀 there’s no life at all!
When we’re feeding ourselves well and let go of the rules, beliefs and stress around food, eating, weight and appearance, then we have creativity, time, mental capacity and emotional energy for SO MUCH MORE! That’s why I say the quality of your whole life will improve. And I mean it.