What the heck is intuitive eating?
By Isabelle Bennett, Features Editor
Imagine this: it’s 2018. Searching for the energy to get out of bed, you scroll through Facebook. Four of your relatives have shared the same article about romaine lettuce causing an outbreak of E. coli. A work acquaintance has posted a photo of a celery stalk and strip of bacon — along with another gym selfie — to flex his progress since he started his keto diet. You then notice a message from Brittany, an unremarkable high-school acquaintance, letting you know about her latest pyramid scheme — a meal replacement supplement — inviting you to join her downline, be your own boss and earn six whopping figures a year.
Feeling obligation to recommit, you muster the strength to open your second eye and emerge from hibernation. You slither to the mirror to see what you’re working with today — pillow imprints on half your face and the same body you went to sleep in last night — when your stomach rumbles. What do you do?
I was in a similar situation when I realized I needed to approach decisions about my health differently. Tired of seeing article after article contradicting each other about whether something is or is not considered “healthy,” I concluded the obvious: in excess, anything can be bad for you — just like anything in life. Then entered a soft voice in a sea of loud opinions, telling me to try intuitive eating.
The big idea
Intuitive eating is a personal approach to health (not a diet — actually) created by two boss ladies in the 90s. To sum it up, intuitive eating involves eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. It requires you to pay attention to how certain foods or ingredients make you feel and consuming food based on what will truly satisfy you.“Doing so allows your body to naturally adjust to its intended weight, and when you eat foods that are truly satisfying, you will naturally gravitate toward a varied and nutritionally balanced diet,” says a blog post.
If you’ve grown as resistant to ideas about food as I had, you may be thinking critically about intuitive eating. Skepticism is not a bad thing when it comes to someone telling you how to treat your one and only body, and this reaction should be expected as a byproduct of a lifetime of mixed-messaging. When it comes to diets, or more generally, food, or more generally still, health, everyone and their dog has a different approach. And for consumers of food — a.k.a. everyone — it can be exhausting to know which sources to ignore and which to abide by. Adults, who have been inundated with “shoulds” and “should nots” their whole lives regarding nutrition, have succumbed to believing that if they eat “good” or “bad” food, they are “good” or “bad” people. The only thing that seems to thrive under this pressure is the weight-loss industry, whose net worth reached a record $72 billion in 2019 in the U.S. alone.
What’s so special about it, anyways?
I initially fought the idea of intuitive eating, too, imagining myself running rampant in a candy store if I let myself shamelessly and guiltlessly eat what I want (a misunderstanding about intuitive eating — it’s much more nuanced than this). The more I dug into the idea and started putting it into practice, though, my mind changed completely. I realized that I didn’t trust the practice of intuitive eating because I doubted my body’s ability to know what it needs after years of ignoring it completely — talk about a lightbulb moment.
Here’s the kicker — our bodies are amazeballs. They know we need to breathe to survive and sweat to cool us down when we’re hot and fight off bacteria when we’re sick — and they do all of this stuff and a million other things without us asking it to, telling it to, or consciously choosing to do it with our dumb egos. So why are we so resistant to listening to our bodies when it comes to food, thinking that our minds know better?
Putting it into practice
Once I decided to try it out, I did buckets of research. I discovered the ten basic principles of intuitive eating, which includes things like rejecting the diet mentality, honouring your hunger, making peace with food, etc. and tried to abide by them when I would encounter food and make choices throughout my day. I also started testing out how certain ingredients — like carbs, protein, dairy, sugar and fat — made me feel. I even went as far as researching what poop can indicate about health — which is actually an absurd amount of stuff.
It’s hard, I won’t lie. It’s been difficult for me to ignore the adult ego and dismiss the dialogue around dieting that surrounds me all the dang time. And, it’s impossible to simply flip a switch and understand how my body, in its own way, manifests what it needs. It involves constant checking in and getting real with myself. I’m not perfect at it by any means, but the more I practice it, the better I get at it and the more confident I feel in my decisions.
Some of you are reading this with one burning, yet pointless question: have I lost weight? Who knows — to be honest. It’s been a really long time since I’ve even stepped on a scale. Losing weight was not my motive, nor is weight reliably indicative of health. Do I have more energy, emotional control, satisfaction and confidence in my decisions? Yes. And I don’t want to brag or anything, but I still get to eat Oreos.