Have you ever heard of "Intuitive Eating" before? Me neither. Nevertheless it is a thing and I need to talk about it, so you're about to learn. It was a diet, a lifestyle if you will, that was first made famous in 1995 by nutritionists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Rescue who wrote a "recovery book for The Chronic Dieter" in which they shared this groundbreaking way of life that they had discovered. They shared their 'stay thin but don't diet secrets' at a time when we all wanted to look like Kate Moss and needed to hear them. It's not new, it's been around for 20 years, but much like Friends, I hear it's making a come back.
I first heard about this via a friend's Instagram story in which she described it as the new 'buzz word'. Since she is very into healthy eating (she is The Goodness Guru) and I'm sort of, not, I took her word for it, accepted that, much like the Atkins, the cabbage soup and the 5:2 diets, this would be something that I wasn't rushing to try.
But for the rest of the day I could not get this out of my head. Not only was I pissed off to high hell that we were being encouraged again to limit our food intake (or at least hop on another bandwagon that cost me a fortune in Whole Foods on stuff I don't like that much), I was confused as anything about the name of this one: surely, I thought, by it's very nature, eating is intuitive anyway??? We don't fancy starving to death, so intuitively we eat. We don't enjoy being hungry so, intuitively, we eat. Intuitive right? Eating. Staying alive.
So what IS intuitive eating? (Out of the life and death context and in the health and wellness context I mean)... A groundbreaking way of life that will bring the obesity epidemic to a grinding halt or simply another fad for millions of insecure and unhappy women to buy into on their life long quest for the perfect bikini body? I am of course worried that it is the latter.
But first things first, let's find out what it actually is. To do this it's easiest to look at the 10 principles from the book which are:
- Respect the diet mentality
- Honour your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Respect your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Honour your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Exercise - feel the difference
- Honour your health
Theoretically, that all sounds great. I would like all of those things. I should have all of those things. But is a book going to teach me that? Is £££ spent on nutritionists going to teach me all of that? Or is it something that actually, just happens instinctively, that I'm being told that I need to pay for?
(The intuitive eating method is actually used a lot for those recovering from eating disorders, for that of course it is a great thing, the context in which I am writing about it is as a buzz word!)
The whole idea of intuitive eating, as far as I can work out is that 'not dieting is the key to losing weight' (at least that's what google says) and that annoys me, because it just isn't, at least not for me. Listening to your body is all well and good unless of course your body, like mine, tells you constantly how much it wants chocolate. Weight will NOT just fall off you the minute you STOP dieting, for most of us, the opposite will happen.
The fact is, if you want to lose weight, you will need to alter the way that you eat, whether that's by using this method or any other out there, and that is, by very definition, a diet. I appreciate that someone has found a way for us to do that that doesn't necessarily mean never eating a carbohydrate again, but let's not beat around the bush with the name of this thing. At the end of the day, even if you're being told that it's not a diet, since you are now watching everything that you eat (and probably paying someone a shit tonne to 'guide you' to the right choices), I'm afraid that you're being lied to. A diet is exactly what it is. At least at the beginning.
What do they say about how it takes eating healthily for 30 day to make it a habit? You may well find after a month of 'intuitive eating' your patterns have changed and this habit has become so ingrained in you that it has stopped becoming a diet and instead become a lifestyle and that is GREAT. But you need to know that when you start, you will be on a diet. At the beginning, it IS a diet.
By taking on the intuitive eating method, you are turning your back on traditional diets, that much is true. What you are also doing is succumbing to the real 'buzz word' of the moment, which is of course: B A L A N C E. (The word said to you by every single person on Instagram who shares endless photos of themselves looking fierce in a bikini, holding a slice of pizza, that they said they ate because they're all about 'balance', but probably didn't eat because their lifestyle doesn't really permit it).
In theory, balance, intuitive eating, it's great. Balance is great. Retraining your mind to get you to eat healthily is great. It's something that I wish we had all been taught much, much earlier. So I encourage balance (real balance, not Instagram balance) and I acknowledge that it is a popular choice for people who are watching what they eat. Make the half a loaf of banana bread that you had at midnight last night okay by going for a run today. Eat a shit-tonne of vegetables the day after a night on the tequila. Stick to one pizza a week, that sort of thing. But for ffs, do we have to label that? That's instinctive. That's intuition. That's something that I just know.
'Intuitive Eating'? I'm already doing that. Trusting my intuition when it comes to my stomach is the thing that has kept me alive all these years and, whilst I love a new hashtag as much as the next girl, I don't really want the way in which I chose to stay alive to become a trend for others to follow on Instagram. #nothanks.