Of so many food related lifestyles (if you don’t really want to call it diet approaches), one that has piqued my interest for a couple of times is this idea of Intuitive Eating.
Like so many people who has tried a lot of diet in their younger years, the idea of NOT DIETING is wonderful. Intuitive Eating is basically that. The premise of Intuitive Eating is that you listen to your body, and make yourself happy with it, and you can eat what you want… and somehow stay healthy.
If I was the inventor of Intuitive Eating, I would have renamed it and rebranded it as ‘the Unicorn Diet’.
The whole Intuitive Eating basic premise can be broken down to 10 principles:
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honor your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Feel your fullness
- Cope with emotions without using food
- Respect your body
- Exercise — feel the difference
- Honour your health with nutrition
There a plenty of websites out there giving a detailed explanation for each principles, but I am going to summarise it.
Number 1 and 2 basically mean that you can eat whatever, and whenever you are hungry — no CICO, no IF. Number 3 and 4 basically mean nobody can tell you what is good food and what is bad food, including yourself — no keto, no paleo, no atkins, etc. Number 5 and 6 basically mean you stop before you are too full.
Number 7 is pretty explanatory. Number 8 is somewhat explanatory, but it’s like body positivity thing. 9 and 10 are the things that I think very important, and pretty much very explanatory too.
Now… what do I think about it?
If I simplify it even more — eat only when you are hungry, and stop when you are full. Eat nutritious food, but other food is not off limit too. Exercise, but don’t be too critical about your body.
I think it is a wonderful idea to be able to ‘listen’ to what your body needs. It is a brilliant concept, that you love your body so that you are just letting it do its own bodily function without trying to force it to do what it doesn’t want to do. For someone who does not like exercise, of course the idea of not having to force myself to sweat is ideal.
But I also think that ‘listening’ to your body is a bit dangerous, because you can’t really listen to it can you? Our hunger system is not like the light indicator on our car telling us it is really time to fuel up. We basically interpret hunger from symptoms. BUT those symptoms can always be false.
Thirst for example, can easily be misinterpret as hunger. And what about when we have a late night and our body starts firing out ghrelin because of the lack of sleep? Would that count? Ghrelin is called the hunger hormones for a reason, and the feeling of hunger is real, so… if we actually listens to our body, should we honour that? Or should we do what I think the right thing to do… just go to sleep.
What if you don’t feel hungry, but you are with type 1 diabetes, where you have to keep your sugar level right? Should you wait until you feel hungry? Or should you do what I think the right thing to do… eat that cereal bar.
My other problem is how the principles number 3 and 4 seem to be contradicting number 10. If there is no actual ‘good food’ or ‘bad food’, so what is this sudden preaching about ‘treat your body right with good nutritious food’. Do you mean I am not honouring my health by not eating nutritious food? And if I am not honouring my health with nutritious food, is that bad? Are you food policing me now?
See what I mean?
Intuitive Eating is definitely not what I want to do. Especially not for weight loss anyway. It’s approach is too unscientific to be measured for result, and way too new-age for my liking.
It might work for some people, and I have no doubt that for some it is actually helpful with their anxiety or even some types of eating disorder because most of the principles are about making peace with your anxiety of food and diet. Of course I can see the brilliant idea behind it…
However as much as I think this can help with mental health, I don’t think it is necessarily good for physical health. The exercise and nutrition bit seems to be thrown in as an afterthought response of a ‘whatabout’ instead of being the core of the belief.
Anyway I’d like to be corrected if I am wrong. And if you are an Intuitive Eater and you manage to get yourself to stay in a healthy lifestyle (or healthy lifestyle according to the mainstream idea), I would definitely love to know about it too.