In Food + Drink

Food And Feelings: Intuitive Eating Explained

The premise behind intuitive eating is to trust your body and to move away from diets and meal plans. Instead, it addresses our feelings about food.

Committing to a new exercise regime and a healthy eating plan is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. And understandably so. After the indulgence of silly season and the holidays, it’s only natural to want to put healthy practices into place.

The start of a new year is an opportune time for personal trainers, gyms and purveyors of the ‘latest and greatest’ eating fads to sign up new clients. But as the excitement of a shiny new year begins to wane, so too does the enthusiasm for and commitment to the newly adopted wellness plan.

For this reason, Fiona Sutherland, a spokesperson and educator of the ‘non-diet approach’, advocates for ditching the resolutions and rules entirely. Sutherland says that when it comes to finding more sustainable and healthier ways of eating, rather than restricting ourselves, we should be using the principles of intuitive eating, being more mindful, and listening to what our body needs instead.

intuitive eating

If a diet is sending you crazy then don’t do it, says Sutherland. Image: Pexels

“People are starting to turn away from dieting and rules,” Sutherland says.

“People are realising that they don’t work, and that they can cause harm as well. Some people really struggle with diets because they are a massive big change and that can really affect you psychologically. Diets end up causing more problems than they fix, and people are now looking for something else.

“If a diet is sending you crazy then don’t do it. Intuitive eating is different to a diet in that it addresses any concerns about the way we are feeling around food, and encourages us to get really curious about what is going on instead.”

The premise behind intuitive eating – the approach Sutherland teaches ­– is getting back to your roots, trusting your body again and removing any focus from diets, meal plans, discipline and willpower.

Coming under the ‘mindful eating’ umbrella, the intuitive eating approach is unique in that it is kind on the body and mind and restriction-free – a concept that Sutherland admits can be daunting for many people who are looking to better their relationship with food and eating.

But contrary to what you may think, a lack of rules coupled with a curiosity around how our body responds to food and hunger cues aids in the building of a more positive relationship with eating.

intuitive eating

Intuitive eating is a set of 10 principles that were developed by two US-based dieticians. Image: Pexels

“Intuitive eating is a set of 10 principles that were developed by US-based dieticians Elyse Resch and Evelyn Triboli about twenty years ago,” says Sutherland. “It is an actual set of principles – not just a ‘nice idea’ – which guide us to respond to our body cues. It’s more about care and kindness [to ourselves] rather than control, rigidity and rules.”

Naturally, a restriction-free approach doesn’t center itself on a hard and fast end result of weight loss, but Sutherland understands that people’s concern with their bodies and their need to control or maintain their weight.

“Intuitive eating is about coming back to a more natural state of responding to our bodies and food, and letting our weight and body settle where it is meant to settle, rather than controlling it,” says Sutherland. “You actually are being a lot nicer person to yourself.”

The point of intuitive eating is to eat in a more relaxed, flexible way, with less stress, body disparaging and body bullying. Backed by studies conducted on intuitive eating clients, the results of the approach are far more important than just the physical.

intuitive eating

Be curious about eating experiences and loosening up on eating rules, says Sutherland. Image: Pexels / Daria Shevtsova

“Some of the benefits of intuitive eating are that we can become more relaxed around food and we can become more flexible around food,” Sutherland says.

“We actually begin to feel more in charge, which is different to feeling in control because the flipside of being in control is then out of control; whereas there is no flipside to being in charge. It just encourages us to listen to ourselves more than anything else.”

Dipping your toes into the world of intuitive eating comes with very little commitment, and no risk of failure. For more guidance, Sutherland suggests reading the book Intuitive Eating. Authored by the dieticians that wrote the 10 principles that guide the approach, Resch and Triboli, the read is “a really inexpensive way to dive into it”.

To start putting theory into practice, Sutherland recommends being more curious about eating experiences and loosening up a little bit on eating rules. “Loosen up on the shoulds, shouldn’ts, rights, wrongs, goods and bads and just notice and see what happens,” she says.

“Ask yourself how it feels when we are talking to ourselves and treating ourselves more kindly when it comes to food, eating and our bodies. How does it feel when we are responding to our body’s hunger signals and fullness signals?

“There is no one perfect way of eating and there is nothing healthy about a kale smoothie if you are going to lose it over a piece of pizza.”

(Lead images: Pexels)

Published 05 March, 2019