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March 19, 2015

Intuitive Eating: The anti-diet, Part I

It’s virtually impossible to scroll through Facebook and Instagram and not come upon hashtagged gym selfies and food photos repping every approach to health—from #paleo to #rawvegan and everything in between. Personally, I have dabbled in essentially every diet, macronutrient ratio, and “lifestyle” out there, and what I’ve found is exactly what has been claimed for decades—diets don’t work. Interestingly, neither do “lifestyles” that are in fact Trojan horses disguised as diets.

The simple truth is that short-term approaches are not appropriate for long-term “problems.” But why is it that having a bit of extra weight is considered catastrophic? Sure, eating healthy food is certainly the best option for our bodies—it’s what we are designed to eat—yet if the obsession with healthy food creates an unhealthy mind, then vitality does not exist.

Released in 2012, “Intuitive Eating,” written by registered dieticians Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, may very well be the be-all-end-all of non-diet diets. There are ten principles that belong to this approach, yet explained in simple terms, they include: eat only when hungry, stop when full, abandon the belief that there is “good” and “bad” food, reject the diet mentality, and exercise for enjoyment. For those who have been counting calories in and calories out diligently for years, this approach may be on the intimidating side, but listed below are the top three reasons why this approach is the realist’s approach to health, inside and out.

Accept that no food is “bad”

This will understandably ruffle some feathers. What about processed food, sugar, GMOs, and gluten? To eat while listening to our inner intuition, we will find which foods make us feel fabulous and which ones do not. The general rule here is to remove all food boundaries, eat slowly, and listen to what your body says. If you find that every time you eat bread, you experience lethargy and digestive issues, then you will no longer feel the desire to eat bread. It’s often believed that without these food rules, we will go “hog wild” and eat donuts and pizza three times a day. And perhaps in the beginning that is the case. But over time, it’s found that people will gravitate toward whole foods and are far less apt to binge on “forbidden food,” these foods will actually become less and less alluring.

Honor your hunger

In the world of calorie counting, it is believed that a grumbling stomach is a bored stomach—not a hungry one. This is merely an example of how insane it is to count calories to determine how much or how little we need to eat. As children, we ate when we were hungry and stopped when we were full. When and why did this ever change?

The dieting industry would like us to believe that a calorie calculator is one of those “can’t live withouts,” when in reality we’ve lived and thrived without counting our calorie intake for many years. Millions, in fact. It’s quite possible that some of us have forgotten what true hunger feels like: therefore we eat when we think we should or because My Fitness Pal says we have 600 calories allowed left for the day.

True hunger is felt very deep in the throat, often accompanied by stomach rumbling. When we are truly hungry, we don’t experience a sudden need to eat large amounts of “forbidden food.” That type of “hunger” often occurs after a stressful incident, during boredom, or when we are feeling down. This is what many call “emotional hunger,” and is how we use food to ignore our true emotions, which brings me to my next and crucial point.

Make peace with your emotions

There are times we don’t even realize that we are stressed, sad, or angry until after the entire package of chocolate chip cookies is gone. This is due to the popular practice of using food and drink to fill a void, and we fill our bellies. It has become second nature for many to reach something to eat during stressful times, not realizing that if we simply sat down, took a deep breath and thought about how we really felt, we would realize that we aren’t hungry at all, but perhaps in need of love, affection, solitary time, meditation, or just to vent!

Kate Robitello is a Plant Based Nutritionist (CPBN) and Lifestylist. She works at Pyramid Wellness in Rutland.

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