Tired of feeling trapped by food rules? Consider intuitive eating

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Allison Warga, a mother of three in Calgary, felt like she had tried every diet on the planet. Between the rush of work and her children, she didn’t feel hungry until she sat down, often at dinnertime. That led to nights of constant grazing that were never really satisfying.

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“It’s very easy as a parent to forget yourself when you’re raised in a diet culture and told you need to lose weight. You want to ignore that you even have a need to eat,” she admits.

But after reading the book Health at Every Size by Lindo Bacon, an inspired Warga sought out a dietician and began working on gentle nutrition strategies that wouldn’t trigger the eating disorders that come with dieting. The result was a mental and emotional catharsis.

“I felt that I had left behind a sect and all its religious dogma. I learned to take care of myself, that I deserve to eat and that my body needs nutrition. That’s all part of taking care of yourself.”

Warga had tapped into intuitive eating.

Stop saying no to your favorite foods because they may not be the healthiest.  Eat intuitively for a better mood, some dietitians and intuitive eating counselors say.  fake images
Stop saying no to your favorite foods because they may not be the healthiest. Eat intuitively for a better mood, some dieticians and intuitive eating counselors say. fake images Photo by Farknot_Architect /Getty Images/iStockphoto

Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework created by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It’s a very personal process that involves 10 principles that range from rejecting the diet mentality to honoring your hunger to challenging the food police.

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To date, several research studies have pointed to the positive health benefits of intuitive eating, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought. Benefits include lower cholesterol, higher self-esteem, improved body image, and lower rates of eating disorders.

Vincci Tsui.  Courtesy Shannon Smith
Vincci Tsui. Courtesy Shannon Smith Photo by artist Shannon Smith /jpg

Vincci Tsui, a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor in Calgary, notes that much of our eating is based on external cues.

“We make decisions based on many factors, such as Canada’s food guide, how much of something is in a bag, or what time it is for lunch, rather than listening to our own internal cues. Intuitive eating is about letting go of eating rules and eliminating guilt. Unless you have stolen the food, you should not feel guilty about eating it.”

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Christine Devaney Towsley.  Courtesy of East of Seven Photography.jpg
Christine Devaney Towsley. Courtesy of East of Seven Photography.jpg jpg

One of the biggest myths surrounding intuitive eating is that, in the absence of dietary rules, a person would naturally eat large amounts of whatever they wanted. That’s not the case, says Christine Devaney, registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor at Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc.

“You may feel like you have no control over a certain food and that could be because you have labeled it as junk. The more we allow ourselves unconditional permission to enjoy all foods, the less intense the cravings and desires become. It results in greater control and freedom around all foods.”

Tsui is also sympathetic to fears of trusting one’s instincts, especially among those who have been chronically dieting their entire lives.

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“Intuitive eating is about letting go of this idea of ​​having to control your weight or eat a certain way in order to be healthy or seen as worthy. It’s about going back to what satisfaction and well-being mean to you. It’s liberating and terrifying at the same time.”

If you’re okay with having a more peaceful relationship with food and your body, or if you’re tired of counting and cutting calories, intuitive eating may be the way to break free.

Intuitive eating is not a restrictive regimen. Its 10 principles provide structure, but they are not hard and fast rules. Think of it more as a guide to finding your inner voice and wisdom.

For Warga, the biggest benefit, beyond freedom from intense cravings, was not being afraid to eat.

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“Eating breakfast and taking the time to pack lunch is what I choose for self-care time. In whatever time you have available, you can be mindful and present with your body.”

To start eating intuitively, Devaney first recommends taking stock of your eating behaviors and attitudes, ideally without judgment.

“Before you eat, ask yourself if you are physically or emotionally hungry. Reflect on some of the reasons you eat the way you do. Look at what factors influence your feelings about your body size,” she advises.

By tuning into how food makes us feel, how much we appreciate the taste, and how full we are, we can better control the amount of food we eat. But make no mistake, intuitive eating is not about losing weight.

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“There is a fear that he will gain weight. And you could. You might also lose weight or stay the same. The key is to discover what is worse for you: living with a disordered diet or living with a few extra kilos, “says Warga.

More information:

A good place to start is by reading Intuitive Eating or visiting the official website: intuitiveeating.org. Vincci Tsui’s Mindful Eating Workbook is also a useful tool.

In Canada, several Registered Dietitians are also Certified Food Intuitive Coaches. Connect with them to learn more about the process and for tips on staying up to date.

Anyone with a medical condition, who needs to take medication with food, or who needs to avoid certain foods, should talk to their GP before embarking on any new health regimen.

Jody Robbins is a Calgary-based lifestyle writer. She follows her wellness adventures on her blog: Luggage Travel or on instagram @TravelwBaggage

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