Intuitive Eating: the anti-diet diet
By Gabriele Ciobotaru – Flannery’s Nutritionist Lane Cove
In case you expect this article to present a new revolutionising diet, then I will disappoint you. Intuitive eating is very far away from the concept of dieting. The way I see intuitive eating is consuming foods based on your needs and listening to your body to choose what, when and how much to eat. But first, let’s look at the concept of dieting and how did it make us less in-tuned with the food we eat.
In the last decades, the idea of being on a diet is more and more popular, controversial, and just the word itself “Diet” is driving a myriad of diverse public reactions. Generally speaking, diets are mainly used to achieve health goals for an individual, which can include weight loss, weight gain, health improvement and management of diseases, as well diets that are constructed based on religious beliefs.
The word diet in Greek means “way of living”. Some diets are created as a lifestyle choice, particularly for those that want to manage diseases such as diabetes. When it comes to weight-loss diets, these are mainly created to be followed for a short period, mainly because they are very restrictive. When the ultimate goal is a weight loss in many diets out there, the ideas of adequate nutrient intake and feeling happy and satisfied post-meal are just not considered. This is why their success rate, in the long run, is very low, because they promote the idea of quick fixes, rather than a long term approach, such as a lifestyle.
The negatives to modern weight loss dieting:
- A great focus on numbers: calorie count, grams, the number on the scale, and so on.
- Very little focus on the quality of food: is it nutritious? is it tasty?
- The talk is all about individual foods rather than looking at the picture as a whole. We need to have a diet abundant in foods to ensure adequate nutrient intake to
support good health.
- There is little to no focus on how to prepare foods or how to combine foods to ensure the absorption of nutrients. For example in a raw diet food would be consumed raw, when there is research showing that cooking that helps some nutrients to be more bioavailable, such as beta carotene and lycopene.
- Most of the weight-loss diets have no scientific background. This is critical when someone wants to recommend a diet to the general population. Scientific research on diets helps to assess the effectiveness and the health risks or benefits associated with a specific diet.
- These diets create the idea that weight loss is the ultimate goal instead of health gain. Plus some diets increase the risks of disordered eating, particularly in young women, which is a detrimental factor to their health and mental wellbeing.
- Some diets could be a burden on someone’s budget because they will require the purchase of more expensive foods and supplements. In this case, people should question if the diet is a good business and they are just a consumer.
Eating intuitively is something people did for centuries. Let’s look at the blue zones in the world, which are areas where people had the lowest rate of metabolic diseases, a healthy BMI and lived the longest. These people did not follow a particular diet, but they ate foods that were available to them, in season, they ate when they were hungry and stopped when they felt satiated and comfortably full, and they treated food as a fuel and not something to be strictly controlled. More importantly, they ate a variety of different foods, they didn’t restrict any food groups, and they ate in moderation.
Tips for intuitive eating
- Eat for your health. Switch the focus from “I want to eat to lose weight” to “I choose foods to support and improve my health”. Do your research and talk to a qualified nutritionist or dietitian to help you choose foods that are healthy and educate on how to prepare foods to retain the most nutrients.
- Eat mindfully. We don’t realise how distracted we are during our meal times, either on the phone, in front of the TV, of rushing through that paperwork we need to finish and at the same time trying to eat our lunch. But when we eat we need to focus all the attention toward the act of eating. Why is this so important you might think? Well, when you pay attention to your meal, the foods you eat, the taste, what you like about the food, and give yourself time to chew well, all that will help you feel satiety quicker and feel satisfied with your meal.
- Listen to your body. Are you hungry? Do you feel very full? Do you feel good after eating something or do you feel sick? How is the food you eat affects your digestive tract, energy and mental clarity? Your body is creating in a smart way that it gives you signals when something is received well and not so well, all you need is to pay attention to those signs. In this process, being mindful during meal times is highly important to get the signs from your body.
- Choose foods based on your needs. As humans, we go through different stages of development in life, including childhood, puberty, pregnancy for women, adulthood and ageing. All these steps in our life involve bodily transformations that require nutrients to be supported, thus targeting your diet considering your stage in life is essential to support your health. Some other factors are the climate and seasons we live, which will dictate the foods that can be harvested and produced. During a cold day of winter, your body might ask you for a working bowl of soup rather a salad, because it is warming.
- Listen to what you crave. Identifying food craving is important to determine some aspects of your health. Some craving will determine if you are lacking some nutrients, for example, the cravings for chocolate being linked to low levels of magnesium. Craving to eat sweets could be a link to yeast overgrowth and problems with regulating blood glucose levels. When some cravings tend to be repetitive, identify them and talk to a practitioner or your GP about that, and take steps in your diet that will help reduce these cravings by ultimately correcting their source (nutrient deficiency or other health problems).
In the past people went through a hard time when they didn’t have the access to foods and variety we have today, thus be grateful for when you are having your meals, and take the time to enjoy your meal.
These are just some tips on how to become more intuitive eaters and thus more connected with your food and your body. In the end, intuitive eating is all about being in tune with your body to be in tune with your food choices.
Share this post with your friends