In a world where we are perpetually connected to everything around us — work, technology, and social media, we often times fail to build a healthy connection with our very own body due to hectic schedules. Upon closer examination, the food industry has been cleverly catering to our busy lifestyle with plentiful of portable meal and snack options. As a nation of chronic dieters, more than half of Americans (57%) are trying to lose weight according to the 2016 International Food Information Council Foundation’s Food and Health Survey, and yet the obesity rate does not seem to reflect this effort. You might ask, “why can’t I just lose the stubborn fat despite persistent attempts of eat- ing healthy and exercising regularly?”
It turns out that in order to achieve a healthy weight you need to respect and listen to your body first and foremost. This is the fundamental principle behind the concept of intuitive eating, which was coined by two well-respected registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, in their book published in 1995. Multiple scientific studies have suggested that intuitive eating is associated with a more positive body image, emotional well-being as well as lower body mass index (BMI).
The main premise of intuitive eating is that everyone is born with the wisdom to eat intuitively — the ability to acknowledge inner hunger and satiety signals. It’s meant to be a common sense and hunger-based approach to eating. However, due to years of restrictive diets and dubious nutrition advice circulating in the media, people have simply lost in touch with their body and the battle to achieve a healthy weight. Fortunately, practicing intuitive eating is not nearly as complicated as following the latest fad diet, which could frankly become a part-time job nowadays. In the end, you will feel liberated, at peace, and take joy in eating your favorite food again! These four principles will set you free from the misery of counting calories, daily weigh-ins, eliminating carbs or favorite foods like chocolate!
1.) Banish the Diet Mentality
First things first, dispel all the diet advice you received from friends, co-workers, main- stream media that promises you a quick fix to lose weight fast. The old adage that “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is” certainly applies here. After all, none of them are supported by real science but rather sound bites designed to generate media buzz. I strongly believe that an overall healthy eating pattern is more important than limiting certain food groups .
2.) Make Peace with Food and Challenge the Food Police
Your lifelong battle with food ends right now! Life is too short to be spent in punishing yourself by removing your favorite food from your plate. The buildup of deprivation will eventually trigger you to binge eat at a later time, which can have damaging psychological consequences. Say no to the inner food police that has been tirelessly monitoring your food intake and controlling every bite you take! This is a crucial step to regaining the freedom to eat intuitively.
3.) Honor Your Innate Hunger and Satiety Cues
Many of us are guilty of skipping breakfast and have a quick lunch in between meetings at work. When dinner time rolls around, our hunger level has reached an all day low and we scarf down whatever we see in sight. Intuitive eating means to be present in the moment and pay attention to our hunger and fullness cues. Our body is much like a fuel tank that powers us through the day and we have to continuously attend to our needs. Unfortunately, we tend to ignore our hunger cues before we completely run of out fuel. We eat as fast as we can to ease the hunger pain and ravenous appetite that eventually lands us on the opposite end of the extreme —Thanksgiving full! Instead, plan ahead to leave time in your schedule to eat a healthy breakfast, satisfying lunch and a lighter dinner. Eat only when you are hungry and leave the table when you are satiated. Above all, use all your five senses to enjoy the food and savor every bite. Your body will thank you for it!
4.) Respect Your Body
It’s time to stop pushing your athletic abilities to rival that of elite athletes or the killer workouts that leave you immobile for days just to fit into an unattainable body size. Everyone’s body has an internal equilibrium that sets the body shape and size. Instead of desperately changing it, you need to learn to gracefully embrace it and appreciate the beauty in every shape and size. This is not to advocate a sedentary lifestyle but to engage in invigorating activities that bring you joy.
Claire is a Registered Dietitian with a diverse clinical experience in neonatal, pediatric and adult nutrition. Her current role as the Health Promotion Dietitian at the air force base allows her to apply clinical knowledge to help the active duty population to prevent chronic illnesses. She is passionate about pediatric nutrition, plant-powered eating and communicating science-based nutrition information to the public. Claire is a member of the Kids Eat Right Campaign helping to end child obesity and marketing co-chair for the Colorado Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Having lived in Southern California for over 15 years, she recently moved to the equally sunny state of Colorado.