Intuitive Eating is an approach to eating that can help heal the relationship between food and our bodies, and to help end the diet/weight-cycling cycle. When our brains know food is available and our bodies (re)learn how to feel and respond to the hunger, fullness, and appetite cues we all once knew as infants, we are actually free to make choices that are best for our bodies and our mental health.

© Lindsay Braman

 

For most of human history, a lack of sufficient food meant DANGER. Because of this, neurologically our brains are programmed to respond to food scarcity and insecurity with increased preoccupation about food and increased consumption of available food – even if the scarcity is self-imposed (sample source: this study ). In other words, the more we try to control food, the more it controls us. An intuitive eating approach, like pictured in these comics, can help us break away from this cycle.

 

Doodle by Lindsay Braman
When access to pleasurable food isn’t forbidden, we are actually more able to focus on other things.

 

For a few weeks recently, I stayed with some friends in a house shared by a dietician and a therapist. I was thrilled when I counted NINE different kinds of ice cream in the freezer.  Here’s the thing they know that I want to share with you: When we have both access and permission, we can make better choices.

When external rules tell us we “can’t,” human nature’s response is to often get anxious, panic, consume to excess, and then shame spiral. However, when we expose diet-culture messages for the attention-sucking distraction that they are, we empower our body to acknowledge our desire instead of automatically craving what we can’t have.

When we refuse to assign moral values to food choices and start listening with care to our bodies’ hunger, fullness, and appetite cues, we are much freer to be able to look at 9 containers of ice cream and be like “Hm, I don’t think ice cream sounds good right now, I think my body wants…”

© Lindsay Braman

 

When I initially posted this series on Instagram, it was clear that it was challenging for a lot of folks. Author Michelle Lewelica proposes that because culturally, thinness is now the predominant religion in western culture, it makes sense that challenges to the rituals used in this religion are troubling to many.

Worshipping thinness gives us idols, grants us rituals, and provides us a structure that holds guilt and allows us to earn “goodness.” In this context, naming the wisdom of bodies is blasphemy. However, I’m okay with being a heretic when what I get to call people to is a life in which the body is not an enemy, food is not a weapon, and creative energy is absorbed not in pursuit of a thigh gap, but is instead invested in creating justice, homes of safety and hospitality, intimacy, art, policy, brave and empathic little humans, nourishing meals, businesses, etc, etc, etc…

Doodle by Lindsay Braman

 

This study is a good academic starting point if you are skeptical but open to checking out the data available on PubMed on Intuitive Eating.

 


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Image description for screen readers:
This post is created around three part doodle series that illustrates intuitive eating.

The first doodle is a person with brown hair pulled up into a bun, wearing a tank top and capri pants with socks, standing in front of a freezer and holding a red popsicle. The freezer door is open, revealing an assortment of colorful contents, many of which are ice cream containers. There is handwritten text next to the person that reads, “Permission to eat any food without shame frees us up to make choices from a place of care.”  

The second doodle is of that same person with their hair down, laying down as a blanket is covering all but their feet, with bunny slippers sitting next to them. Their eyes are wide open, and a thought bubble is drawn in the corner, showing them standing in front of the freezer and only one carton of ice cream is inside. Handwritten text next to the thought bubble says, “Saying no to food rules (when, what, how much, etc) reduces anxiety and lets us hear our own body’s signals.”

The third doodle is of the same person with brown hair pulled up into a bun, wearing a tank top and shorts with slippers, standing in front of a freezer. The freezer door is open, revealing an assortment of grey-colored contents, many of which are health-food containers. There is one glowing container of ice cream in the center. Handwritten text next to the person reads, “Stocking up on ‘binge foods’ (with permission to eat it, NOT kept to ‘prove’ your willpower in resisting) can be an effective way to reduce binge eating.”

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