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.
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.
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…”
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…
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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