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Let’s Taco 'Bout It: Intuitive Eating?

Let’s Taco’ Bout It: Intuitive Eating?

Our society is obsessed with diets, women are told they need to be skinny and men are told they need to fit and muscular. Everywhere you look there's an ad for the newest diet that will help you lose ten pounds overnight. We buy into this, we believe we need to look a certain way to be worthy. We diet, we exercise, we detox. But where is this actually getting us?

Studies show that 80%-98% of diets fail, within two to five years most dieters have gained back the weight they’ve lost. On top of the fact that diets don’t work, dieting also increases your risk of developing an eating disorder, which happens to be the most deadly mental illness.

This is where intuitive eating comes into play. We are born as intuitive eaters. We eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full. As we grow older we lose our ability to listen and respect our bodies natural signals. This happens for a wide range of reasons, one of the most prominent being the messages we receive from social media and society about what our bodies should look like.

The ultimate goal of any eating disorder recovery program is to help us reconnect with our bodies natural cues. This means that if you’re hungry and want cake you’ll have it. If you’re hungry and want some veggies you’ll have some. Eventually you’ll be able to do so without guilt.  

Your body will tell you what it needs, you are the expert of your own body. You know when you are full and hungry. You know your thoughts, feelings, past experiences and how those impact your relationship with food.

There are ten principles of intuitive eating:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality
    Unfollow people who promote quick weight loss, throw out magazines that encourage you to diet. Get angry at diet culture and get rid of anything that promises quick results. Seeing these claims will make it harder to transition to intuitive eating.
  2. Honour Your Hunger
    Listen to your hunger signals and eat enough food. This will keep you from overeating and will help you rebuild trust with your body.
  3. Make Peace with Food
    Give yourself permission to eat anything. The more you limit what food you can and can’t have, the more likely it is that you will overeat and feel guilty after the fact.
  4. Challenge the Food Police
    The Food Police are the voices in your brain that tell you you’re bad for eating certain foods and good for restricting other foods. When the Food Police are telling you harmful things, challenge them by saying “No”. This takes a lot of practice, don’t give up.
  5. Respect Fullness
    Listen to your body when it tells you you’re full, hungry or satisfied. Give yourself a chance to pause before, during and after the meal to reflect on how you’re feeling.
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
    Find the joy in eating delicious food in a pleasant environment. Giving yourself space and time to enjoy food means that you will need less food to feel like you’ve had enough.
  7. Honour Your Feelings without Using Food
    Find new coping strategies, eating might distract you or make you feel better in the moment but in the long run it makes you feel worse. Try something else like journalling, chatting with a friend, etc. If you need some inspiration check out our wellness page for additional coping tips-
  8. Respect your body
    Some people are tall, some people are short, some people have brown skin, some people have white skin, some people have good eyesight, some people need glasses. Genetics are at play in all of these scenarios, the same goes for our weight. Stop fighting with your body, accept, love it, your life will be less stressful as a result. This is hard and will take time, be patient with yourself.
  9. Exercise
    Exercise is a loaded topic, don’t feel the need to exercise for the goal of losing weight. Instead exercise to reconnect with your body. Find an activity you enjoy and observe how you feel during and after. Maybe you feel more energized or relaxed afterwards. Focus on enjoyment and reconnection with your body rather than losing weight.
  10. Honour your Health
    Do things that are good for your body but do so gently. One snack, one day of eating or one day without exercise is not going to ruin your health. It’s what you do consistently, over time, that will have the biggest impact on your health.

Obviously these principals would be difficult for anyone, let alone if you are dealing with an eating disorder. This is something to work towards. Changing your behaviour, attitudes and beliefs around food and your body is a huge undertaking. This work is difficult but it’s worth it!

Intuitive eating has been shown to lead to:

  • Higher self-esteem
  • Better body image
  • More satisfaction with life
  • Optimism and wellbeing
  • Proactive coping skills
  • Lower body mass indexes
  • Lower rates of emotional eating
  • Lower rates of disordered eating

That being said, this approach may not work for everyone. If you fall into that category don’t get discouraged. There are many ways to recover! When exploring recovery options it is very important to consult a therapist and/or a dietitian. They can guide you throughout the recovery process and be your sounding board when trying something new.

If you are interested in learning more about intuitive eating check out Intuitive Eating myths. For additional support and information check out mindyourmind's Eating Disorders - an Overview.