Ask the Dietitian Tuesday

Welcome to Ask the Dietitian Tuesday!

A new weekly feature. You ask, I answer.

Please send in your questions and I look forward to keeping you all in the loop!

Adriana from Ambler asks: Diets haven’t worked for me in the past because I get tired of the same foods or fall of the wagon. How is Intuitive Eating different? This is an excellent question Adriana! Thanks for asking 🙂

There are many many differences between dieting and Intuitive Eating but the biggest difference is that IE is not a diet at all! Dieting relies on an external source to tell us what, when and how much to eat. IE relies on our own internal wisdom to tell us what, when and how much to eat. What if it wasn’t you failing a diet but the diet failing you? Before you panic at the thought of never dieting again…Let me explain.

There is not a single diet that exists that allows a person to eat what, when and how much they want. As we all know, even “programs” such as Whole 30 or Weight Watchers, that claim to be different than diets, both fall into the category of dieting. Whole 30 restricts major food groups and Weight Watchers allows freedom of choice within a certain number of “points” but once those “points” are used than the diet rubber hits the preverbal road. But, you say, “I just need someone to tell me what to eat!”

We believe that if we are left to our own devices, er, I mean – wisdom we will binge on chips and ice cream and cookies. We have learned not to trust our own bodies, almost from the moment of birth we have been in distrust training. It happened when we cried and were fed. Sometimes, in those very early days of life, we were indeed hungry and fortunately the adults in charge listened and responded to our needs with a breast or bottle. But, likely there were times when we cried because we were bored, sad, tired or uncomfortable and because our adults weren’t always completely in tune with the sound of different types of cries we were often offered food to silence those cries.

As we grew, we may have asked for a snack before dinner and were told, “dinner is in a half hour.” We may have heard the phrases, “no dessert until you eat your vegetables.” Or perhaps we were forced to, “clean our plates.” Maybe we skipped breakfast and got hungry at school at 10 am and our teacher said, “It’s not time for lunch yet.” There were other times too, when we skinned our knee or were being bullied at school and our caring adults offered us a cookie. In college, most of us likely drowned our love sorrows in a pint of ice cream at least once!

It’s no wonder we don’t trust our bodies. Every time we have ever tried to follow a diet, we have fallen off the wagon and binged on foods that were restricted while following the diet. We got sick of eating the same foods and we dreamed about bread! That led us to say to ourselves, “See, I absolutely can not be trusted to have (fill in the blank) in the house.” We feel disappointed and betrayed by our bodies. We beat ourselves up claiming to lack willpower or discipline. Many of us loathe our bodies. We curse our arms for not being smaller, our bottoms for not being firmer and our muffin tops… well, they just need to go away!

But, What if there was a way to make peace with your body? A way to begin to appreciate and trust our bodies – a way that even if we never reached a place of body love, could lead to body acceptance. What if there was a way that we could relearn to tune into our own wisdom and allow our own bodies to tell us what, when and how much to eat? We were born with this wisdom just as every other animal on the planet is. In fact, we still have it, although it may have been buried under years of diet culture.

That’s what Intuitive Eating is. IE is a way of relearning how to tune into this inner wisdom. It was created by two dietitians who live and work in LA, a place where body size is under a microscope. Evelyn Tribole and Elise Resch created 10 principles – not steps, not rules, but principles. 1. Reject the Diet Mentality. 2. Honor your Hunger 3. Make Peace with Food 4. Challenge the Food Police 5. Respect your Fullness 6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor 7. Honor Your Feelings without Using Food 8. Respect your Body 9. Exercise – Feel the Difference 10. Honor your Health

You may notice a few things right off the bat, like there are no rules, no restricted foods, no amounts of good foods are listed, as a matter of fact – good nutrition isn’t addressed at all!!?? Righto, you got it. Instead of an external source (a diet plan) telling you can or cannot eat, IE is a plan to help you to begin to rely on internal sources to tell you what to eat. What are those internal sources? Your hunger level, your satiety level, listening for what foods sound good, what foods and what amounts will make you feel better in this moment.

With IE, there is no “falling off the wagon.” There is no failing, you don’t need willpower or discipline but you do need to begin to listen to your own body. Only you know what you need at any one moment. Maybe your body is asking for movement and not a cup of coffee when you get that mid afternoon slump. Perhaps a chocolate chip scone is calling to you from the bakery case but when you bite into it it’s dry and tasteless so you throw the rest away and plan to find a scone recipe online when you get home. You make a delicious batch of scones, which taste amazing so you eat one or two or maybe more. Scones for dinner, yes please! Then freeze the rest to enjoy at another time. Because you know this won’t be the last time you ever have a scone. There is no mantra of, tomorrow I will buckle down and get serious about my diet.

Of course, with IE there will be times when you overeat, binge on Ben and Jerry’s and find yourself feeling awful, but these are not failures, my loves, these are lessons and they come from a place of discovery not shame. You are not a robot, but a human and being human means having a human experience such as overeating. It’s ok, give yourself a hug and move on. IE is a practice, just like learning to walk or play the piano. The more you practice, the better you get. The more “lessons” you experience the more intuitive you become until one day, you look back and realize, you had the wisdom all along. You feel better than you have in years, your health has improved (mental and physical), and you and your body have come to a place of mutual respect and trust. Doesn’t that sound delicious!

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy Halloween!

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Hi! I'm Heather: a body positivity, Health at Every Size dietitian. When I'm not blogging about wellness, I'm spending time with my fabulous family. Sometimes, they wear me out, so then it's time to bake, read, knit, tie myself into a yoga pose, or continue to work my first novel... stay tuned.