It seems like every month a new diet trend pops up telling us how to lose more weight, eat healthier and uphold a better lifestyle. However, the truth is that fad diets and controlled eating hurt more than they help.
In recent years, intuitive eating has emerged as a lifestyle fix that promises to change individuals’ relationships with food.
VALLEY talked with Alison Rosenberg, LCSW, a clinical social worker, about why trusting your body is the best way to a healthier and happier lifestyle.
The first and most important distinction to make is to separate and differentiate eating disorders from disordered eating. Eating disorders are what people most commonly think of as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. These disorders are different than disordered eating and require serious professional help, as they are more often associated with psychological issues rather than self-confidence.
Disordered eaters, Alison says, “are eaters who grew up thinking they were too skinny, too fat, or for some other reason purposefully change the way they eat to try and get the body they want.”
For example, disordered eaters are those who try to fight the way they feel, causing themselves to starve or overeat.
In order to understand why dieting, juice cleanses and intermittent fasting are so popular, it’s important to figure out why we choose to put ourselves through the financial, physical and emotional burden of them. A main culprit is, of course, the media. We are all often told that we need to look a certain way or we are exposed to Instagram models who promote fit tea and certain diet regimens — all of it is toxic.
Alison says, “We don’t listen to ourselves, we listen to all these outside forces, but we don’t trust the source — our own body.”
The key is to listen to your own body. When your body is telling you it’s time to eat, it’s time to eat; don’t starve yourself and don’t overeat. This is what intuitive eating is all about, but of course, there are nuances to the habit. It’s important to thoroughly understand the history and the philosophy behind it.
There are many key players in the growing popularity in intuitive eating who have shaped the movement and established healthy grounds to follow your body’s signals.
Sandra Aamodt, a pioneer in the mindful eating movement, wrote the book “Why Diets Make Us Fat.” Aamodt also studied the participants on “The Biggest Loser,” a TV show that focuses on losing extreme amounts of weight and healthy living. Through Sanda’s research, she discovered something surprising about the human body. Every participant on the show averaged around 400 pounds and was able to lose around 200 pounds during the course of the show. However, almost all of the participants gained back the majority — if not more — of their original weight post-show.
From an evolutionary perspective, our bodies do not know the difference between going from 400lbs to 200lbs, or 100lbs to 90lbs. Our bodies need to maintain a set weight, therefore conserving fat and slowing down our metabolism to preserve that weight as if we were going through a famine. Losing a dramatic amount of weight and restricting your body from food is like trying to fight biology. There are signals put in place to tell us when we need to eat and what foods we want to eat, and this is where intuitive eating comes into play.
Intuitive eating is considered one of the best and healthiest ways to lose weight, as it encourages people to eat when hungry and stop when satisfied. The human body finds a way to maintain where it’s supposed to be through balance.
“That’s the best way to lose weight; it’s very unhealthy to punish your body with restrictions and limitations,” says Alison.
Here are the 10 principles of intuitive eating created by Evelyn Tribole, author of Intuitive Eating:
- Reject the diet mentality. Diet culture is a toxic mentality that will keep you from freeing yourself.
- Honor your hunger. When you need to eat, eat. Honor those biological signals.
- Make peace with your food. Allow your body to eat what it’s craving, these intense feelings of deprivation can lead to unhealthy binging.
- Challenge the food police. Don’t think about good as eating minimally and what’s bad as indulging.
- Discover the satisfaction factor. Find pleasure in the eating experience, don’t punish yourself.
- Feel your fullness. Listen to the body signals that tell you you’re no longer hungry.
- Cope with your emotions with kindness. Recognize that food restriction can be a form of emotional punishment and instead realize the comfort in it.
- Respect your body. Feel better about who you are and try not to be as overly critical of your body size or shape–all bodies deserve dignity.
- Movement-Feel the difference. Just get active and feel the difference in how it feels to move your body rather than just burning calories.
- Honor your health-Gentle nutrition. You don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy, it’s about the progress.
The most important thing to remember is that the goal of intuitive eating is the process, not the weight loss. You will get where your body is supposed to be and where your body is comfortable. Michelle May, the author of “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat,” sums up the process perfectly by saying, “set your intention to feel better when you finish eating than you did when you started.”
If you or a friend needs help with disordered eating, weight management, or other body image issues, please contact University Health Services and request an appointment with a case manager. You can also get started by contacting Counseling and Psychological Services for a phone screening.