During my recovery, Binge Eating Disorder – Personal Story food was the enemy. I felt guilt, shame, anxiety and stress around it.
If you ever felt those feeling around food, let me introduce you to this concept that helped me, the Gentle Nutrition Approach.
First off, let’s start with a definition of intuitive eating.
An intuitive eater is a person who “makes food choices without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma, honours hunger, respects fullness and enjoys the pleasure of eating.”
I also think that it’s important to emphasise that intuitive eating is an ongoing process in which you cannot fail. Yes, that’s right. It is a inwards journey, not an outside one.
Intuitive eating is a lifelong journey to become more in touch with our bodies’ signals. It does get much easier over time, specially after a long term of yo yo dieting, it becomes very difficult to recognise our hunger and fullness clues “eating when truly hungry and stopping when satisfied.”
That’s part of it and we also have to understand that there are times when we will eat past fullness and that’s okay, other times when we might not be able to get to food when we’re hungry and that’s okay too. When we become an intuitive eater, we approach this moments with curiosity instead of judgement and explore how we behave and feel about it.
Note: Fullness is a physical feeling of being done eating, you’re tummy feels comfortable and you probably won’t start to get hunger signals for another few hours. Satisfaction is the emotional feeling of being done after eating. you’ve enjoyed the meal and you feel like the meal “hit the spot”, happy and satisfied.
I’ve been educating many of my clients on the idea of “gentle nutrition.”
“Honour your health with gentle nutrition.” This concept means you will learn how to trust your body signals as well as use your nutrition knowledge to appropriately fuel your body. There are no judgements, or preconceived notions on how your body should be fuelled.
To quote Tribole and Resch: ““Make food choices that honour your health and taste buds while making you feel well. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters – progress not perfection is what counts.”
One meal, one day of even one week of eating off a schedule isn’t going to detrimentally affect your health (considering that you don`t have a special condition or food allergies, of course). It’s about giving yourself permission to enjoy food and enjoy life.
You trust that your body will lead the way.
With the concept of gentle nutrition in mind, let me answer some common questions
1) Well, if I eat intuitively, I’m afraid of going “the other way” and eat “too much.”
So, what does eating too much actually mean? Does it mean feeling really full? Or mean eating more than the perfect meal plan you think you were supposed to eat? I prefer to explore with clients what worries them about “eating too much”.
I was scared of that too, and guess what? When we give up restricting the “forbidden foods”, they stop being so appealing to us. If this is something that resonates with you, or If you’re really concerned or confused about the signals your body is sending, I encourage you to get in touch and ask some questions, or journal about it for yourself.
“Eating too much” is the body’s natural response to being restricted for so long. Our body is cleverly programmed to keep us alive.
2) What about healthy eating? You can’t just eat whatever all day long.
Well, actually you can! I’ve seen so many clients, including myself, work through the process of intuitive eating and it’s amazing to see when they transition into trusting their bodies, it feels amazing! When you eat “whatever” you fancy, all day long, your meals consist of a variety of different foods that are nutritionally adequate and balanced.
This includes, but is not limited to fruits and veggies. If you feel like living on candy forever, you are using food as a main source of joy, to numb your uncomfortable feelings or to reward yourself; work on differentiating true hunger from emotional hunger.
Gentle nutrition doesn’t mean you will start eating or not eating a certain food. Yes, you can keep nutrition in mind and increase fruit and vegetable intake because it feel good in your body, but it doesn’t make you a terrible person if you go a few days without having your 5 a day.
3) I’ve been struggling for ED for so long, how can I just flip the switch and eat intuitively?
Keep in mind that intuitive eating is an ongoing process. I see my previous Eating Disorder as a blessing in my life, every time something is off and I try to ignore an uncomfortable feeling, I immediately reflect it on my eating patterns. When this happens, I step back and try to figure it what bothering me on my own or I speak to my therapist. It`s works like a thermometer for me. I had to learn how to approach it with kindness, instead of judging myself.
When I am working on this idea with clients, we take a session or two to dive into the very first principle of intuitive eating, and explore all the limiting beliefs that are still there.
Basically, it’s important to feel out where your eating disorder or the diet culture still has control over you. Now, we all live in a diet culture world, so navigating against it’s messages can often be tricky. We need to listen to advertisements, especially ones that advertise body changes, with a critical ear. This way, you can work on identifying what’s BS and have the tools to move on from it.
4) What if my body changes when I listen to its signals?
Well, it might. I personally experienced my weight going up and down for a while until it finally reached its natural and healthy set point. Dietitians who do this work with clients can’t make any promises that your body won’t change.
Respecting your body and fuelling it properly, tapping into what you’re body is actually telling you vs. using outside signals, practising true body acceptance from the inside out; will bring a lot more than just a thin body, it will allow you to experience sustainable health, food freedom, peace of mind and overall joy.
I hope this post made things more clear for you, get in touch if you have any questions.