I think we’re just tired. No wait, we’re exhausted! We’re so over the toxic effects of diet culture, the never ending pursuit of thinness, and starting the New Year with another rapid and restrictive weight loss plan. We’re emotionally drained, and annoyed by the food obsessions, the shaming, #fitspo, and feeling like we’re not good enough. We’ve finally come to a point where we’re examining the damaging relationships we have with food and body image.
I think we’re ready for a radical change, which is exactly why intuitive eating, an anti-diet approach that gives you permission to make peace with food, and honour your body’s innate ability to regulate hunger and fullness, has been increasing in popularity.
However, the increase in awareness has brought much skepticism, which is understandable because it’s not a traditional structured diet, it’s doesn’t come with a weight loss requirement, and a lot us are very unfamiliar with an approach to eating and nutrition that puts YOU in the drivers seat.
There are many misconceptions about intuitive eating, and I’m going to break down 4 of the biggest myths (that are flat out wrong):
Myth #1: Intuitive eating = an excuse to lose control and over indulge in everything you want
I’m going to start with the #1 myth about intuitive eating that everyone gets wrong. It’s a difficult concept to understand – who WOULDN’T go into a cookie coma if a nutritionist told them to eat whatever you feel like?
I do understand why this myth is so prevelant. I’m willing to bet that whenever you do give yourself permission to loosen the diet reigns and eat what you want, you go alllll out. It might last a day, it might last a week (or longer). But at some point, you put an end to it and start restricting your intake again. By abrubtly putting an end to it, most people would then give themselves a pat on the back.
The problem is that when you do allow yourself to eat your favourite foods, you feel bad about it almost immediately. Most binges are followed by deep shame, which then leads to another diet or restrictive mindset. At some point, you let youself enjoy food again, but it’s to the point where you’re eating copious amount of carbs, and the binge-restrict cycle keeps going.
The truth – When you know that foods are no longer forbidden, and you give yourself unconditional permission to enjoy, you stop giving so much power to food. You put an end the binge-restrict cycle.
When you start your intuitive eating journey, you will most likely over indulge. But wait!!! If you continue reminding yourself that no foods are forbidden, your brain will eventually get the message. “wait a minute, she’s not going to take this all away at any given moment… I don’t need it afterall”
Myth #2: Intuitive eating is not effective for weight loss
It’s not specifically weight focused, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. It puts you in touch with your body and hunger cues, and helps heal your relationship with food, which may (or may not) lead to natural weight loss.
I wouldn’t recommend intuitive eating as a weight loss tool. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend ANY diet in the world to facilitate weight loss.
Consider that diets have exceptionally high failure rates, with some studies citing 96%. So why continue to follow diets that target weight loss if they don’t work?
Instead, I would recommend taking the pressure off weight loss, and focus on breaking the cycle of dieting altogether because shifting your focus and changing your mindset can have a bigger impact on health than you think.
Myth #3: Intuitive eating encourages unhealthy habits and/or obesity
There is a huge misconception that allowing yourself to eat freely, will catapult you into a chocolate-gorging, cant-stop-eating, self-loathing, human being with poor physical health and a myriad of health conditions and diseases.
The reality is that mindful eating, paying attention to hunger cues, checking in with your emotions, strengthening your relationship with food, and finding physical activities that spark joy makes it much more likely that you’ll:
- Eat nutrient-rich foods because it makes you feel good
- Stop eating when you’re full
- Exercise more often because you genuinely love movement
This anti-diet approach isn’t anti-health. It’s actually pro-health.
Intuitive eating removes the guilt, shame, and therefore, the overall power of “sinful” foods, which are often some of the main reasons why we over eat in the first place. You’re also removing the binge-restrict cycle, which is another reason why we “give in” to fierce cravings. This approach to eating is like putting out a fire. Once the fire is out, you can breathe again… the intense cravings go away, and you can make decisions that will impact your health based on hope and possibility, not fear.
Myth #4: Nutrition and health are not important
For too long, we’ve allowed diet culture and our fear of weight gain/obesity to completely control the health, nutrition and wellness industry. Unfortunately, nutrition and exercise are typically used as punishment:
- Severely restricting calories after a “cheat” day
- Skipping meals
- Starting a new trendy diet to slim down
- Two words: detox tea!!!
- Over exercising to burn “weekend” calories
- Charts that show you how many minutes of vigorous exercise you’ll need to cancel out junk food
Even when not used as punishment, nutrition is often used to achieve superiority. As a holistic nutritionist, I do promote healthy eating, and “clean” foods, but will admit that the natural health industry has seemingly created a new diet: Clean Eating. Clean eating has become overwhelmingly popular over the years. It is more of a lifestyle approach that emphasizes the importance of unprocessed, whole foods, which makes it sound like a sensible approach to eating compared to typical diets.
While I absolutely support eating foods that provide maximal nutritional benefits, I’ve noticed the shift over the years. It started with really good intentions, but somewhere along the way, we ended up with a society obsessed with “clean eating”, leading us right back into a diet-driven system that promotes restrictive eating, food guilt, food shaming, and the pursuit of thinness.
Eating high quality foods close to their natural state is important for good health, but emotional and mental health also play a monumental role. If you’re sacrificing any of these to prioritize another, it may not be in your best interest.
Intuitive eating is truly a holistic approach to eating due to it’s dynamic integration between mind and body. It’s a process of honoring health by listening to your body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs.
My hope is that after reading this, you’ve realized that intuitive eating is:
- a truly holistic approach to nutrition
- not about giving into cravings and eating everything in sight
- a gentle and effective way to break the cycle of dieting
- an empowering anti-diet approach that finally puts you back in the drivers seat