I recently wrote a piece for the second issue of my Self Care Zine about how I practice intuitive eating as a part of my own self care. I’m not a writer by any means, but intuitive eating really played a huge part in my own fat acceptance and helped me make peace with my body, so I wanted to share my experience. Here is my piece in its entirety:
In our a diet-centric culture, it’s easy to internalize toxic ideas about weight and assign moral value to food. We’re taught what we should and shouldn’t eat, and when to eat it. Our media is plagued with headlines like, “24 Foods You Should Avoid at All Costs,” “10 Diet Foods that Actually Make You Fat,” and my personal favorite “The Baby Diet: How Eating Like a Toddler Could Help You Lose Weight.” We associate the feeling of guilt with food.We label salads as a “clean” food and pizza as “dirty” or off limits. We set designated free days or cheat meals. We describe good foods as real food and bad foods as sinful. You get the idea.
The truth is, food is neither good or bad. It is merely energy your body needs to function and survive. When we assign moral value to food, we also end up assigning moral value to ourselves for eating it. This is a dangerous way of thinking that can lead to disordered eating habits, extreme dieting, and physiological changes that can negatively affect both your physical and mental health.
I am fat. I’ve always had a complicated relationship with food. Five years ago, I made the decision to start making peace with my body and mending my relationship with food. When I first started getting into fat acceptance, I came across the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement and it was life-changing. According to the HAES website, the movement is “based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control).” It was through HAES that I discovered the concept of intuitive eating.
When we subscribe to strict diets, we are basically saying we don’t trust ourselves to make good decisions. Honoring your body includes trusting your body to make nourishing food choices. Intuitive eating is a hunger-based approach to eating: Listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. It takes the focus away from the dietary aspects of nutrition so we are not limited to eating good foods and avoiding bad foods. In the book On Eating, author Susie Orbach lists the five keys to intuitive eating:
- Eat when you are hungry
- Eat the food your body is hungry for
- Find out why you eat when you aren’t hungry
- Taste every mouthful
- Stop eating the moment you are full
The concept may sound like it should be common sense, but when you have a history of dieting or following socially imposed rules about eating, it can be quite difficult. I have spent so much of my life dieting and consumed with restricting calories that I struggled with recognizing my body’s internal hunger/satiety cues. To remedy this, I’ve dedicated a huge part of my own self care to the practice of intuitive eating.
Over time, I was eventually able to stop viewing food as the enemy and start viewing it as something enjoyable, nourishing, and satisfying (on so many levels). I no longer feel consumed by counting calories or obsessing about gaining weight. I am able to enjoy eating without guilt. I’ve noticed that a lot of times when I think I really want something, I actually don’t want it at all. And I feel healthier, happier, more present, and more energetic.
This is merely an account of my experience with intuitive eating. Please note that I am not a medical doctor. I encourage you to do some research (there is so much information out there!) and/or consult a qualified health care professional before making major changes to your diet. Good luck!