I often get asked, “So, as a future dietician, what do you eat”? Well, I’d like to say that (a) I’m perfect (hah!) and (b) because I’m so athletic I don’t have to worry about paying attention to my diet, but the truth is, we all can stand to pay a bit more attention to not just what, but how we eat. One of my nutrition professors at the UW is a big fan of “intuitive eating,” and it’s something I’ve been trying out a bit more lately. It’s not necessarily a strategy for losing weight (though people often do lose weight when they follow these strategies) but it’s more of an “awareness tool” that can be used by anyone whose diet may be lacking structure, balance or control.
It’s also a way of getting people who may be TOO focused on food to have a healthier relationship with food. And, by “too” focused I mean both people who eat too much food in general, as well as those people who are constantly on a diet, “watching what they eat,” and/or otherwise obsessing about their food choices.
And, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fall into one or more of these latter categories more frequently than is perhaps necessary (and/or healthy). There are pros and cons of being a lifetime athlete (and nutrition student) – including being super in touch with my body and my athletic performance (yay), but also a bit too focused on every single item I eat (not so yay) and whether or not it will enhance my running, my body composition, etc.
Evelyn Tribole (MS, RD) has written a number of books on Intuitive Eating and has outlined 10 basic principles. I’ll summarize here, but you can also check out her books on Amazon.com or visit her website. She is a super smart chick. If you’d like to feel a bit more at peace with food – and eat healthy while enjoying all the amazing tastes good food has to offer – give it a try!
1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Diets are temporary, hard to sustain, and not always successful. You need to think about eating for a lifetime of health and fitness. Period.
2. Honor Your Hunger. Feed your body if it’s hungry. Your body is telling you it needs fuel. Trust yourself to eat when hungry and stop when full. Listen to and trust your body!
3. Make Peace with Food. Stop fighting it. Allow yourself permission to eat (when hungry). Don’t deprive yourself. This just leads to uncontrollable cravings, binge eating and/or feelings of guilt. These do not belong in your life.
4. Challenge the Food Police. Don’t listen to people (or the voices in your head) who tell you what you can and can’t eat, what things are “good” or “bad.” Trust yourself. And, educate yourself on what is healthy food. That way you and you alone will know what is best for you.
5. Respect Your Fullness (the corollary to #2). While eating, observe your body and its signs. Ask yourself: How does the food taste? What is your fullness level? Try to stop when you are, say, 80% full. Give your body some time to sit with the food you’ve eaten before you add more.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. When you eat what you REALLY want in an environment that is inviting and relaxed, you derive great pleasure from food that can lead to satisfaction and contentment. You may be surprised at how little food you want when you have permission and pleasure to enjoy food.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. Many people use food as comfort or to drown negative feelings. This doesn’t work, and can make you feel terrible. Find ways to seek comfort in other ways – exercise, time with loved ones, a bath, a massage, whatever helps you cope.
8. Respect Your Body. Accept your genetic blueprint and who you are. Sure, you can *definitely* make some changes, get more fit, and improve your overall health, but you can’t become a waif-like supermodel just because you’d like to. Set realistic goals and be kind to yourself.
9. Exercise (Regularly). Enough said.
10. Honor Your Health. Make food choices that honor your health and your taste buds (and make you feel good!). Try not to choose one over the other. Consistency in your food choices is what counts – not a particular meal, snack or even weekend of eating. You are important, and worth it!