What is intuitive eating? It is our body’s natural ability to regulate how much we eat and what we want to eat in order to get the right balance of nutrients and energy. A baby or toddler is the perfect intuitive eater. Have you ever tried to feed a child that doesn’t want another spoonful to eat?? They will cry when they are hungry, lose interest when they’ve had enough, and seem to change their taste preferences daily!
But as we get older and start to absorb the world around us we take in lots of different messages that affect the way we eat and the way we see our body.
To become an intuitive eater we first have to totally reject diet culture. If you still have the idea that you want to diet in the back of your head you can’t truly lean into IE. I’m not saying that is easy, and you’ll see through this session that it’s totally understandable to feel like you should lose weight, but it is something to be aware of that to really become an intuitive eater you need to park that for now.
So let’s look at what diet culture is.
Diet culture is all those messages around us that tell us we’re not good enough as we are. You might be surprised when you start to look into it just how much of this stuff is around us, just there, in the background, being soaked up by our subconscious.
They tell us to lose weight, change the way you look, be smaller, be thinner.
They are everywhere. These messages are in magazines, tv ads, tv programmes, social media, and even in conversation with friends and family.
The world around us is not kind to people in bigger bodies so this adds to you feeling like you should conform. Waiting rooms often have seats with arms, which are uncomfortable for fat people. Seat belts on planes are limited so you have to ask for an extender. People have expectations of how you live your life – are you lazy, or greedy etc. Health care is often not what you’d like it to be – lack of suitable size equipment, lesser quality care from medical staff, doctors etc, and the advice is often to lose weight.
These things all filter into your head and you start to believe them.
To me, these messages are a form of discrimination. Just as you wouldn’t expect people to change their height, hair colour, race, or disability, we shouldn’t expect people to change their body shape or size.
We feel the need to diet in order to achieve those things, but we need to question that. Diets sell us the dream life, which in reality doesn’t exist. Are you ‘better’ when you’re thinner? Are you happier? Are you actually fitter? Are you healthier? Most of those changes come from other behaviours like more movement in your life, not due to dieting. After all, thinner people can have health and wellbeing issues too right?
How many diets have you actually done and what were the results of those diets? Did you really achieve your dream lifestyle because of it? Many don’t work, or they work in the short term and then they slow down. There is no research that shows long term weight loss is maintained past 2-5 years. None!
Diets are also often actually very stressful. They make life tricky. They make you think about food all day. They make you track everything. They don’t fit in with family life, social events etc. They can be expensive – think of all the meetings, special foods, shakes, magazines and other promotional materials you’ve bought.
They often ruin your love of a certain food. Do you now eat less bread or cheese for example, because they are now thought of as bad? Do you eat less fruit and vegetables now because you had to eat so many while on a diet.
All diets rely on restriction and unreasonable rules. They don’t allow food groups or types of food. Think carb free, keto, sugar free, fat free, and the less obvious – like cutting out things we like, like bread or chocolate. Or maybe they encourage eating at a certain time of day only, eating but only if you exercise enough, or eating a set amount of a food and having limits on quantities in the form of points or syns. On your diet can you really eat anything you want when they say that?
But diets don’t take into account your genetics, your socio-economic status, health conditions and disabilities, your metabolism, your history of weight stigma and weight cycling, gender, your upbringing, your food preferences. Did you know that there are over 100 genes that control body shape and size before we’re even born? Dieting is trying to fight that. It tries to fight your DNA, your genetics, Mother Nature. It’s no wonder the body tries to rebel after a while and stops losing weight.
So with all of this new insight and information, here are your tasks for today:
- How many sources of diet culture do you recognise around you? Take some time while you’re sat watching TV, or pottering around through your day, to make a list of ways in which you are being swayed towards losing weight or made to feel like you should change your body.
- How many of those things on the list do you think affect you, whether obviously or subtly? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. No judgement, just observations.
- Consider how many diets you have done. How many worked? How many worked long term? And how did those diets make you feel while you were doing them?
- What rules do you still have in your life around food, that are hanging on from diets you have done?
- How would it feel to not diet any more?
Feel free to journal your thoughts for yourself in private, or feel free to put your thoughts in the comments section here.