Whether you come to see me because you want to get in shape, resolve chronic gut issues or improve your energy levels, or if you’re health conscious and keen to take a proactive and long-term approach to your wellbeing, I believe that everyone can benefit from taking an intuitive approach to their eating habits.
However, for the many clients I see whose relationship with food has deteriorated over the years, who have become disconnected from what their body really needs due to enduring too many strict dietary regimes - weight-loss diets in particular, learning to eat intuitively is essential to finding freedom from dieting and a path back to a more human and natural way of eating.
Intuitive Eating is about trusting your own ability to meet your own needs for nourishment, and respecting your body’s health and your mental and emotional wellbeing first and foremost, and above other goals (such as weight loss!).
I believe it is only by putting your health and wellbeing first and creating an intuitive relationship with food and your body, that you can create the right environment for your body to thrive, and in turn reach and maintain the natural healthy weight for you.
Eating intuitively can also help improve digestion and physiological markers of health like blood glucose control, cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as promote a healthier psychological attitude.
Intuitive Eating itself is actually a very distinct methodology and set of clinical tools developed by dieticians, which teaches you that you, and only you, are the best person to make choices about what you eat.
It is a long-term move away from rigid external rules, and instead, learning to eat mindfully and in accordance with your body’s natural appetite and physiological cues. It’s essentially the opposite of a traditional ‘diet’.
Hand-in-hand with Intuitive Eating comes the concept of body neutrality and in practice that means building a peaceful acceptance and respect for your body that may have diminished if you’ve been at war with it through chronic dieting or punishing exercise regimes, for example.
Ever had a gut feeling that something or someone is very right for you, or very wrong for you?
This phenomenon is called interoception and it involves sensing the internal state of your entire body. It’s your ability to sense and respond to all of your body processes and signals, including emotions, hunger, fullness and satisfaction.
When we’re babies our interoceptive awareness is high - we intuitively know exactly what we want and how much. Intuitive Eating can re-acquaint you with this, helping you build the skills that allow you to better ‘hear’ the messages from your gut, or second brain, (especially important for those with digestive disorders), as well as helping navigate you through eating choices, and indeed life at large.
It’s been proven that diets don’t work. By this I mean the endless faddy, restrictive and impersonal regimes propounded by the weight-loss industry, as well as by any non-qualified party promising a ‘quick fix’ to weight-loss, or even to health concerns in some instances.
Such damaging approaches based on inflexible rules, calorie counting and unnecessary food restriction, have been shown to slow the metabolism, set the scene for a feast-famine mentality, binging, rebound weight-gain and they undermine a person’s innate ability to recognise their body’s own hunger and fullness signals i.e. they disconnect them from their intuition.
For those people with chronic challenges with disordered eating, undertaking a pure Intuitive Eating programme means prioritising Intuitive Eating above all other goals - including nutrition, which can itself sometimes be restrictive (and I’m a nutritional therapist saying this!) and therefore could keep some people locked in a pattern of food obsession or feelings of guilt around the ‘wrong’ choices.
However, in my clinical experience with my client-base, Intuitive Eating practices pair really well with a gentle approach to nutrition that promotes health alongside satisfaction and taste, and that encourages dietary variety and achieving a healthy balance over time.
That’s why I have trained in Intuitive Eating and integrated the practices into my Reconnect programme - to take my clients on a complete wellbeing journey to a more pleasurable, peaceful and sustainable relationship with food, which connects them with their emotional needs and self-care, as well as encourages a flexible, nourishing and diverse approach to food and eating, based on the concept of ‘eating the rainbow’.
Tribole and Resch who developed the scientifically-proven approach and framework, have laid-out the the ten basic principles which make up the Intuitive Eating philosophy here: