person eating food

The Intuitive Eating Trend: Trust your Instincts

person eating food

For a better understanding of America’s relationship to healthy and reasonable eating, take a look at the interest in “intuitive Eating”, a non-diet, which advocates eating when you feel hungry, then stopping when you feel full.

Intuitive eating was first suggested in 1995 by Elyse Tribole and Evelyn Resch, registered dietitians. The rise of eating disorders and the avalanche of advice aimed at people about how to best care for their bodies and their own health disturbed them. It is currently in its fourth printing. This was prompted by a surge in popularity and its followers have been appearing here and there. Jessica Knoll, a New York Times columnist on intuitive eating, wrote about it in “Smash The Wellness Industry” –but I think its popularity may be due to the growing number of people who feel exhausted by diet trends.

“If anything has changed in 25 years, it is the fact that more people need to know that eating a variety of healthy foods and listening to your body’s natural cues are better than eating like a caveman or a performance-athlete (unless you are a performance-athlete). The food-combining-colonic combination is one of many “health” trends that I’ve researched for my book. It is often referred to by its advocates as a “cure for disordered eating.” Many dieters are now claiming that they restrict food intake out of vanity, but rather because of a greater concern about their health or the purity of the earth. Weight loss is often seen as a side effect. Shrug!

In today’s diet-slash wellness landscape, intuitive eating is essential. It is important to not consider it another diet, but to start from an understanding of how complex your relationship with food is. Like most women I know, I can list all the diets that I have tried. Elise Loehnen, former CCO of Goop, recently wrote online about quitting “punishing cleanses” after she quit her job in 2020. She then “ate like a teenager for two years” to rebuild a healthy relationship.

In a world where food rejection has become a norm, the intuitive eating movement’s principles sound very sensible. It encourages you to reject diet mentality, make peace and enjoy food, be open to your feelings of hunger, accept your body as it is, and not compare it with Kaia Gerber. There are many bodily variants, so it is important to recognize the ones you have.

Many people don’t believe that adhering to the traditional beauty standards is the best way to live. There is another scary side effect to the nexus between diet and wellness, the rise of orthorexia. Orthorexia is a condition where a desire for health leads to obsessive controlled eating and ultimately malnutrition. It’s similar to anorexia. This term was first used in 1996, a year after Resch and Tribole published their book. It also existed for 20 years before Jordan Younger, a well-known blogger about “wellness”, lost her hair and quit menstruating after following a vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free diet. Younger almost passed out over a pizza. Younger wrote that “it wasn’t even an option for me because I was afraid it would ruin all the hard work I had done to cleanse my system and feel great …. It was my very first week following a plant-based diet and I couldn’t imagine giving up that light, energized feeling it gave to me.”

Too many people live with food restrictions. Younger is a extreme example. However, anyone who has had to cater for the dietary needs even of a small dinner party knows too well that restrictions can dominate our lives.

It may sound obvious, but even functional medicine doctors are not able to eliminate dairy, wheat, or sugar from any diet. Even though the foods are sometimes reintroduced in small amounts, it is difficult to imagine that a diet based on severe restrictions would result in a peaceful relationship with food. Intuitive eating means you will be open with yourself about what your body tells you. While you may swear to your loved ones that you ate an entire bag of Oreos because of your intuition, the goal is to calm down your relationship to food so that cravings don’t escalate to extreme levels once your body is well-nourished and balanced.

The rise in body positivity, which has never seen such a wide range of sizes in advertising and fashion editorials, could go a long ways towards the “respect your bodies” concept. It also could help to raise awareness about eating disorders. Maybe in an insane world, with social isolation enforced and all the other problems we have been dealing with, eating pasta on your Italian holiday, having a cheeseburger at the backyard barbecue, and then stopping when you feel like it is too much is the right idea.

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