Thursday, 22 January 2015

Does Intuitive Eating Work?

Is Intuitive Eating the answer to every woman's weight loss prayers?

So you're in diet hell, feeling crazy around food and looking for the solution to finally end your food obsession and lose weight. Then you discover "the" solution: Intuitive Eating, also known as Mindful Eating.

I'm not entirely sure if everyone is aware of what exactly Intuitive Eating is. So here is a brief definition from the very trusty source that is Wikipedia and I have also included some of the most common rules this way of eating encompasses.

So what is it?
"Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body's natural hunger signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight, rather than keeping track of the amounts of energy and fats in foods. It's a process that is intended to create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, making it a popular treatment for disordered eating and eating disorders. Intuitive eating, just like many other dieting philosophies, goes by many names, including non-dieting or the non-diet approach, normal eating, wisdom eating, conscious eating and more".

1. Only eat when you are hungry.
2. Eat consciously and enjoy every mouthful.
3. Eat what your body desires not what you think you "should" eat.
4. Stop eating once you are satisfied.

My humble opinion
So I'll cut to the chase and just put it out there straight away, I'm not a huge fan of Intuitive Eating for a number of reasons, which I'll now go on to explain.

The way people approach Intuitive Eating is a huge part of why so many people have little success with it. When people stop dieting and begin to try and eat intuitively, whether or not they know they're doing it, they actually approach Intuitive Eating like another diet. By following this set of rules; only eating when you're hungry, eating slow, stopping when full etc. you're basically just practising another form of food restriction. To me, there is a huge difference between what I like to call the "Intuitive Eating Diet" and giving up dieting for good - in order to end food obsession and change your bad body image.

Now I do know that Intuitive Eating is how we are "meant" to eat. I have to acknowledge that it is an incredible wisdom within us that allows us to eat a sufficient amount of food in order to match our energy output. However, the fact this is how we "should" eat isn't a valid enough argument for me; one of the selling lines for the 5:2 or Intermittent Fasting diets were that cave men (and women!) ate food when they had access to it and would then "fast" until they could hunt and consequently eat again. This caveman example is also used for diets like the Paleo Diet which states we should only eat food our ancestors would have eaten - whole foods like meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts etc. In case you guys haven't noticed, this is the 21st Century; we don't live in caves any more and you're no Wilma Flintstone!

Okay, Flintstone jokes aside, this is something I'm really passionate about. People who have disordered eating and a bad "relationship" with food and their body are often advised to read up on and practise Intuitive Eating. It is held up as "THE ANSWER", the final  and ultimate solution to a problem you've probably dealt with for a large chunk of your life. Whether you've been anorexic, bulimic, a binge eater, a serial dieter, an overeater, an undereater or a hybrid of all of the above - you're probably sat here reading this because you use food for something other that fuel for your body and want to know how to revert back to the "original" attitude you had towards food as a child.

But here's the thing, are you ready for the truth? This reversal back to an entirely normal "relationship" with food is NEVER, EVER GOING TO HAPPEN, like Taylor Swift style never ever. Once you have used food for something other than what it is, you've created a "relationship" with food where there shouldn't be one. There is no such thing as a good or bad relationship with food, a relationship with food is still a relationship. "Normal eaters" or naturally intuitive eaters don't have a relationship with food. Food to them is just food, they enjoy it and it's tasty to them but they don't use food for any emotional reasons.

So what does all this have to do with why I'm not a huge fan of Mindful Eating?
One of the main reasons is because I believe this way of eating, the so-called "solution" to disordered eating, is just like throwing yourself in the deep end with regards to healing your relationship with food and more importantly, with yourself. I would estimate that Intuitive Eating probably works for about 5%-10% of people, in that it's probably a bit more successful than your typical diet due to there being no food groups restricted as such.
However, what do you think you get when you tell a person that is crazy around food not to eat until they're hungry? That they mustn't eat past a certain number on the "hunger and fullness scale"? That they should eat foods their "body" wants not what their "mind" craves? Then add to the mix that it's damn impractical for most normal people with busy lives to eat at snails pace.
The answer: A person that becomes even crazier about food.

So, does it work?
It depends what you mean by the word "work"; if you mean will I lose weight?
Well yes  of course you will, ONLY if you follow the "rules" to the tea because as I said, food restriction is food restriction. If you followed the Atkins diet exactly then you would also lose weight. However I guess if you're here reading this, it's because diets haven't gone so well for you in the past (do they go well for anyone?!).
However, if by the word "work" you mean; will I finally love my body, feel normal around food and stop obsessing? Some say Intuitive Eating is the answer but I'm not so sure myself.

So now you're probably asking:
If Intuitive Eating isn't the answer, what the hell is?
How much should I eat, when should I eat, how can I eat normally and live a normal life not chained to food obsession and bad feelings about my body?

All will be "answered" in my next post on Intuitive Eating so stay tuned!

P.S. I apologise for the excessive use of quotation marks in this article.

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