Intuitive Eating Chapter 2: What intuitive eating ISN’T (and what it is)

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I like to think of intuitive eating (lower case) as a hardwired programme that we’re born with – babies eat when they’re hungry, enjoy their milk, slow down as they’re filling up, and finish when content. Then nap, probably. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could nap after every meal?

< Enjoy this picture of baby Athena chilling with a boob before we get onto actual useful stuff.  Cute lil fluffy noggin. I do love babies. 


Somewhere along the road, that programme becomes messed up with messages about “what”, “when”, and “how much” to eat, with the sole aim of manipulating our weight, so much so that I guarantee every single one of you reading this will have examples of a few rules you know about each of those things.

“what” – Low carb? Low cal? Low fat? Clean? No UPFs? Only healthy. Nothing naughty.

“when” – only in an 8 hour eating window? Not after 7pm? Wait until a mealtime, don’t snack even if you’re hungry?

“how much” – whatever myfitnesspal tells you? Only xyz grams of carbs? Never finish everything on your plate?

I bet you can add to those, even if you don’t follow them. At some point, those ideas about food will have found some way into disrupting your hardwired ability to eat what you need and not have to think much about it apart from “that was nice” and “now I feel good”.

Intuitive Eating (upper case) is a concept created by 2 dieticians in 1995 to create a framework for people to get back to being able to eat intuitively. It takes us through 10 principles which remove all of the shit that has gotten in the way of our programming, so that we can get back to making relaxed and useful choices about what, when and how much to eat.

What Intuitive Eating ISN’T – “that sounds great for other people but if I let myself eat whatever I want whenever I want I’d spend all day eating crap”. That’s everybody’s first thought – which isn’t at all a surprise, because we’ve had a lifetime of external influences (parents, tv, magazines, diet books, people on the internet) telling us “what”, “when” and “how much” to eat, thus teaching us that we can’t trust ourselves.

I have some research results for you:

People with high intuitive eating scores are better at stabilising their weight and have reduced instances of overeating. They tend to have lower bmi and better psychological health. And they’re less preoccupied with food and dieting, eat a wide variety of food, with more fruit and vegetables

Links here 1 2 3 4 5

The key thing that underpins the ability of someone to get back being able to eat intuitively is the understanding that weight and health are not directly correlated. More weight does not automatically mean less health. Losing weight is often prescribed almost medicinally as a way to fix a health problem – which is like addressing a chronic smoker’s yellowing teeth by cleaning them.

Most assumptions about weight and health are based on correlational date, not causational.

Correlation – ice cream sales and drowning incidents tend to increase at the same time.

Causation – ice cream does not cause drowning.

Missing link – hot weather, people buy ice creams and get into water more often.

I’m not here to convince you of anything. I’m here to build the groundwork for intuitive eating to work if you fancy spending the rest of your life chilled out around food. That starts with knowing that Intuitive Eating ONLY WORKS if you accept that weight and health aren’t the same thing. Consider it a spectrum; you might be at one end of the spectrum “if I squint I can see that makes sense Shell but it’s hard to totally accept right now because what about xyz?” or the other end “I’m SO HAPPY to read this I want to cry

I don’t care where you are right now as long as you’re following me at some distance or other.

There’s plenty of time to catch me up 😉


Next episode: Principle 1 – STOP DIETING (here’s why)

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