I’ve been listening to a CD about intuitive eating which has a number of different processes to work through in order to move the recipient along the scale toward intuitive eating, one of the three parts that make up a Health at Every Size practice.
Intuitive eating, sometimes called mindful eating, is embracing our bodies inherent ability to regulate food intake in a way that supports our set weight. Our set weight is the weight our bodies naturally return to when we eat intuitively.
The core of intuitive eating is a belief that our bodies are very, very good at keeping us alive, and regulating optimum food intake for optimum size and performance is a simple procedure easily managed.
Take for instance babies. If a baby is not hungry it will not nurse. If it is hungry it will cry and wail until it is fed.
Young children also have this inherent ability to define when they’re hungry and when they’re not. But, as we get older, we are taught by well meaning parents and caregivers to circumvent our natural hunger and fullness signals in order to be more in tune with schedules. Three meals a day, at these times. Don’t snack between meals. Clean your plate.
At the same time we’re taught to associate food with comfort. Oh, you hurt yourself, here have a cookie. That’s exciting, lets celebrate with an ice cream. It’s a feast day.
Add to that framework the messages we receive over and over again about the dangers and humiliations of being fat, messages that are so pervasive studies have shown children as young as four have internalised fears and become anxious about their weight.
Mix with a liberal helping of diets and disordered eating, behaviours we’re spoon fed as being good for us, and it’s not surprising that vast amounts of us can’t even tell when we’re full and when we’re hungry.
Or maybe we can tell when we’re hungry, but we ignore those signals because we’re on a diet, the same outcome is achieved. We’ve disrupted our natural eating system. We’ve done it so well that our bodies feel out of control and many of us have incredible fear about eating.
Intuitive eating or mindful eating is about reconnecting with our inherent system and noticing, and honouring, our internal cues, even if it’s a craving for carbohydrate. Mindful eating is eating what your body craves, when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.
Except, not so much.
Eating is incredibly complex, even if you are eating intuitively. There are times when we eat for comfort. Other times when we eat to smother uncomfortable emotions. Sometimes we eat out of habit and other times we eat because we’re bored or stressed. Sometimes we load up on food when we’re not hungry out of simple practicality since we’re likely to miss dinner and other times we’re sad or upset or whatever and just don’t feel like eating at all.
That’s what I’ve learnt about intuitive eating so far and frankly it seems like this hugely tangled knot that’s going to be impossibly difficult to untangle. But, as the authors of my CD note, learning to drive seemed like this horribly complicated mission at the start as well. Now driving is second nature, and with time intuitive eating will be as well.
I hope so.