What I’m Excited About: Intuitive Eating
I feel I should take a break amidst all this chatter about therapeutic diets to slow down and change gears for a minute. Over the time I’ve spent talking to hundreds of people about how they eat, I’ve come to think of what I do as “food therapy”. I mean that on two levels. The first is the one I’ve been expounding upon ad naseum of late: eating in a certain way as therapy for health conditions. The second one, however, I think is at least as important for true, lasting wellness, and that is healing the way in which the person deals with food.
I am not a therapist by training. But when in talking to people about what they eat and why, I can’t help but get into some intimate territory with people. Food is too big of a deal to not have a major impact on seemingly unrelated parts of our lives. I’ve come to learn over the years that not everybody needs a medically-prescribed diet. Sometimes the more important work is to just come to peace with food.
Drafting on this awareness, I was very excited at the start of 2015 to have the opportunity to start training for certification in Intuitive Eating. It’s a philosophy I’ve been aware of for years because of my work in the field of eating disorders. I’d read the book, and I always liked it for myself. I always kind of had it in mind as an eventual goal for where my patients would end up, so certification seemed like a good idea. Now, being a month into the process, I can say that my enthusiasm has only been amplified by each training session I’ve had. It’s thrilling to be accruing some skills that will allow me to concretely implement something I’ve known to be true for my patients for some time: a healthy long-term diet is one where you are at peace.
Intuitive Eating is characterized by ten principles. Briefly, as listed on the Intuitive Eating Website, they are:
- Reject the diet mentality.
- Honor your hunger.
- Make peace with food.
- Challenge the food police.
- Respect your fullness.
- Discover the satisfaction factor.
- Honor your feelings without using food.
- Respect your body.
- Exercise—feel the difference [with joyful movement].
- Honor your health [with gentle nutrition].
Intuitive Eating, as I see it, is a way to forge a lasting healthy relationship between your food, your body and your mind. It’s not just about eating for physical health, and it’s not just about absolving yourself of food-related guilt. It’s about coming to a place where you support your body and your body supports you. You’re in tune with how your body communicates its needs to you, and you can communicate back by supplying those needs in the right way.
It’s not news to me that it doesn’t matter that you have perfect, by-the-book health metrics when your daily life is miserable. (I would, for the record, put having a tortured relationship with food and body squarely in the “miserable” category.) I have always believed that my work of getting people better nourished was about really about creating overall wellness—and that just flat out does not exist in the absence of happiness. But I’m really happy to be able to put that belief into practice in more concrete ways. Going forward, my patients can expect a lot more of the Intuitive Eating philosophies and tools to show up in our sessions. I hope you find it as gratifying as I do.