Mindful eating and intuitive eating often go hand in hand… but is there a problem with conflating the two as the same?
If you’ve ever perused the intuitive eating webiverse, you might notice that this kind of eating is often discussed alongside other terms, mainly “mindful eating.”
Mindful eating is something that’s brought up in the intuitive eating conversation a lot, and it’s definitely an important part of the process. Mindful eating is way of relating to food that encourages true connection with what we put into our mouths, and asks us to investigate whether or not we truly enjoy our experience with certain foods. It helps us to figure out what we’re craving, and lends a helping hand when we feel distracted in our eating behaviors.
In short, there’s no doubt that mindfulness is a key ingredient to healing from chronic dieting and disordered eating behaviors.
But there are some key differences between the two methods, and I think it’s important to highlight them! Ultimately, intuitive eating is about learning to trust our bodies. Dieting tells us to ignore our internal cues, and to try and override them. But intuitive eating acknowledges that our bodies really are smart, and when we let go of all the arbitrary, man-made food rules and step out of the way, our body really knows how to lead us in the right direction! This also means that the real goal of intuitive eating is to LET GO around food.
I’ll say that again: Unlike mindfulness, which encourages conscious and non-judgmental connection with your food, intuitive eating is about letting go around food.
While learning to check in with yourself and being mindful around food choices is something you learn while making peace with food, it’s a part of the larger practice and process of becoming an intuitive eater. Once you reconnect with your body’s needs and really let go of rules and expectations around food and your body, the joy in intuitive eating is in being able to NOT think about food all the time! That is the essential difference between mindful eating, and why I think they really should be discussed as separate entities; modes of eating that complement one another, but are not one in the same.
So if you’re at a place with intuitive eating that sitting in front of Netflix during dinner brings you joy, don’t let shame around not being mindful with your eating steer you away.
We are allowed to discover ways of eating that work best for us as individuals!
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Dipping Your Toes into Intuitive Eating
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Written by Ashley Seruya, B.A.
Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She is certified as an eating disorder specialist and is passionate about helping women at midlife, menopause and beyond to make peace with food and body image.
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