How can intuitive eating be “healthy” if I’m “allowed” to eat whatever I want?
There are three questions I’ve heard just this week, in relation to letting go of diets and trying intuitive eating:
“Am I really allowed to eat a bagel?”
“Isn’t it better to avoid processed foods?”
“Isn’t sugar addictive and bad for you?”
They all have one thing in common – the concern about a food or category of foods being “bad” for you.
Even if you don’t realize it, you likely have certain judgments and preconceptions about food. Maybe you think too much sugar will cause acne, or eating processed food is “bad.” These judgments can damage your relationship with food.
Below I describe how all foods can be part of a normal pattern of eating, and that the only way to truly heal your relationship with food is to avoid deprivation.
Your food choices are important but nutritional value and moral value are two different things.
Food is fuel and different foods provide important sources of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals for our body’s functioning. BUT…food is also a source of pleasure and satisfaction. Imagine the smile on your child’s face when you both have an ice cream cone on a hot day, some cake on your birthday, or enjoy a bagel with lox and cream cheese – Yum!
Our society (diet culture) has a narrow view of what healthy food is. Many people don’t have access to grass-fed beef, organic produce and chia seed or avocado smoothies. Food shaming is classist. More people than ever are food insecure during this pandemic and are trying to get the most nutrition for their families, at the lowest cost. Fast food might be just what the doctor ordered. We need to start looking at health as multi-dimensional and consider mental wellness, along with physical, social and financial health.
Intuitive eating teaches you to remove judgment about food.
So here’s the deal … with intuitive eating, you work on dropping the judgement from anything you eat. You give yourself FULL PERMISSION to eat all foods, including foods your brain always told you were “bad” for you.
You do this because the more you deprive yourself of these foods, the more they will call to you. I just had a client tell me that when we first started working together, she ate lots of cookies in one sitting. By giving herself PERMISSION, she can now decide if she wants one cookie, two cookies, or none at all. She knows she can always have them, so the novelty is gone. This is the premise of intuitive eating.
You learn what you and your body enjoys.
A goal of intuitive eating is to ultimately figure out how your body reacts to certain foods; which foods or combinations of foods feel good in your body and which don’t. It’s about noticing that you might have a sugar crash after eating a donut for breakfast on Monday and don’t feel great the rest of the day. You learn to save donuts for those lazy Sundays, instead of before a big work day.
By allowing yourself to eat all the foods you desire (i.e., cake, bagels, etc.) without demonizing them, you create a true sense of food freedom. Simply eat the cake and be done with it. Cake is not good or bad. It has no morality surrounding it. The more you can practice allowing yourself to have what you want, the easier it will become to feel satisfied, rather than going crazy around your food choices.
Are you ready to make peace with food and your body image and get off the diet roller coaster for good?
Download and read the 3 Steps to Making Peace with Food and Your Body Image.
This guide is for you if you are…
- Not in the mood to count calories constantly.
- Always thinking about food as either “Good” or “Bad”.
- Feeling ashamed for doing everything “perfectly,” only to “blow it” by overeating.
- Struggling with anorexia, bulimia, or other eating problems.
- Wanting to avoid passing on your eating struggles and issues to your children.
Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She and her team of eating disorder specialists and Anti-Diet Dietitians provide insurance-based care for eating disorders, disordered eating, chronic dieting, or other health conditions in a safe and non-judgmental space for healing.
We work virtually with our clients from our offices in Westchester County in New York as well as the tri-state areas of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, along with Florida, California, Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas, and Vermont. We are in-network with the following insurance companies: Aetna, Cigna, and United Healthcare; including Oxford, UMR, and The Empire Plan (NYSHIP).
We take the time to learn where you or your family are in the pursuit of health. Respectful of your individual needs and lifestyle, Erica will provide an honest assessment of whether or not you are a good fit to work together. Click here to schedule a 15-minute Discovery Call with Erica to let us know about your needs, and to see which of our Dietitians is the best fit for you!