Intuitive eating: The non-diet that lets you eat anything you want

Written by Nina Crow

Intuitive eating: The non-diet that lets you eat anything you want

Carbs? Sure. Gluten? Why not?

There are no rules in intuitive eating, a “non-diet food plan” that has former Keto connoisseurs and Atkins aficionados embracing a liberating approach to meals.

The #IntuitiveEating hashtag has popped up on more than 1.5 million Instagram posts, with celebrities such as Jameela Jamil praising the concept. Even Gwyneth Paltrow has hopped on board — sort of — publishing “Intuitive Fasting,” by Will Cole, through her Goop Press last month.

It’s easier to explain intuitive eating by what it is not (a diet) than by what it is.

There are no rules in intuitive eating, a "non-diet food plan" that has former Keto connoisseurs and Atkins aficionados embracing a liberating approach to meals. (iStock)

Evelyn Tribole, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of “Intuitive Eating for Every Day,” who invented the concept in 1995 with fellow dietitian Elyse Resch, describes it as a “journey of self-discovery and connection to the needs of your mind and body — only you can be the expert on your body.”

With that in mind, intuitive eating asks people to explore what they like, what they don’t like, and what nourishes them on a day-to-day basis.

Moving the scale isn’t the goal

“When you practice intuitive eating, one of three things can happen: Your weight can go up, it can go down or it can stay the same,” says Valery Kallen, a registered dietitian and founder of Nourished Nutrition Therapy.

Instead of weight management, the goal of intuitive eating is to free up brain space, so that eating doesn’t become a source of shame, stress or anxiety.

You won’t (always) want the whole pizza

At first, people who start intuitive eating may find themselves tempted by everything. And that’s OK, say experts. That desire to eat everything in sight also goes away pretty quickly, thanks to what Tribole calls “the paradox of permission.”

“When you can’t have something, you crave it. But when you can have it whenever you want, it removes the urgency.” In other words: It’s OK to go nuts at first, because ultimately, you’re collecting data on what your body likes and doesn’t like.

The first guilt-free pizza may be amazing. But chances are, your body isn’t going to want an XL pie all day, every day.

When no options are off limits, there’s less of an "urgency" to eat unhealthy food, according to the inventor of the intuitive-eating concept. (iStock)

Clue into context

“Eating is such a key element of culture, family and society, and one key element of intuitive eating is allowing you to fully enjoy the celebratory aspects of food,” says Christina Towle, a clinical nutritionist and founder of Hudson Valley Nutrition.

“I ask clients: What meals make you feel great? These could be meals that make you feel physically great, or meals that create positive emotions. Both are important.”

And the same food may make you feel different in different circumstances: An amazing entree eaten on a date may taste “meh” as leftovers eaten over the sink.

You may need help

It may seem strange to need guidance for an eating plan that encourages everything. But experts say that working with a nutritionist or coach trained in intuitive eating can be essential for issues that come up — including feelings.

A coach or nutritionist may ask you to journal your food intake and your mood, in order to see a connection between the two.

Say you ate a large bag of chips after work. An intuitive-eating coach may look through your food log and see that you hadn’t eaten since 11 that morning, and that you were dealing with a lot of work stress. With that information, they might brainstorm with you to make sure you have food available throughout the day, so your body doesn’t require a quick fix.

The idea isn’t that the chip binge is “bad,” however, it’s information sent to you by your body about what it needs — which, in this case, is most likely a more regular eating schedule, says Kallen.

Don’t worry, be happy

The “goal” of intuitive eating is to enjoy food without being obsessed or tormented by it.

“A lot of clients begin trusting their body and finding body peace within about sixmonths of doing the work,” says Kallen.

This article originally appeared in The New York Post.


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Nina Crow

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