Intuitive Eating: Habits to Challenge Diet Culture

Lauren Groth

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April 29, 2021
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Everywhere you look nowadays, you will be bombarded by diet culture. Diet culture is the set of beliefs that values thinness, appearance, and shape above health and wellbeing.1 Diet culture tends to glorify losing weight, at all costs. It can be quite dangerous and can harm people of all sizes, ages, and genders. There is a pressure to follow external cues about when to eat, what to eat, and how much to eat. It also suggests that movement, or exercise, is a punishment for gaining weight, rather than for personal goals or for fun. 

In this kind of environment, what can we do to avoid the negative aspects surrounding food? There is an emerging focus on Intuitive Eating. Intuitive eating is the idea that you are in charge of your own body and you get to choose what is best for you. You get to choose when and what you eat, how much you eat, and when you are hungry. Intuitive eating promotes a healthy attitude towards food and body image. 

Switching to the practice of Intuitive Eating can be difficult, because the main “rule” is to listen to what your body needs. This can be difficult, because we are so used to following rules and guidelines. It can also be difficult to teach yourself how to trust and listen to your body. But don’t worry, you can take this one step at a time, at your own pace. 

Here are the basics of Intuitive Eating:

  • Eat what you crave 
  • Eat when you are hungry – no matter what time it is or when you last ate
  • Eat with enjoyment 
  • Trust your body

There are many key principles to Intuitive Eating that you can implement to make this easier.2

  • If you are hungry, you should eat more. Thinking about food all day means that you are not eating enough. Give yourself permission to eat. 
  • Reject the diet mentality. Intuitive eating is basically anti-diet. 
  • Honor and respect your hunger. Hunger is not your enemy. Hunger is your body’s signal that you need to eat. Waiting until you are starving, will cause you to overeat, so it is important to listen to the signs. 
  • Call a truce with food. Make peace with it. There are no “good” or “bad” foods, all food is nourishment for your body. Get rid of any ideals about what you should and should not eat. 
  • Respect your fullness. When you are eating, check in with yourself to see how the food tastes, how hungry you are feeling, or how full you may be feeling. Some questions to ask yourself while you are eating: How is this food tasting? Would I miss out on anything if I stopped eating? Why do I feel the urge to finish what I am eating? Is this food still enjoyable?
  • Make eating enjoyable. Eating should be a pleasurable experience, have fun with it. 
  • Practice avoiding emotional eating as a coping mechanism. Feel your feelings without using food. 
  • Respect and love your body. Recognize that it is beautiful and capable. 
  • Find ways to move your body that you enjoy. Exercise should help you focus on feeling energized, strong and alive, rather than as a punishment and used to lose weight. 
  • Minimize distractions while you eat. Focus on eating, rather than the TV or your phone. 

So, what are the benefits of Intuitive Eating? 

  • You will feel less guilty about eating 
  • You won’t get cravings as often 
  • You will notice how foods make you feel 
  • You will feel more like yourself
  • You will be able to detect and honor hunger cues 
  • The list goes on… 

Ditching food rules and eating patterns can be overwhelming and stressful. Intuitive eating does not have to be implemented overnight. Focusing on how you feel is a great place to start. The principles listed above can be added slowly. Soon, you will be able to eat intuitively and avoid diet culture. 

References:

  1. https://recreation.ucsd.edu/2021/01/diet-culture-social-media/
  2. https://www.intuitiveeating.org

Edited by preRD intern, Lauren Gatto

Lauren Groth

Lauren Groth

Hi, I'm Lauren. I am getting my Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics at Metropolitan State University in Denver. I received my undergrad in Nutrition and Dietetics for the University of New Mexico. Because everything is online right now, I have been traveling around, taking in as many cultures and environments as I can. I hope to become a dietitian in the future and eventually own my own practice.