HOW INTUITIVE EATING MAKES YOU YOUR OWN HEALTH EXPERT

The standard metrics of health success often create a greater disconnect with you and your body. Here are 3 reasons why intuitive eating helps you take back ownership of your own health.


BY: CARA HARBSTREET, MS, RD, LD

Even if you’ve never been on a diet or you’re not currently “dieting”, it’s safe to say that you’re aware of how obsessed our culture is in becoming the healthiest version of ourselves. After all, who doesn’t want to be healthy and feel great?

Unfortunately, the healthy lifestyles that are often advertised are usually just a collection of unnecessary dieting behaviors that are thought to attain a projected ideal of wellness and thinness. 

And while there are conditions that require careful monitoring, such as Type 1 diabetes or inborn errors of metabolism, the mentality and motivation behind careful tracking in those cases are quite different than logging into a tracking app after every meal to log calories and make sure you don’t exceed your daily limit.

Diet mentality is so pervasive in our culture that we often don’t realize these “healthy habits” are actually the byproduct of a disordered relationship with food or your body. 

Dieting teaches us to fixate on numbers (vs. body cues), compensation (“can’t eat food X unless I worked out today”), and bartering (“if I let myself eat food X now, I can’t have food Y later”).

There are endless variations of what dieting tools and behaviors look like, and chances are, you’re familiar with many of them because of what our culture has conditioned you to believe. 

So how can you take back ownership of your food and health?

Intuitive eating helps remove the black-and-white rules around food and exercise and encourages us to get comfortable with the grey area in between. It calls for the adoption of “for the most part” thinking – which means that you can still call upon your knowledge of food and how your body responds to it while removing the guilt, shame, and judgment if you don’t abide by it 100% of the time.

Here’s how intuitive eating can help you feel empowered and confident in your food choices so you can be free to enjoy other things in life.

1. It helps you respect your body.

Intuitive eating is one of the pillars of Health At Every Size® (HAES), which emphasizes that your unique body is worth of respectful care, no matter what your size, shape, age, gender identity, or ability.

Wellness culture and its obsession with the thin ideal leads us to believe there is a “right” way to be healthy. Losing weight, having radiant skin, shiny hair, stylish clothes, and apparently living in a place where it’s sunny all the time. It’s all an illusion, and we believe it because that’s what is commonly projected by the media. 

If we look around closely, we see a much wider range of bodies being represented. They can also experience happiness and good health, and it isn’t despite their body. Body respect means you can still feel dissatisfied with your body, but it won’t hinder your ability to take care of your body.

2. It guides you towards better care.

There’s a common misconception that intuitive eating means that you can eat whatever you want with no regard for anything else other than pleasure or appetite. However, that’s only scratching the surface. 

After you’ve made peace with food, there is plenty of opportunities to use your nutrition knowledge to guide practical, healthful decisions about how you live. It promotes self-care practices from a place of acceptance and respect for whatever medical diagnosis or ethical lifestyle you prefer and removes the focus away from the pursuit of weight loss.

3. It makes you the expert.

Becoming an intuitive eater involves a process of unlearning the rules of diet culture and relearning the ways your body responds to food, movement, stress, and other natural body cues. 

We’re all born with an innate sense of hunger and fullness, but after years of dieting, it may be difficult to tell when you’re experiencing hunger. To get reconnected to your body’s wisdom, you will:

It goes far beyond “eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full”.

By tuning in with what your body needs and the way it communicates with you, the better off you are in providing it with exactly what it needs. 

It’s easy to fall prey to the bright and shiny side of dieting when you see success stories, testimonials, and incredible transformations. But they aren’t you, and your body is not their body.

You know yourself better than anyone and sometimes it has to be your job to advocate for what you know you need. You alone are tasked with determining how you choose to live. 

And there is no better person to decide that than you.

Adapted from the original post.
HEADER IMAGE: DAVID PRADO

Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD is a Kansas City-based Registered Dietitian helping individuals jumpstart their journey to wellness. By breaking the cycle of dieting, Cara focuses on creating sustainable lifestyle changes for people who are motivated to reclaim their health. Connect with Cara over at Street Smart Nutrition.

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