Three steps to intuitive eating
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on May 24, 2017
Eating is one of those primal urges.
It’s why dieting for weight loss is a flop.
According to Naples registered dietician Tracy Brown, we can’t live without five things: air, water, shelter, sleep, and, of course, food.
“With any of those five, once the relationship is disturbed or withheld for a prolonged period of time, there are going to be physical, mental and emotional consequences,” Brown said.
As a dietician, she is dismayed by the dieting culture because people think they can “white knuckle” through food deprivation and not expect a negative outcome.
The inevitable binge cycle is likely.
“People blame themselves when these are biological certainties,” she said.
Brown urges caution because there are no studies to indicate people can maintain weight loss after two to five years since the initial weight loss period.
And, let’s be frank. Chronic dieting with its constant calorie counting, food group avoidance and compulsive exercise indicates disordered thinking dangerously close to eating disorders. Weight loss fixation is usually a container for something else.
Intuitive eating provides a paradigm shift for your relationship to food. It is defined as a “providing relationship rather than a depriving relationship,” she said.
Brown directs a support group called Attuned Eating for Attuned Living. She has been a coach for people who have decades of chronic dieting and frustration. She recommends all people caught on this hamster wheel pick up the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
This perspective, she said, does not promise weight loss. Rather, the plan suggests ways for people to understand the reasons they are eating. More importantly, intuitive eating is about separating physical and emotional hungers.
“That is one of my specialties. I help people see what they are really hungry for in their lives and how that is demonstrated in their food,” she said.
Step One: Suspend your weight loss goals.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about losing weight. It is important to get to know yourself and heal your relationship with food first.
Food should be nourishing, pleasurable and satisfying. You should be able to go to a party or on a cruise and not worry about what you can or cannot eat.
Step Two: Give yourself permission to eat.
Your food choices may not seem healthy at first. You may eschew fruits and vegetables. You may eat several desserts a day.
“That is okay. Your body is designed to give you strong signals if you are eating in a way that is not good for you,” she said.
Brown reminds people of dangerous magical thinking. Food, on its own, doesn’t have the power to make you gain weight.
Step Three: Get help.
It isn’t necessary to stay in a vacuum through your struggles. Everyone has blind spots when it comes to reading their own physiological and emotional signals when it comes to food.
Brown suggests joining a support group or enlisting the expertise of a non-diet, health-oriented dietician.
“Imagine coming together among like-minded people, all committed to coming home to themselves. Everyone is open about their fat phobias and their obsessions and really hearing each other with full-on empathy,” she said.
As you feel yourself worrying about food or cravings or body image, just sit and breathe. Don’t distract yourself with books, movies or walks unless you really want to engage in those activities for the pleasure of them.
Set your meditation timer for ten minutes, and hold a stone in each hand. Breathe by expanding and contracting your belly. Close your eyes.
Scan your body, noticing every sensation from the crown of your head down to your feet. Notice all the physical sensations, and let them pass.
Now, place two hands on your heart. Ask, “What emotion is visiting?” Is it fear, shame, anger, depression, negativity, frustration, loneliness, disconnection?
When you’ve identified it, don’t push it away. Hold it in the palms of your hands, sit with it and be fine with it, eventually.
Resources: Join the Attuned Eating for Attuned Living community by visiting www.attunedeatingforattunedliving.com.