Intuitive Eating: Let us eat in peace!
It saddens me that so many people squander vast swathes of time existing in a purgatorial state in which they ponder their next dietary strategy in order to attain the body beautiful ASAP, while putting their lives on hold. I’d like to think I don’t fall prey to this phenomenon but I have to hold my hands up and admit that I sometimes get fleetingly caught up in #notions of adopting a new, healthier diet and lifestyle, especially after a Little Miss Piggy day of eating like today.
After a fairly #fitfam breakfast and snack, I really overdid the chocolate and cake. An imposing box of Thorntons presented itself to me just before lunch. An hour later, lemon drizzle cake appeared on the lunch table. Then a ginormous chocolate meringue creation made its presence felt in the tea room after my return from lunch. I admit that nobody held a gun to my head while I went back for second helpings of all of the above but still… This GP surgery is not for those deficient in discipline! I felt nauseated after all of this and was annoyed at myself for behaving like an unsupervised child in a sweet shop but told myself to get a grip after witnessing how distraught one of our patients became when her weight became the focal point of her consultation. I was unable to prescribe the combined oral contraceptive pill (“like all my friends are taking”) to this teenager on the grounds that her body mass index was unacceptably high at 38. (She was also a smoker which made the risks of taking this medication outweigh the benefits.) The obligatory discussion of nutrition and exercise ensued until she became suddenly tearful. She divulged unspeakable childhood events which lead to the acquisition of maladaptive coping strategies, namely binge eating. To her credit, she has engaged with psychotherapy to address her issues to impressive effect and has moved on with many aspects of her life, but her relationship with food remains fraught. We decided her priority is to completely reset her physical and emotional relationship with food with a view to tackling her weight with a fresh mindset thereafter. I broached the subject of intuitive eating. Given the appointment time constraints of general practice, I briefly discussed my (admittedly pitiful) knowledge of the topic and directed her to read Evelyn Tribole’s much lauded “Intuitive Eating”. We went through the pivotal ten principles before she left. I have yet to read a book on intuitive eating, but even if I never get around to doing so, those ten principles have given me food for thought, pardon the pun. Here they are in a nutshell:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality. There never was and never will be anything sustainable about a ‘diet’. End of already!
2. Honour Your Hunger like you did as a baby and young child. Relearning this will set you up to regain trust with yourself and food.
3. Make Peace with Food. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you fancy in order to avoid uncontrollable feelings of deprivation which invariably lead to indulging with reckless abandon.
4. Challenge the Food Police. Stop labelling any food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. There is no such thing. It’s all good people!
5. Respect Your Fullness. Listen to your body. Take your time eating and stop when you’re full like you did when you first came into the world.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. One of life’s greatest pleasures is good food and it’s often the focus of our social interactions so savour it with all of your senses!
7. Honour Your Feelings Without Using Food. Practice alternative ways to resolve your issues without resorting to comfort eating. Yoga, a film, a chat, curling up a cup of tea and an engrossing novel…
8. Respect Your Body. Your body, not anybody. To use a phrase I despise(!), it is what it is. There are pros and cons to all body shapes and sizes and as with everything in this life, comparisons are odious.
9. Exercise – Feel the Difference. Forget shouty exercise if the idea is anathema to you. No need to start HIIT or join a boot camp or CrossFit class if you won’t enjoy it. A yoga session or simple stroll is more than enough. You’ll ultimately engage with and be energized by an activity you love.
10. Honour Your Health. If you eat mostly nutritious food, you’ll be healthy. Pursue progress, not perfection.
And most importantly, get a life while you’re at it! Take a leaf from the ninety year old Muscovite lady who featured on Humans of New York about a month ago. (I’m not a facebooker and only came across this today!)
“I’m ninety but I feel like I’m fifty. I don’t take any medicine. I never complain. I’m just happy to be alive. I tell people: ‘Start with what you have, not with what you want.’ Every day I dance for two hours. And I’m still really interesting too. I love politics and literature. I love the sciences. And I’ve got a boyfriend named Alexander. We exchange books. I don’t even know how old he is.”