Direct experience of eating
Updated: Feb 21
Some of the common misunderstandings of Intuitive Eating is that ‘if we allow people to eat what they want, they will do nothing but eat junk’. I have not heard one single person properly trained in Intuitive Eating who doesn’t have the understanding that actually, Intuitive Eating results in better long term health outcomes overall. The naysayers are usually the people not well-versed in IE. After all, we fear what we don’t understand.
The last principle of Intuitive Eating is: Honour your Health with Gentle Nutrition. This is where nutrition guidelines are discussed, granted that the person on the journey is ready for this big step.
When we start talking about nutrition with someone in a diet mentality or disordered eating mind-set, even well-meaning nutrition guidelines can become a potential for rigidity and obsession and subsequent harm.
Being healthy REALLY DOES mean having a positive relationship with food. We all know it: Nutrition and healthy eating is important. But not as important as first are foremost, the relationship you have with food, your mind and your body. All the nutrition knowledge in the world can be counterproductive without a solid base built first. It’s like building a house on a foundation of twigs. It doesn’t matter what the top is built of, it’s all going to come crumbling down at some point.
In the first 9 principles, you are working hard toward removing the diet mentality, building trust back in your body’s cues, learning to move in enjoyable ways comfortable and exciting for you, developing tools to cope with emotions, making peace with foods that once brought fear and guilt, and building your resilience strong against diet culture. THEN – once all of this has been explored – THEN, we talk nutrition.
It’s not a race. It’s the journey back to yourself. It’s all YOU. You choose how the race is run and where you’re going to run to, walk to, or crawl to next. How cool is that?
At times, the beginning stages of Intuitive Eating can, and often does look a lot like giving yourself (finally) unconditional permission to eat the foods that have always either brought excitement (when coming off the diet) or fear (when on the diet). These are often, for most people, foods with less nutritional density. It is an incredibly important phase of Intuitive Eating to allow exploration of these foods, without judgement, and give complete, unconditional permission to eat these previously feared foods.
Why? Because when we remove the guilt from eating, and the morality from eating, you’re left with the direct experience. After some time, with unconditional permission, most people come to the realisation that foods either feel good in the body or they don’t. When we have attached morality and guilt around food, we’re often so busy thinking about how awful we feel mentally, that we don’t even notice how it actually feels within our body: the direct experience.
Over time, when food purely becomes food again, and all foods have neutral reactions, we naturally tend to gravitate toward those foods which feel good for us, and nutritionally dense foods (i.e. foods that are full of nutrients) are often foods that feel good when we are left with the direct experience of our body.
Please note: this isn’t an overnight journey. It’s not even a ‘few weeks’ journey. The 10 principles are often explored over 6 months – 1 year – of course, it’s very individual. This gives insight that we don’t just stop at principle 3 (make peace with food) and spend the rest of our life there!). We keep going on the journey to becoming a fully fledged Intuitive Eater.
The Intuitive Dietitian xx