And you’ve probably heard that ‘diets don’t work!’ – so why do we all still try and push our bodies to fight our biology when dieting leads to…
Your body can’t tell dieting apart from actual food scarcity and starvation, so to compensate for the shortage of calories your metabolism slows to try and conserve energy. You become more efficient at doing more with less. In other words, your body becomes really good at storing fat.
Dieting leads to bingeing. It’s science. Say you skip breakfast to try and be ‘good’. Your brain is pissed. It sends out neurotransmitters and hormones like ghrelin and neuropeptide Y – both of which are super potent orexigenics, meaning that they stimulate appetite. So as the day goes on, these guys build up, you give in (to your normal biological urge to eat) and once you pop you can’t stop. Sound familiar? Yup.
Think about it; if you’re following a diet plan down to the letter, you’re relying on someone else to tell you what, when and how much to eat. THEY DON’T KNOW YOUR LIFE.
Relying on someone else to tell you what to do can so easily result in eating too much or too little: Let’s say you’re doing one of the points systems. You’ve used up all your points for the day, but you’re still hungry? You either go hungry or you beat yourself up for going over. Neither of them sound like good options to me. Likewise, if you have some points left over, you’re probably not going to let them go to waste, even though you’re not hungry.
Your weight can go up higher than your original weight – I mean, doy! How many people do you know who’ve sustained weight loss over long periods of time? Now how many of those people are content and not furiously counting calories or going beast mode *shudders* at the gym? Right, so everyone else is probably heavier than their original weight and feeling pretty shitty about that (because that’s what society has decided they should feel), and now they’re trying to figure out the next diet they’re going to attempt.
You can’t stop thinking about your next meal, when you’re allowed to eat again, you spend hours picking out recipes on Pinterest and trawling Instagram from #foodporn figuring out how you can make ‘healthy’ gluten-free, sugar-free, low-cal substitutions. You have no mental bandwidth left for living your life.
You know when you were a kid and your mum told you not to do the thing, so you did the thing? Yeah. I see this all the time with my clients. They say certain foods are off limits, foods they enjoy eating but deem ‘bad’. They do without it instead of satisfying their craving for it. Next thing they know they’re shoulder deep into a bucket of Phish Food, feeling sick and guilty. And the next morning you’re skipping breakfast to ‘make up’ for it. Rinse and repeat.
At LCIE we have taken the original principles of Intuitive Eating and developed them to give our clients a sustainable way to care for their bodies that also supports their mental health.
The first step is to recognise that diet culture has done a number on us and begin to undo the damage by calling out diet BS when you see it and get MAD AS HELL about the lies we’ve been sold. Recognise that diets don’t work long term and are associated with negative health consequences (mental and physical). If you feel up for it, get rid of all the tools that are keeping us tethered to diet culture and diet mentality (see ya, FitBit). And if the thought of that makes you break out in a cold sweat, dw, we’re here to guide you through the process.
This is a critical step in the Intuitive Eating process – we are often so critical and judgmental of ourselves that we get stuck in a loop about how awful we are when the slightest thing doesn’t go our way. Self-compassion allows us to break that loop and be more understanding and accepting of the fact that we’re not perfect. Learning skills around self-compassion is helpful in Intuitive Eating because when shit inevitably hits the fan, we can pick ourselves up and keep going instead of spinning our wheels over how much we're suck. We can take set-backs in our stride and move forward instead of percolating and over-identifying with our inner critic.
AKA, eat when you’re hungry. Sounds pretty obvious, but we’ve worked with a lot of women who skip meals and consider it an accomplishment to go to bed hungry. This is about respecting your normal biological drive to eat; for energy, for nourishment, and for pleasure. This principle is about learning to recognise what hunger feels like in your body (not just a rumbly belly!) and not feeling afraid or guilty for feeding your body.
This is the part where you learn to stop determining your value based on what you’ve eaten, how much you’ve moved, or a number on the scale. We uncover all the messages you’ve received about your body not being good enough that lead to body dissatisfaction and help you slowly and gently develop gratitude (not just for your body, but all the other cool shit in your life), which has been shown to help improve body satisfaction. We’ll also build other strategies for moving towards body neutrality like embodiment and positive self-talk.
This principle is about letting go of ‘food rules’. Legalising ALL FOOD. Yup, even gluten, dairy, and sugar. This is a scary principle for a lot of people, but so important for learning to trust your body again; learning to trust you aren’t ‘addicted’ to a food, learning that you won’t only eat pizza and cookies for the rest of your life! This doesn’t mean that eating becomes a free-for-all – we’ll give you guidance for how to approach previously restricted foods with a sense of curiosity so you can determine if you actually really like those foods, or whether they’re not as much of a big deal as you thought.
You know that voice in your head that says ‘you shouldn’t eat that’ or bargains with you to work out in order to ‘earn’ a meal. That’s your inner critic and he’s a little bitch. This step is all about neutralising your attitudes towards food and learning that no food is good or bad; it’s all just food!
Food (or lack thereof) is not punishment – it’s meant to taste good and be enjoyed. Sad rice crackers, zero calorie noodles, and other diet foods are probably not going to leave you satisfied. You know yourself that if something says it’s low calorie/fat/sugar you probably eat 10x more. If you just had the real deal, you’d feel satisfied with a lot less. This is where we find the pleasure and satisfaction in the food we eat. Using mindfulness techniques can help us tune into our enjoyment and appreciation of food and help us discover that sweet spot – not too much or too little!
Another obvious sounding principle but when was the last time you stopped eating when you were comfortably full? If you’ve been in the dieting mentality for a long time it’s probably likely that you routinely overeat because you know it’s going to be a long time before you’re allowed to eat again. In intuitive eating, no foods are off limit and there are no rules to follow about when and what to eat, so you can stop eating when you’re comfortably full, safe in the knowledge that if you begin to feel hungry again later on – food is available and it’s OK to eat.
By this point in your intuitive eating journey, you’ll begin to have more neutral feelings towards food and can start to get your head around the fact that eating your emotions isn’t actually the worst thing in the world and can sometimes be a useful coping mechanism or your body’s way of letting you know that you’re in a funk. This is where we’ll start to develop more appropriate ways to soothe, comfort, and care for ourselves, without face planting into a bucket of Ben & Jerry’s (although if you do, that’s OK too - think of it as a clue that something else is going on for you!).
In the same way that we’ve been disconnected from eating, we rely more and more on workout programmes, fitness trackers, and weight to determine how we feel physically. Intuitive movement is about finding joy in activity – whether it’s taking a low impact yoga class, going for a walk, or training for a marathon – finding activity that doesn’t leave you drained and exhausted is a critical part of the process.
This is all about nourishing your body with foods that taste good and leave you feeling awesome. We also reinforce the idea that you don’t have to eat a ‘perfect’ diet to be healthy and that nutrition isn’t all or nothing. Dichotomising foods as good or bad isn’t helpful; being gentle and kind and understanding that play foods still have nutritional properties – and even when they don’t they still nourish the soul!
If you’re tired of feeling batshit around food and bored of bouncing from counting macros, to cutting carbs, to going on week-long juice cleanses because you heard it was the BEST way of losing weight, only to gain it all right back, then this is the place for you. Intuitive Eating isn’t a weight loss diet, but it can help you develop healthy habits – screw what the magazines tell you! If you’re DONE with processing your emotions by faceplanting into a bowl of cookie dough or the thought of going food shopping or eating in restaurant stresses you out, then this is the place for you. If you can’t take another day of doing mental acrobatics trying to keep track of what you can and can’t eat based on what you’ve already eaten and how much you’ve worked out then click here for a 15 minute discovery call with one of our clinicians to find out if Intuitive Eating is right for you.Book in for a 15 minute discovery call
Intuitive Eating is not a quick fix like most diets; we sometimes describe it as like therapy, but for food. Consider how long you’ve spent on the dieting merry-go-round, jumping on and off the bandwagon – it could be a lifetime’s worth of stuff we’re working through, so it helps to think you’ll be in it for the long-game. That said, there are things that help facilitate the process; we’ve noticed that people in therapy, or who have had a course of CBT or similar might take to Intuitive Eating sooner.
Yes! Our clinicians have degrees in Nutrition and Dietetics, so we can help you navigate medical conditions or special dietary needs such as; coeliac disease, IBS/gut health, PCOS, and high cholesterol. We take a Gentle Nutrition approach to our work, meaning we don’t reinforce rigid food rules, but think how we can add in, rather than take away from your diet (where possible). We take an evidence-based approach, meaning that we are up to date with the latest scientific evidence and incorporate the latest emerging approaches into our clinical practice.
Intuitive Eating isn’t a diet; in fact, we encourage you to let go of dieting and weight loss as an outcome. Instead we can help you find the weight that is healthiest for you and your body. It might not be the ideal you had in mind, but by going through the IE process, we hope to help you embrace your body’s natural shape and size, move away from the restrict/binge cycle and feel less bonkers around food so you can focus on things that are most important to you!