While the body positive movement has gained serious momentum over the last few years along with the resurgence of feminism, all you need to do is open Instagram to see that diet culture still holds us firmly between its jaws.
With influencers, all of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, and even Queen Bey herself promoting potentially harmful weight loss methods like laxative lollipops and cutting out whole food groups, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain a “thick thighs save lives” attitude.
But now, a new diet that wants you to stop dieting is gaining quick momentum – Intuitive Eating.
In its most basic and simple terms, intuitive eating is pretty self explanatory: eat what you want, when you want to.
Listen to your body
Now depending on who you are, this might seem like common sense, or the most radical advice you’ve ever received. The core ethos of intuitive eating involves listening to your body and what it is trying to tell you, and responding to it effectively.
So what’s the catch? Surprisingly, there doesn’t really seem to be one. Unlike Instagram influencers who are paid to feature tummy-flattening laxative tea and lollipops, the Intuitive Eating movement doesn’t sell anything – no meal plans, membership fees, meal replacement shakes, nothing.
All of the basic information around Intuitive Eating is available for free online, for anyone to access. While the founders of Intuitive Eating sell books and provide more in-depth training for healthcare professionals.
Unlike traditional diet culture, Intuitive Eating involves unlearning the harmful ideologies that try and encourage us to hate ourselves thin – because studies show, they don’t work. While you might shed a few pounds in the short term, participating in diet culture leaves people vulnerable to a whole host of health problems – low self esteem, depression, sexual dysfunction, to name just a few.
Inextricably linked to the prevalence of eating disorders, the diet culture is also linked to a variety of other health concerns such as high/low blood pressure, anaemia and stroke, as well as a wealth of mental health concerns.
In beginning to unlearn how diet culture encourages us to demonize food and hunger, the first step of Intuitive Eating involves throwing out all books, magazines and articles that feed you lies and false hopes about how quickly, easily and permanently you can shift those extra pounds. This essentially includes the vast majority of media aimed at women, and could easily include all those “wellness” Instagram you follow of effortlessly thin influencers promoting #cleaneating.
As well as that, Intuitive Eating encourages people to get angry at how various forms of media feed lies around weight loss and fitness, that make people feel like a failure every time they finish a new diet, only to regain all of the weight they’d hope to lose.
Permission to eat
Another radical notion: eat when you’re hungry. On top of that, give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Your body needs food to function, ad without it, we would literally all die.
So, honor your hunger. If you eat when you’re actually hungry, instead of denying yourself food or agonizing over making the “best” food choice, and generally over-analysing the process, you’re much less likely to find yourself binge eating all the things you forbid yourself from having. All this does is trigger a shame spiral where you beat yourself up for your lack of “willpower” when all your body wanted was to be fed.
And if you respect your hunger, you’ll respect your fullness. Because you’re not denying yourself the joy of eating any particular foods, you can also allow yourself to stop when you feel full, in the safe knowledge that you can eat this food at any time without feeling guilty.
All about perspective
Another pillar of the Intuitive Eating movement is that despite what the wellness cult says, food is food, and there’s no such thing as “clean” or “dirty”, “good” or “bad”. With this in mind, Intuitive Eating encourages people to chase away the “Food Police” by instantly shutting down all those insidious thoughts in your head that say you’re “good” for eating less calories, or “bad” because you ate some pizza.
While some people might say that this ethos just indulges unhealthy eating behaviours as “not that bad”, there is some preliminary research to show that intuitive can result in improved body image – which is one of the most important aspects of our mental and physical wellbeing.
To find out more about Intuitive Eating, find a licensed counsellor, and see the resources they offer and check out their website.