“Intuitive Eating” is a recently popular term used to empower individuals against “diet culture” and its perceived limitations of “good” and “bad.”
Intuitive Eating (IE) is sited as “an evidence-based health approach created in 1995 by two dietitians, Elyse Resche and Evelyn Tribole.”
The idea of Intuitive Eating is nice. The studies have discovered that “diets” don’t work and the shame and pressure that individuals generally carry is destructive. Proponents of this philosophy teach that there are no “good” or “bad” foods and that the body’s intuition will guide you in how to nurture it properly.
I will agree with this! The body is incredible at communication, it’s honestly US that need to learn how to listen to it better. While I am not at all against IE, as someone who works with the Mind-Gut connection, I have worked with many coaches and practitioners and seen the pitfalls of looking at all foods as neutral or “fine in moderation.”
Story. My husband, bless his heart, is severely allergic to dairy, like stop breathing allergic. It’s safe to say that in his case, milk is BAD. Had you been with us in the Texas airport when a barista replaced his oat milk latte with regular milk, you may change your opinion on moderation also. For myself and many of my clients, Gluten is quite destructive. Our modern wheat production methods and quantities have done a number on our guts and if you struggle with thyroid issues, it’s something that definitely needs to be avoided. Gluten proteins can trigger thyroid destruction since they are molecularly similar to thyroid cells. Some studies have also shown that Gluten can stay in the system for up to six months! I’d say for most people, Gluten is pretty bad.
Then there is SIBO! SIBO stands for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth and it’s more common than you’d believe. It happens when gram negative bacteria make their way out of the large intestine (where they are supposed to be) and into the small intestine (where they aren’t supposed to be). In this area, they are the first to see food and “food” like substances including their favorite power food… Refined Sugars. Simple sugars and carbohydrates are an instant energy source for bacteria like Candida which when overgrown can destroy the integrity of the gut structure and throw off the bacteria ratios leading to dysbiosis and inflammatory diseases. All things considered; refined sugars can be pretty bad. Alcohol can be even worse.
Now before you get defensive and think that I’m “calling your baby ugly,” hear me out. While I personally don’t touch gluten or alcohol, sometimes I eat simple sugars or cheese! I just know when these things are BAD FOR ME. With my sensitive thyroid, Gluten just isn’t ever good for me and Alcohol and I have a history that wasn’t healthy so we broke up. Now, cheese and sugar aren’t as big of an enemy for me usually, however, if my cravings are feeling uncontrollable or sugar is calling me to medicate my stress, or if my gut, energy or mental health is off, then cheese and sugar are BAD FOR ME at that time.
I’m not afraid to call something BAD. In fact, I find in necessary. We aren’t running wild in a field of berries here, we are living in a world of chemical laden, gut destroying food like substances available at our fingertips and if we can’t be real about what we’re dealing with, then we can’t CHOOSE to free ourselves, maximize our health and truly EMPOWER our bodies and minds.
In my position I have worked with countless parents desperate to figure out their child’s skin conditions, mental health struggles and allergies. For these parents and children, honest education, compassion, empowerment and support is the only way. We have to be honest about what we put into our bodies and what it really does to us.
Where I believe Intuitive Eating concepts hit the nail on the head is that they identified the unspoken suffering that comes with restriction: SHAME and STRESS.
Getting “REAL” about food and what it does to our bodies and children or even associating something as “bad” for you or “bad for you right now” doesn’t mean that wanting it or eating it makes YOU BAD! Many people whom I work with struggle with sugar addictions and cravings and often hear two things; “Sugar is bad, don’t eat it” or “Eat the cookie and don’t worry! Everything is OK in moderation!”
I like to tell them to assess if the food is HELPING them or HURTING them. If it is hurting them; depleting energy, creating moodiness, depleting nutrients from the body etc. than ask yourself WHAT or WHO wants this and why? From a science perspective, bacterial overgrowths are like little gremlins in the body, sending signals to the brain to feed them their favorite food! SUGAR!
Is that your intuition telling you to eat the cookie or a belly gremlin? Just sayin….
The same goes for anything else. If we we’re talking about Alcohol, most people would advise you that if you can’t consume it moderately and/or if its causing destruction to your life or health, maybe it should go. Yet we won’t say that about food or “food.”
One trick that I like to use with clients, coaches and myself is to ask yourself “Is this going to show my body love?” and “Is this going to hurt me?” Maybe you don’t struggle with sugar moderation and you want a milk shake with your love on a date night? Maybe it isn’t “loving your body” but if it’s an enjoyable night and it won’t hurt your body, then have the milk shake!
Once the gut returns to a healthy state, we often observe cravings and compulsive behaviors reduce dramatically and the individual feels more power over their decision making around food.
Most importantly, we have to always stay focused not on the food but on reducing or eliminating STRESS and SHAME. Those two things have no place in SELF LOVE or personal Restoration.
Make a point to nurture yourself well. You deserve it!
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