*story by Steph Klein RN - Intuitive Eating Dietitian
“Intuitive Eating is a dynamic mind-body integration of instinct, emotion, and rational thought. It is a personal process of honoring your health by paying attention to the messages of your body and meeting your physical and emotional needs. It is an inner journey of discovery that puts you front and center; you are the expert of your own body.”
I read that the first time and was like…what the fuck? What if I crave only desserts? Or what if I gain weight and everything goes to shit? Interesting you should ask! Yes, what the fuck. No, you won’t only crave dessert (but you will still crave them if you like desserts and that’s FINE). And who knows what will happen to your weight! It might go up, down, or stay the same.
Side note: you are worth WAYYYY more than your weight. Also, not everything goes to shit if your body changes. That is an internalized fear that DIET CULTURE (you will learn what I mean when I say that soon) has programmed you to believe. HA. Diet culture. You little bitch you. Fucking people up since BC (jk I literally have no idea how people’s mindset were back then).
Anyway. Let’s talk Diet Culture since you can’t talk Intuitive Eating without it. I mean, it is the first principle, you guys: REJECT THE DIET MENTALITY. Well, you can’t reject something you don’t understand…am I right? (PS. I think I am way funnier than I actually am so bear with me). Back to Diet Culture…I already said it’s a bitch, right? Well, think of it this way. Whenever you have thoughts regarding food and your body that make you feel: A. shame B. guilt or C. like a complete pile of shit…. It’s Diet Culture. Let me explain.
Have you ever had thoughts like…
“I don’t deserve XYZ food because I haven’t exercised?”
“I don’t fit into my jeans of high school, college, before kids, etc…so now I need to lose weight and focus on my health.”
“My friend ordered a salad at this restaurant, but I really want the pasta…I’ll get the salad because I want to look good in a bathing suit.”
“How does Susie stay so thin, she must have so much will power”
Look at that little bitch go. First off, you deserve EVERY SINGLE MORSEL OF FOOD YOU EAT. Everyone. Does. Second, you don’t fit into those jeans because your body is supposed to change, and you are amazing. I am sorry that our society idolizes thin individuals and the “perfect” body is fake and unattainable. Third, order whatever you are craving when you go out to dinner because honoring true hunger/fullness cues and cravings build back body trust. AND lastly, fuck Susie…you don’t know her life. She could be struggling with an eating disorder, have a high-ass metabolism, or literally be thinking the same thing about you. Comparison is a life thief. Don’t fall for it.
So, fact of the matter, until you understand what diet culture is and how it has affected you, your Intuitive Eating journey will start out as a challenge. Also, this is a journey (like I said before) and you grew up in diet culture (as did I) and of course you can’t UNLEARN years of it in one article. I believe giving yourself grace and understanding is anti-diet culture anyway. I mean, the diet industry is a MULTI-billion-dollar industry. Of course it doesn’t want you to love your body – then it wouldn’t have anything to sell you. If you hate how you look and you compare yourself to how you “think” other people look or eat or whatever then you are the perfect prey for diet culture. It’s not your fault. It’s not your neighbors’ fault or your family’s fault. It’s a result of society and culture.
I proud of you for reading this far. I went a little wild with the description of Diet Culture. But essentially if it makes you feel terrible, its likely Diet Culture.
Okay… now on to honoring your hunger/fullness cues. You might be thinking...“well I have been avoiding my hunger for years, why would I actually listen to my hunger?” My answer…it’s self-care to nourish yourself. Every time you honor your hunger/cravings you build body trust. It’s a dynamic connection you create between your mind and body. To be able to trust that every time your body says, “it’s time to eat” and you respond “ok, let me eat something” You deepen that dynamic. Sometimes people ask me, “But Steph, what if I don’t know if I’m hungry?” And I respond, “Have you ever asked yourself that about having to go to the bathroom?” Like, “How do I know if I REALLY have to pee?” You trust your body knows when it has to pee and when it doesn’t. Same thing with hunger. If your body is hungry one hour after a meal then trust that it is hungry. Maybe your meal was actually a snack and that is why you are hungry. Maybe you moved a lot more in the last week. Maybe you are JUST hungry again. Sometimes when I have to pee a lot in the morning I get annoyed, but I still pee because I know if I don’t I will be uncomfortable and only think about having to pee. Same thing with hunger. I think about food constantly when I haven’t honored my hunger.
Makes sense so far? Yes. Awesome I thought I explained that clearly. JK I literally blacked out and forgot what I wrote. Another JK. I remember.
Alright, next topic. Body Attunement. What is it? How do you get it? Does Diet Culture sell it? I’ll explain the first two and the last one is a solid NOPE. Body Attunement is the ability to hear and respond to physical sensations in the body (I.E. biological cues of hunger and fullness). If you are not able to perceive bodily sensations, then you will have difficulty honoring true hunger/fullness cues. What are physical sensations in the body? Having a full bladder, feeling sleepy, feeling hungry all have physical sensations (might be subtle but you feel them in your body). Being attuned to these physical sensations gives you the information into your physiological and psychological state. It allows you to meet the needs of your body. Your body knows EXACTLY what you need at every moment. It’s Diet Culture and our mind that gets in the way of honoring those needs. Of course, there are obstacles to Body Attunement - like dieting! If you follow an external factor like food rules, judgements about what you can and can’t eat, think of food as “good” and “bad”, or basically any diet ever, you are missing or ignoring your body’s information or signals and therefore breaking down body trust and moving further away from your Intuition.
Cultivating self-compassion is one of the most important parts of your journey to Intuitive Eating. It’s not even a principle, it is just essential in the re-development of your intuitive eater. Yes, you were an intuitive eater. Remember when you were a toddler and you ate when you were hungry and stopped when you were full and enjoyed food?
Remember when you didn’t count the number of Cheerios you ate or thought about how you looked in your diaper?
Or remember when you had a boatload of free mind space to think about fun activities and not food, your next meal, how many grams of carbohydrates were in lunch, or how your body looks 24/7/365?
Or maybe you don’t. But I can assure you that you were at an intuitive eater at one point in your life and our culture screwed you up. Self-compassion plays a role and gives you permission to feel awkward in this journey and give yourself space to feel everything that arises when we don’t use food and our body as an excuse to NOT do the things we really want to do.
Repeat this to yourself. YOU are worthy of love, kindness, and respect. YOU deserve to eat the food you enjoy and feel good in your body. YOU are permitted to look different than the thin ideal and still receive and give love. YOU deserve the same rights and compassion that other people receive even if society tells you otherwise. YOU are amazing and I’m pretty fucking proud of you.
As I wrap up my little whirlwind I call “Wild Wild Thoughts by Stephanie Klein”, I’d like to share some benefits of Intuitive Eating (other than freedom from diet culture). This is an excerpt from the Intuitive Eating workbook:
"There have been over sixty studies on Intuitive Eating which show many associated health benefits including increased well-being, lower risk of eating disorders, and improved biomarkers, such as blood sugar and cholesterol. Also, you enjoy eating a variety of food and have better awareness of what your body needs."
If you want to know if you are indeed an Intuitive Eater, check out the “Intuitive Eating Assessment” here.
This assessment was taken from the Intuitive Eating workbook! If you would like more information on Intuitive Eating, you can purchase the book “Intuitive Eating A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch or accompanying workbook “The Intuitive Eating Workbook 10 Principles for Nourishing A Healthy Relationship with Food.”
I bid you good luck on your Intuitive Eating journey…you deserve all the fun food and laughter life has to offer.
(throwing the middle finger to Diet Culture since 2015 🖕)
*if you'd like more info on Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size, Eating Disorder support, or just want to talk about Lil' Wayne - follow along and get in touch with Steph here.