A blog defining intuitive eating got me thinking about why I'm not really on board with it, except in limited circumstances. Although the advice it gives is well worth reading and I don't disagree with too much.
It starts from the notion of dieting as if it is a viable way of eating and other forms of eating require some kind of definition in relation to it. This does the usual thing of respecting that the slimming industry is the all wise expert in human eating; when its tawdry non product has proven that to be false at virtually every turn. To Sum it up, it suggests dieting is consciously directed eating and therefore normal eating is a kind of like an inexact guessing game, in comparison.
Not only is this wrong, it normalizes dieting and behaves as if it is viable way of eating and there’s this other form of eating which uses 'intuition’. It is misleading and gives dieting too much credit and proper eating too little. The latter is hugely complex and above all incredibly accurate. Our default underestimation of this is due to diet industry propagandizing for the purpose of undermining our trust in it's precision in order to transfer that to the appearance of accuracy that is slimming.
Its capacity for preciseness is suggested by the way that when we put weight back on after a diet, even though we may be eating wildly and our metabolism may appear to have tanked. It still tends to stop more or less where it started. That is unnerving if you begin to consider all the variables.
It has to be able to calculate your needs well enough to maintain your health and is in a better position to be so than your conscious mind which is not connected as directly to all the parts of your body and their individual and collective requirements. In other words, our true eating processes are designed for the purpose and the conscious mind is designed to behave as if its in charge.
Dieting is simply not a real option. It is fantasy of how we think would work if it was controlled wholly by our conscious control mechanisms. Therefore, nothing real should be defined against it, unless to show how ill conceived and useless it has turned out to be.
Normal eating, for want of a better term is simply the only way we really eat, unless we have special dietary concerns due to actual illness dysfunction or special nutritional needs, due to a temporary or permanent condition.
Our hunger signals tell us we need energy and those of our appetite tell us the kind of things that will deliver this and the full list of other nutrients we require or as close as we can get to this given our own preferences and what is available.
There is no other way of eating that is more intrinsic to us. Everything else comes from, out of it or is superimposed onto it. The last one is the cause of the problems of dietary and especially calorie restriction. The threat of compromise to the energy stores though is the most serious of all and that is why dieting is ill conceived and it ignores the fact that it is being imposed on something that is there already and will have to adjust to its imposition. Dieting just goes on ahead and attacks where the body’s defences are their strongest, most overwhelming and comprehensive.
Intuitive eating can only be about discovering that this underlying process can only be compromised by spontaneous factors or deliberately by trying to interfere unduly with eating. It goes on regardless of what we think we can just up and choose to do with our eating and to a lesser extent, our appetite. Unless our needs change.
The term intuitive shows how accustomed we’ve become to the premise that we have full direct conscious control of our eating-we don’t and that has been proven by the failure of dieting. What attempting it does is bang our signals around and send them into a tizzy erratic mis-firing, increasingly divorced from actual need and closer to being dominated by the need to defend supply of energy, of life itself.
We feel all this as having a pretty messed up relationship with food sometimes to unimaginable extremes. It’s like a wound that is sore and keeps opening itself up. We need to stop that and allow it to heal. In order to do this, we may have to try reducing our interaction with the conscious part of eating to the barest minimum. That is the attempt to stop the wound opening.
We can't totally stop conscious input, completely. We still have to choose what to eat, whether we are listening to our bodies. I don’t think we have to our nervous system does that; we just have to receive and interpret the information. We always have to think about food, we have to think about how to get it, how to get the means to get it, and where, how to prepare it, what to serve it on, where to eat it and so on.
What IE is getting at is to stop trying to roll back the habits of the diet mentality; of naughty treats, fear and hatred of food, thinking about food as causing fatness which you of course hate too etc., And the dieting mindset which is an on-going campaign of constant denial, thwarting and interference with hunger and appetite. It’s the denial of needs by all means including emotional manipulation as well, “I don’t deserve that because of my weight”.
This can cause so much disorder on so many levels, it can become more practical to abandon all conscious attempts to control your signals directly; full stop. This is a shame, because it's a good use of the conscious mind, to help us adapt to all situations and still be able to meet our needs. It's dieting's overstating of this that causes the problems, not the mere idea of this kind of conscious input.
The purpose of any period of IE, should be in order to recover this useful and import role for our minds. What feels like letting go of all control, is the letting go of false control to re-embrace the real one, eventually. By letting it be, they will begin to calm down and recover as fully as possible; to the point where they are no longer disordered. It can be crucial to use some (simple) kind of discipline to calm down overall.
One idea of IE type eating is we listen to our real hunger and our bodies and what they "tell" us to eat. For a start all hunger is real, it’s just that it has different purposes, if you wish to minimize the creation of unnecessary hunger it’s best not to provoke it by trying to make semi starvation a lifestyle. I think we interact with the telling or it just becomes too passive. Although I must emphasise at first it may be necessary to be this careful, I just don't feel it's desirable to prolong it forever.
I also reject the idea that your hunger and appetite may never recover and that it is the only way you can place it in the recovery position, if you like.
The problem is those who come off an extreme and long term dietary war of attrition. It must be realised that “what their bodies are likely to be telling them” is something like "let’s eat up as storm whilst her/his guard is down until s/he beats the crap out of us with another famine ambush".
"We know s/he will because s/he’s been doing so since kindergarten/many years and has done this time and time again, no matter what we’ve thrown at her/him. So let’s get as much on board to sink the next(anticipated) effort."
This anticipation can last a hell of a long time, it can become indefinite. And remember it is quite likely to be accompanied at least for some of the time, by the body in re-bound mode, which is when you put on weight you’ve lost on a diet or by expending energy. It's like a sort of hibernation like mode when rate of calories used seems to lessen, or rate or storage increase.
This must be taken into account more especially as it can put an attempt to get off the diet treadmill at risk when people might be most likely to waiver or be unnerved by it. FA cannot promise, nor should it, weight loss or even weight stabilization. However in view of the fact that this kind of adjustment can bring other problems I think it’s best to unless you cannot stand another moment, go a bit slowly if you can. Or do what I did, let go and keep checking back to see if it protests when you try to steer it off an overabundance of diet thwarters!
Try to give yourself, mind and body a chance to adjust to your new state of self respect.