The Diet Philosophy that Changed my Life
Have I never written about Intuitive Eating? Well, I apologize for waiting so long to write a post about something that has been so important in my life. This one’s going to get a little personal, but there’s no harm in getting to know your ND a little better, right?
Intuitive Eating has been my go-to style of eating for years now. It’s the reason why my diet may not be as pristine and perfect as others. But it’s also the reason why I have a much healthier relationship with food than I ever imagined was possible.
You see, for a large chunk of my life (pre-teens to early 20s,) I had an unhealthy relationship with food. I was obsessed with limiting “bad food” and making my diet as perfect as it possibly could be. I felt horrible when I deviated from the perfect diet I planned for myself every day. In my late teens, I would have so many food cravings for the foods I kept trying to “ban” in my life that I eventually would give in and eat uncomfortable amounts of those foods. This deprivation-overeating roller coaster took a significant toll on my mental health. Plus, I felt so embarrassed that my life was being dominated by something so ordinary as food.
Eventually, I discovered something called Intuitive Eating. This was a system of eating popularized by two American dietitians over a decade ago. It was a system of eating that seemed so simple but was so foreign to me because of my food issues and history of disordered eating.
Simply put, Intuitive Eating involves eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full and eating whatever you want. It aims to strip away the mentality of “good food vs. bad food” that leads some people to constantly feel deprived and plagued by cravings. It involves eating mindfully and really paying attention to how food makes you feel physically rather than focusing on beating yourself up for eating something that was on your “bad” list. Sounds like common sense right?
But in a world that is so obsessed with rigid, prescriptive diets, this concept feels very foreign to many people. It was foreign to me. I thought to myself, what do you mean eat whatever I want? If I give myself permission to do that, I’ll eat the whole kitchen and I’ll eat mountains of junk food. I’m going to gain so much weight eating like this! There is no way that people with a healthy weight go around eating like this.
I was so fed up that despite these thoughts, I decided to give Intuitive Eating a try. At first, I did eat a LOT of junk food. I mean, I finally had this freedom to eat what I wanted to so of course I was going to let loose. But then something unexpected happened. Once my mind wrapped itself around the fact that there were no longer going to be restrictions on the junk food I was eating and that I could have it whenever I wanted to, I became less interested in it. My mind was also less cluttered with guilt and diet-plotting so I was able to focus more on the fact that I physically felt unwell after eating all that junk food. This awareness also made the junk food less interesting. The diet mentality was slowly disappearing and the forbidden fruit effect was fading along with it.
Nowadays my diet has naturally fallen into the 80/20 pattern. 80% of it would be considered healthy, 20% if it would not. When I’m having lots of processed or inflammatory foods, I feel the negative physical affects but I no longer feel the guilt. The times that I do push myself closer to that 100% “healthy” diet, it comes from a place of wanting to take care of myself rather than a place of shame and guilt.
As for studies on intuitive eating – there aren’t many. But, I personally don’t need them to be convinced. From a young age, I was acquainted with the shocking power that your mind can have over you. This has fueled my passion for mental health. Disordered eating and unhealthy relationships with food can really drain the peace from your life. If you’re struggling with these issues, intuitive eating might be something worth looking into. It’s not for everyone, but it was life-changing for me and many others.
Dr. Samantha Dass is currently a naturopathic doctor working at Holland Landing Health Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario, which services Holland Landing, Newmarket, Aurora, Keswick and Bradford areas. If you are interested in naturopathic services please contact Holland Landing Health Centre at 905-853-7900 or via e-mail at [email protected].