The concepts of intuitive and mindful eating have grown enormously in popularity in the last few years. These new ways to think about food and eating are very different from the traditional ways and when new and wildly different ideas about nutrition are suggested, it can take a while to understand how they can relate to your life and help you improve your health.
The terms "intuitive" and "mindful" eating are not very descriptive, so let's instead use common issues people face to illustrate how using an intuitive approach to food can help with your relationship with food.
"My eating is out of control"
Perhaps you find yourself often eating when not hungry, or want to better deal with your cravings. Intuitive eating can help us feel more in charge of choosing when to eat rather than feeling compelled to eat by unruly cravings.
Some people call it "mindless eating," while others use the term "distracted eating." No matter what words you use, being an intuitive eater helps increase our ability to know when we are not paying attention to our eating, and gently bring our attention to the present (either to enjoy the food or realize that we aren't enjoying it.)
"I don't want to diet, but I don't know what else to do"
Maybe you have heard of the "non-diet" approach to healthy eating, but aren't sure how to do this. If you desire a less restrictive approach to food, nutrition and health, this is what intuitive eating is all about.
We don't actually need rules and diet plans to make sure we eat "right." However, it is completely understandable that the allure of dieting ("we'll do the thinking for you" and "follow our plan for guaranteed success") and the fears they plant in our minds ("left to your own devices, you'll make the wrong decisions") draw us to them.
Do you feel that decisions about food (like portions and food choices) are overwhelming? That you never seem to know what to eat, or even what you want to eat? Following rigid meal plans or food rules can make seemingly simple food decisions very difficult. Plans and rules don't allow us to practice listening to our hunger levels or food preferences.
Our body can't be tricked into eating less than it needs without it pushing back.
If you want to find middle ground between dieting and binging, as well as wanting guidance in moving away from dieting, mindful and intuitive eating can do just that. It may sound radical and very different from what you've tried in the past, butif you always did what you've always done,you'll always get what you've always got. If dieting has always been followed by binging, weight regain or frustration, why not try a different strategy?
Many people with whom I speak state that mindful eating "spoke" to them, but they weren't sure how to make it work in their life. Reaching out to a non-diet, weight neutral dietitian to help guide and support you can be invaluable. Joining a local support group can be a great help too.
"I wish dieting worked like it used to"
Feel caught in the cycle of dieting, binge eating, dieting? Do you feel you always "ruin it" by overeating after you've followed a diet? This is a normal response to restricting food and calories. Our body can't be tricked into eating less than it needs without it pushing back.
If you have dieted in the past, the first few times you tried to restrict your food may have seemed easy or led to promised results. However, our body is quick to respond and save us from the perceived (and actual) starvation. It pushes the mind to think about food, seek out opportunities to eat and even increases our ability to smell (among other things), all in order to keep you healthy.
Feeling preoccupied with food, fearing foods and not trusting your appetite can be directly due to making certain foods off limits. Adopting an "all foods fit" mindset is a very powerful way to combat these struggles.
"I have a love/hate relationship with dieting and weight loss"
Many of my clients state that dieting and restrictive eating is playing a role in their non-hunger eating, or feeling out of control with food. Imagine that! The very thing we are told will help us eat less can lead to eating more.
When taking a hard, long look at your past experiences with dieting and restricting foods, do you feel they've reduced your quality of life? Maybe they have taken away time, energy, money, pleasure and freedom, and stifled your ability to just enjoy life and food.
Intuitive eating helps to stop weight yo-yoing and any shame spiral you may experience by "falling off the wagon," since there is no wagon.
More from HuffPost Canada:
If you have a history of obsessing over numbers like your weight, calories or steps, intuitive eating is a way to guide yourself when making food choices that do not require tracking, or feeling beholden to numbers. It is a safe way to reconnect with your body and food that does not promote disordered eating.
"I feel ashamed or uncomfortable in my body"
It may sound strange that intuitive and mindful eating can help beyond battles with food, but it can!
If you struggle to feel comfortable in your body, being more mindful encourages and guides us on how to be more accepting of your body and even grateful for what our body can do for us.
A non-diet, body-positive approach to eating and living can help you feel more comfortable in your body without having to starve or undergo surgery. If you want to understand what a "natural healthy weight" means and how to find yours, becoming an intuitive eater is the best way.