How Intuitive Eating lead me to eating "Plant Based"
How Intuitive Eating lead me to a Plant Based (dare I say it) Diet
First things first: Intuitive Eating is not a diet. Did the people in the back hear that? INTUITIVE EATING IS NOT A DIET. Sorry about the yelling, but I just needed to make sure that was clear. I picked up the book Intuitive Eatingbecause while counseling a patient in the hospital they said “oh wow, your style sounds a lot like that Intuitive Eating book!” I was embarrassed to admit I had heard of it, but never read it. I bought a copy that night. I had an incredible sense of relief to read I wasn’t the only dietitian who doesn’t recommend dieting.
While reading the book I was taking feverish notes on how to improve my counseling skills. I wasn’t expecting to gain insight about my own eating, as a born and raised Intuitive Eater. Let me back up a little, about 2 weeks before reading Intuitive Eating, I had stopped eating meat as an “experiment. “This “experiment” had nothing to do with dieting or losing weight, but just how I would feel without meat. I was never a bigmeat eater, but after 2 years with my boyfriend, meat was the center of our dinner every night. I was feeling somewhat sluggish, but worse--I was feeling some guilt. I am an animal lover and yet was eating meat daily. I try to live with a minimal environmental footprint. My values weren’t being represented in my food choices. So somehow my 1 week experiment became 2, 2 became 10, and here we are over 1 year later.
Intuitive Eating explains that Authentic Health comes from “the dynamic integration between inner attunement and external health values”.1 So, first things first, we need to clearly hear, honor, and respect our bodies hunger, fullness, and satisfaction cues. THEN we can look into the external values: this could be a medically necessary “diet” like carbohydrate controlled, gluten free for celiac disease, etc., and/or this could include any philosophical preferences like eating local, veganism, etc.
Often times when we think of guilt around eating, it’s about the health aspects of the food, or the portion sizes. For me I had unease around the source of the majority of my protein, and the environmental implications. This is because my external health values were not represented in my choices, prohibiting my authentic health. Next thing I need to point out: labeling ourselves by what we eat is pretty silly. It keeps us in a rigid box, reinforcing that morality we put on food as being “good” or “bad.” I had Turkey on thanksgiving, tried hot chicken my one night in Nashville, still love me some seafood, and would eat some locally sourced humanely raised meat right now if I wanted it. With NO guilt. This is what food freedom means to me!
It is possible to be an Intuitive Eater and eat plant based. The caveat? You need to be plant based for the right reasons. I mean sustainability and ethical reasons. If you are doing it for weight loss, hello, that’s a diet! If you are calling it a “lifestyle” change, but are hoping to drop a couple pounds- it’s a diet. You can be an Intuitive Eater and eat meat, that is a-okay too! If you want to be plant based, but it feels like a diet and gets you back into that mindset- STOP! Having a healthy relationship with food is more important.This is tricky ground, and I highly recommend working with an Intuitive Eating based dietitian, to find your own authentic health. Want to talk more about this? Leave a comment or send me an email!
P.S this is a little off topic but little choices do add up! Like meatless Mondays, driving your car less-biking more, recycling, buying local, or ditching single use products and choosing sustainable practices just to name a few. There are plenty of other environmentally ethical decisions we make every day that don’t have anything to do with “your diet.”
1. Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary program that works (Vol. 3). New York: St. Martins Griffin.