By: Annemarie Morrell, Winthrop University Nutrition Student
With the holiday season coming up, a lot of people have food fears or show signs of unhealthy
food habits and thoughts. Also, this time of the year people can feel more stressed due to expenses or certain obligations that come about in the season. All of these emotions and pressure that people put on themselves during the holidays can make it difficult to actually enjoy the moment and enjoy the food side of it. Intuitive eating looks at a non-diet approach to try and change individuals' eating habits. Intuitive eating is all about trusting the body to make food choices that make you feel good and to not judge yourself or be influenced by diet culture, which is surrounding us constantly. It isn't for everyone, but if you think this is something that could help you, especially during the holiday season, it's a good thing to try or learn more about.
How to Intuitively Eat
Eating intuitively means tapping into the body's natural ability to let you know when you're hungry, full, and satisfied. It's a concept to help people make peace with all types of food and not label food as “good” or “bad,” instead following what your body wants to eat and what makes you actually feel good. Intuitive eating allows you to go beyond eating purely for weight loss or gain and rather to what allows you to feel your best on a physical, mental, and emotional level.
Some tips to eating intuitively:
Try not to follow strict rules around the food that you eat.
Trust your body, it will let you know when you're hungry.
Pay attention to when you are full by checking in on your hunger levels to see if you want to keep eating or if you are satiated.
Eat foods that make you feel good and don't deprive yourself of certain foods, understand that moderation is key.
Understand your emotions and if you're eating because you have anxiety, boredom, anger, etc. If you notice this is an ongoing pattern it might be time to talk to a therapist instead of only going to food for comfort.
Research on intuitive eating is growing. One study found that women felt that there were barriers to intuitive eating such as emotions, social factors, and family influences that presented challenges. This just shows that it's important to have encouraging people around you, the support of friends and family, and learning to talk to them about boundaries and learning to trust your own body's hunger and satiety rather than listening to others.
How to Enjoy the Season Eating Intuitively
Following an intuitive mindset can help to adapt food flexibility into your life which would allow you to eat in moderation and eat what you want. This way you don't feel like you're on a diet or that a certain food is off limits. During the holiday season it's good to understand your food boundaries and food fears and not letting others (or yourself ) tell you not to eat something. It's important to not look at food as “good” or “bad,” because all food in a sense is offering nutrition to your body, we
have to eat. Around this time people can also be very busy so you may find it hard to stick to your intuition and how you're feeling. It's important to be aware of these cues and to understand when you're hungry, full, and your overall satisfaction. If your stomach is growling or grumbling, and you have a lack of energy, it might be time to eat. If you avoid certain foods on the holiday it could lead to feeling deprived and lead to binging. If you allow yourself freedom to eat what you actually want without shame or judgement, while still nourishing your body, you can start to break the all-or-nothing mentality. It's also important to be around your family and friends, enjoy the holiday, and enjoy the foods altogether.
In conclusion it's hard to get out of the mindset of food being “good” or “bad,” but it's never too late to adopt this mindset. Understanding your body and your hunger cues is key to intuitively eating. Also understanding that your favorite foods is fine and eating one piece of pie is not going to ruin your “diet” and it shouldn't make you feel bad about yourself. Unlearning certain beliefs and certain stereotypes around food can be challenging, but it's important to not live the rest of your life on a diet or to be unhappy with your body. During the holidays remember to enjoy being around loved ones and try not to stress about certain foods since this is only going to take away from the time with them. Again, it doesn't happen overnight, but hopefully with a closer look at intuitive eating you can adopt the mindset or look more into it. Lastly, it's not for everyone, some people might not do well with intuitive eating and that's okay but it still is important to understand that food fear is real and as a society we should stop labeling food as “good” or “bad” to stop food guilt.
What is intuitive eating? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-is-intuitive-eating. Accessed November 7, 2022.
Barraclough EL, Hay-Smith EJC, Boucher SE, Tylka TL, Horwath CC. Learning to eat intuitively: A qualitative exploration of the experience of mid-age women. Health Psychol Open. 2019;6(1):2055102918824064. Published 2019 Feb 1. doi:10.1177/2055102918824064