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Intuitive Eating (Sort Of) Review

April 5, 2011

I’ve called this post a sort of review because I don’t want to review the content of the book in great detail. There’s a lot written about intuitive eating out there in blogland and I don’t want to go over old ground. If you want a basic overview of what’s in the book have a look at the official website. I want to write about how the theory of intuitive eating impacts on me and my current way of eating and also the limitations of the programme.

First, I want to say that I always read books on nutrition, exercise and health in general fairly critically. There are loads of different theories, diets and programmes out there that promise success in losing weight, staying healthy, getting fit etc. etc. It can be very confusing once you start researching health because there is so much conflicting information. That’s why I haven’t written a review until today, even though I read the book a couple of weeks ago – I wanted to reflect on it and try out some of the suggestions before writing about it.

I was very curious about intuitive eating from what I’d read on various blogs. My ultimate aim, now I’ve lost weight and have maintained it for a while, is to be able to continue to maintain a healthy weight whilst not having to worry about what I’ve eating. That’s what drew me to healthy living blogs in the first place – bloggers seem to eat healthily, in decent amounts and have regular treats. Although I still find health blogs very helpful, I’ve come to realise all may not be what it seems (see Stacey’s post yesterday about a similar subject).

Reading the book has helped me to reflect on some of my eating behaviours. For a start it made me question whether I still have a “diet mentality”. I would definitely say that I’m not on a diet, yet I fall into many of the traps that a dieter does. Only a few weeks ago I was talking on the blog about the fact I wanted to start weighing myself again. Plus, I think I’m always on the search for a set of rules that will help me with my eating. When I lost weight between the ages of 15 and 18 I followed a strict very low fat diet. I didn’t count calories, but by eating virtually no fat that’s what I was doing. More recently I’ve been restricting sugar and refined carbs. Now, I don’t think that particularly bad thing, but I’ve been following it like a rigid rule. It doesn’t help that I’m a rules, routine and planning sort of girl.

I also found the chapters on eating when your hungry and stopping when your full really interesting. I think I’ve got better at recognising hunger signals, but I still have a tendency to eat until I’m stuffed. I’ve been trying to practice finding my fullness point, but it’s been a real challenge and as I mentioned yesterday, I ended up stuffed to bursting again on Sunday.

Probably the chapter that brought the biggest revelation for me was the one on making peace with food. I can become obsessed with eating healthy food and labelling food as “good” and “bad”. Of course, there are foods that are nutritionally better for us than others, but the problem with restricting them is that I would then overeat. The book suggests giving yourself permission to eat whatever you like as long as it satisfies you. I’ve been experimenting over the past couple of weeks and have successful enjoyed (without overeating) several hobnobs, white chocolate, cheese and crackers, chocolate biscuits, ice-cream and white bread. After I read that chapter I found myself in Pret a Manger really hungry and trying to decide what to have for lunch. I thought hard about what I really fancied, regardless of nutritional considerations and came up with a prawn baguette. Yes, it was smothered in marie rose sauce and wasn’t on a wholemeal baguette, but OMG it tasted really really good. In those moments where I was really enjoying my food I felt so liberated.

I have to say that the programme doesn’t entirely ditch nutrition and does advocate a healthy diet, it’s just that to get over disordered eating nutrition isn’t always the first consideration.

Now to those limitations I talked about. The authors call intuitive eating a “program” and it is divided up into a series of stages, so is it a set of rules? It’s not meant to be a set of rules, but I’m very aware that I could fall into the trap of following them as such. The authors actually deal with this scenario and are keen to go into detail about how to avoid feeling guilty about going off-track, but that’s easier said than done.

Which brings me on to my next point – the authors are registered dieticians and the book is born out of their experiences treating patients face-to-face. Reading a book is not the same as getting one-on-one help and feedback for eating problems. Personally, I have a healthy diet, I’m a healthy weight and don’t have major problems with disordered eating. I would like to find strategies for feeling less emotional and guilty about food. I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending the book to anyone who have more serious issues as I feel that it could be misinterpreted.

Have you read Intuitive Eating? What are your thoughts? Is it something you follow or have you found something else that works for you?

15 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2011 8:06 pm

    I have not read it (I didnt even know it was a real thing if that makes sense). I did post a while back about how I find it hard to balance properly. I use WLR to log my calories and exercise, and if I stop for a bit, my weight starts to creep up. PLus I find that on days I do a lot of exercise I am not hungry and do not eat anywhere near enough, and for rest days I am more hungry, so I need the diary still to help me balance it out over the week.
    I will check out the website though as it makes sense, and it is something I am aiming for.
    I lost weight counting calories, which worked for me, but it is the maintaining phase that is hard. I do think I listen to my body more and make better choices, and I also agree that no foods should be labelled good or bad, just more or less healthy. Plus I do think food is more than just fuel- it is culture, enjoyment etc.

  2. April 5, 2011 8:09 pm

    I haven’t read intuitive eating but I do know what you mean about reading diet and nutrition books critically. My theory at the moment is to go with what makes sense to you and what nutritional theories you are drawn to. Veganism and books like The Kind Diet and Crazy Sexy Diet strike a cord with me – just as the Paelo diet for example will strike a cord with others (obviously this isn’t fool proof, you need a big dose of common sense too). I would love to be able to eat more intuitively but if I did that at the moment I wouldn’t be fuelling my workouts and would be losing more weight (which for me would be unhealthy right now). Good for you eating stuff that you fancy – I think thats a great way to avoid binges in the long run. My tastes have changed so much that the stuff I really get enjoyment out of now could still be classed my many as healthy, but at the end of the day I eat what I enjoy! Great post!

  3. April 5, 2011 9:08 pm

    I’ve been through so many phases with my eating, from nudging overweight through to calorie counting, restriction, getting down to an anorexic weight but then completely backsliding, descending into Binge Eating Disorder, almost becoming overweight again and then retaining a tendency to compulsively overeat but control it through an element of exercise addiction.

    The concept of IE really upsets me because it makes it seem so easy, as if everyone can just be okay if they let their food rules go and develop a natural appetite. But when you’ve been in the depths of one ED or another for fourteen years, and battled with your weight even before that, you have no concept of what your true hunger signals are, nor the ability to stop before you are stuffed to the point of pain sometimes in my case.

    I think this was a great and balanced review, and your closing thoughts were particularly refreshing to read.


  4. April 5, 2011 9:28 pm

    I would love to read this book! I don’t count calories religiously anymore, but it’s always kind of in the back of my mind. I want to pay attention to my body, not a number.

  5. Janet permalink
    April 6, 2011 8:51 am

    Good post. I haven’t read Intuitive Eating but I’m familiar with Beyond Chocolate, which sounds very similar in principle, particularly the part you mention about making peace with food, and no food being inherently “bad” or “good”. A huge pet hate of mine is when grown women refer to being “naughty” with food, as if they’re five years old! Thankfully none of the bloggers I follow do ths, but you hear far too much on tv and in real life.

    One of the Beyond Chocolate excercises is to take a chocolate bar and eat it mindfully one piece at a time with a short pause between each piece – the first two pieces will taste delicious, the third ok, and any piece after this just won’t taste as good. I think this is a really useful exercise for someone who is trying to eat intuitively but would normally inhale a chocolate bar or eat 8 biscuits instead of 1 or 2 with a cup of tea for example (I’m talking about common mindless eating around ‘treat’ stuff, not eating disorders btw). This has really worked for me and I’m much more relaxed around chocolate, biscuits etc now the penny has dropped with this.

    Janet (delurking to say hi)

  6. April 6, 2011 2:55 pm

    How interesting. I totally agree with ‘intuitive eating’ as a concept, but I guess I would have to read that book to give a proper opinion!
    I definitely think that I am caught in a bit of a trap with avoiding ‘bad’ foods 100%. I think its great that you were able to have exactly what you fancied in Pret!

  7. April 6, 2011 4:39 pm

    Im proud of you for eating exactly what you wanted to in Pret – you should be proud of yourself, too! This is a huge step!

    And I havent read this book, but Ive heard of this term before, and I think intuitive eating, on a whole, is hugely important in order to have a healthy appetite with food, and such!

    Love love x

  8. April 6, 2011 6:11 pm

    I haven’t tried Intuitive Eating but I do try eating when hungry and stopping when full (chewing consciously), but to be honest this is something that I need to practice. More recently I have needed rules and calorie counting to keep me right but this get too rigid and they I go overboard in the other direction …. what I’m saying I think is that I still need to find my happy balance.

  9. April 6, 2011 7:31 pm

    This is a really interesting post Sarah. In particular I liked what you said about going for foods that you genuinely fancy, and not focusing too much on nutritional content. I’ve fallen into that trap in the past, so more recently, I’ve been trying to follow my nose more, as it were.

    Worrying about creating rules and restrictions is also something I’ve experienced. It was something I thought long and hard about before I decided to ditch sugar for a while, and I intend to start reintroducing things again tomorrow a think — a week on. For me that was more about breaking a cycle that I was locked into, rather than a weight maintenance thing. But like you, I do respond well to rigid rules. Part of the reason I intend to stop tomorrow, rather than continue so long as I’m finding it relatively painless, it that I’m worried about a backlash, or about using it as an excuse to further restrict my diet.

    Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful response. I hope you come back to this as time goes on 🙂

  10. April 7, 2011 10:28 am

    Great post! I haven’t read Intuitive Eating, but it does sound very interesting!

  11. April 9, 2011 10:00 am

    Brill post 🙂

    99% of the time I’ll IE and I find it works for me. The 1% I’ll eat a load of something despite being full cos it tastes amazing or I’ve had a crap day or something has upset me or like this week, I didn’t eat due to being unbelievably stressed, we’re not all perfect 🙂

    I’ve tried all of the eating 6 mini meals, snacks and such and it just doesn’t work for me, I find I’m obsessed with food and worrying over calories! I also find calorie counting far too rigid and made me worse.

    Glad you followed your tastebuds, bet that prawn baguette never tasted so good!


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