In 2019, the weight loss market was worth a record $72 billion. That’s right, billion. From fitness bloggers pushing laxative teas, to TV doctors hosting reality shows centered on weight loss, everyone’s trying to cash in on the desire to lose weight. But when you couple this with endless advertising for junk food, many people are caught in the middle. The result is constant yo-yo dieting, eating disorders, obesity, and other mental health issues surrounding food. So how can we step off the scale and move toward a healthier mindset about food? Intuitive eating just might be the answer.
Defining Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is a self-care technique that rejects dieting altogether and helps you re-sync your body and mind. It reinforces the notion that being healthy starts with how we think and feel about food and then making gentle, gradual changes to what we put on our plates. To give you a sense of the practice, here’s a quick overview:
Identifying & Unlearning Diet Culture
Have you ever heard someone shame themselves for eating a doughnut? Or a friend who is proud of themselves because all they had for dinner that day was a salad? Diet culture has tricked us into thinking that our food choices reflect our character. It’s this cycle of shame and guilt that keeps us buying products, whether it be a diet, a program, a supplement, and so on. However, by accepting that food is simply fuel for your body to function, you can let go of the negative feelings and start taking care of ourselves from a healthy place.
Letting Yourself Eat In Peace
Many dieters ignore their hunger, choosing to skip meals, or eat less than their body needs to stay satiated. Unfortunately, this only creates the untamable urge to overeat and further perpetuates an unhealthy cycle. You can relearn your normal hunger cues by being mindful of when your stomach feels empty, or when you feel tired or lightheaded. When you’ve rediscovered your hunger, honor it by eating until you’re completely satisfied. Enjoy your meal little distraction, and take a moment to feel gratitude and a sense of contentment for the food you just enjoyed.
Accepting & Nourishing Your Body
Do you have a set weight in your mind? Let it go. It’s not worth forcing yourself into a mold that will tax you mentally and physically. Instead, make your goal to nourish your body until it’s healthy and happy. Don’t eat vegetables to punish yourself, but for the vitamins that will help your immune system. Remember protein isn’t just to dull your appetite; it also helps you repair and build muscle. Overall, be gentle with yourself — don’t deprive yourself of birthday cake or cookies when the mood strikes. When you’re ready, think of exercise as a way to have fun, get stronger, and sleep better, ignoring past impulses to “work off” extra weight.
In the end, the foods we eat do not define us — we do. By making peace with food, we gain back valuable space in our minds and end up healthier as a result. If you want more resources on intuitive eating, visit intuitiveeating.org.