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Kind Eating with Ellie // Intuitive Eating

Alimentation bienveillante avec Ellie // L'alimentation intuitive

- By Ellie Gauthier, nutritionist

Demystifying intuitive eating

When we talk about food, we are all in this together: eating provides us with energy, gives us pleasure and brings us together. Eating adequately and sufficiently is vital so that our body can carry out its basic functions and so that we can practice the activities we enjoy. Moreover, the body is well made: it is equipped with internal regulators, i.e. hunger and satiety signals, which allow us to naturally adapt our energy intake according to our energy expenditure. In other words, when you expend more energy, you feel more hungry and you eat more. Good news: it's a sign that you are connected to your hunger and satiety signals!

However, did you know that several external factors can disrupt our internal signals of hunger and satiety? We live in a society where certain body shapes are more valued, and many of us are willing to follow diets to achieve a desired figure. We are therefore immersed in a world colored by diet culture: the way we eat is greatly influenced by societal ideals, to the detriment of our internal signals and desires. You may be wondering, “So what’s the problem?” ". In fact, as you may already know, restrictive diets are not, or very rarely, sustainable over time. Indeed, the circle of restriction is sneaky: when we drastically reduce our energy intake or cut out categories of foods that give us pleasure, we maintain a certain obsession with these foods that we forbid ourselves. . Food cravings can then occur: it is the body which tries to return to its natural weight. You will have understood: diet culture can thus create a feeling of failure and have a considerable impact on our mental health.

This is where intuitive eating comes into its own! Conceived in 1995 by two American nutritionists, intuitive eating is a caring approach which aims to reject diet culture and which has been increasingly publicized on social networks in recent years. It is a way of eating that advocates listening to your internal signals, such as food cravings and signals of hunger and satiety, instead of external signals. Ultimately, it aims to improve our relationship with food and our body. It is rooted in 10 basic principles translated from English by nutritionist Karine Gravel, as illustrated below. Whether you are an athlete, a sportsperson or you move for pleasure, there are many benefits to breaking away from diet culture. Through this article, I would like to debunk with you four myths about intuitive eating in order to make it easier for you to understand. Who knows, you might realize that you're already an intuitive eater. Let's go!

1. “Intuitive eating is letting go”

Fake! Although it can be perceived this way, intuitive eating is more thoughtful than impulsive. In fact, it rather aims to place all foods on the same pedestal. Remember: restriction fuels the desire to eat forbidden foods. When we free ourselves from restriction, we realize that eating healthy meals containing fruits, vegetables and whole grains gives us energy and makes us feel good every day, which is directly linked to one of the principles of intuitive eating which is to “respect your body”.

Test it out for yourself: If you're craving chips, serve yourself a portion and you'll probably see your cravings go away. Help yourself to additional portions later in the day and on subsequent days. Notice how you feel. Do chips give you energy or do they make you feel more tired? Do they cause you digestive problems? Do you still want to eat so much? You may realize that it is harder to “let go” than you think. Your body tends to rebalance itself and crave foods that will make it feel good. In short, it's all a question of balance!

2. “Intuitive eating makes you gain weight”

Generally speaking, this is false! Intuitive eating instead makes us tend towards our natural long-term weight, that is to say the weight that we have maintained for the longest time in our lives by having healthy lifestyle habits. One study even showed that intuitive eating is associated with a lower body mass index in the general population. However, it is possible for a person who has been on a diet and is below their natural weight to gain weight when they resume eating without restriction.

Oh, and by the way...

Weight is influenced by factors we control, such as diet and physical activity, but mostly by factors we do not control, such as genetics and hormones, to name a few . Weight alone is therefore not a good indicator of health. Changing our lifestyle habits, whether it leads to weight loss or not, has a much more lasting impact on our health than aiming for weight loss at all costs.

3. “Intuitive eating is for everyone”

Not quite. Intuitive eating is aimed at healthy people who already have basic knowledge about healthy eating and who have economic access to it. For a person with an unbalanced diet, it is relevant to optimize their eating habits before talking about intuitive eating. However, certain principles of intuitive eating can still be addressed at this stage, such as listening to your hunger and satiety signals by eating more slowly, for example.

4. “Intuitive eating is not suitable for sportspeople and athletes”

On the contrary! The sportsman or athlete must be able to modulate their portions according to their hunger and satiety signals. Indeed, if he decides to rely only on factors external to him, such as following a meal plan or consuming fixed quantities of macronutrients every day, he will necessarily be less connected to his internal signals of hunger and satiety. In the long term, it could therefore be difficult for him to adapt his portions when his training volume increases or decreases. The sportsman or athlete who eats intuitively knows how to make food choices that make him feel good physically and psychologically. He knows how to juggle his performance goals and the pleasure of eating, without falling into restriction, which is an asset for maintaining a long and healthy career in sport.

Intuitive eating is therefore an approach that aims to move away from weight-loss diets and celebrate body diversity. It encourages us to savor our food and be aware of our emotions when we eat. The next articles in this nutrition section will all be tinged with this caring approach. I will discuss with you various topics of interest in nutrition, such as sports nutrition, vegetarian eating, and much more!

See you soon! ☺