*note- I mention Whole30 in this blog post as an example- for those of you who aren’t familiar its a very popular 30 day restrictive eating plan that I personally don’t support because it’s a way of eating that promotes restriction and pulls away from our bodies wants and needs in terms of nutrients and reinforces reliance on external cues to eat (i.e what is or is not approved by Whole30 standards) further removing us from our natural internal cues and regulatory mechanisms
I don’t believe any way of eating is mutually exclusive (unless you have a nutrition restriction like celiac and gluten, for example). The more I’m immersed and learn about the Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size field the more I see this giant divide between that side and other more “traditional” or in line with diet culture ways of looking at nutrition- sort of black and white. I totally speak from experience because upon reading Intuitive Eating for the first time and working on myself, I felt so strongly that there was no room for any more “diet” food in my life. I’m not talking about Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers diet food, I’m talking about products that are marketing #cleaneating #paleo etc. that super saturate the instagram foodie world- which at that time I was very much a part of. I went super extreme and associated intuitive eating with full fat, full sugar, gluten filled, etc- and part of IE for me was allowing those things back in my life 100% but there was more to the picture I was leaving out. I felt like posting a photo of a diet-y item on my page like a granola that is marketed as compliant with Whole30 standards and has no refined sugar or gluten or whatever would mean that I was being a fake Intuitive Eater and I had to go buy the “real” stuff- you know, with grains in it. Then the more I read and researched and absorbed the world around me, the more I realized that way of thinking was actually super one-sided. What I failed to see was that way of thinking was focused on lots of external components of the eating experience and diet culture versus internal.
Examples of external components of a food/eating experiences – what the label, instagram, your friend, or the nutrition facts says- what friends think, what mom says, what some weight loss program told you an appropriate time to eat and how much to eat was etc.
Examples of internal components of food/eating experiences- taste, texture, staying power, did it digest well?, was it satisfying? what did it make me feel physically and emotionally? was I getting a balance of nutrients that I know will fuel me well? how hungry am I? How full am I?
Diet culture focuses a lot on external stuff like how pretty the food is, what claims are on the label (how many things it’s free of) , if it has less of stuff in it , limiting “bad” food like sugar, and I don’t have to support diet culture (because let me be clear- I do not support) but I can still eat foods that are marketed in that light if that food satisfies my internal cues. It doesn’t mean I’m not being an intuitive eater and that I’m crumbling under the diet culture pressure. No. It just means I’m eating.
How I look at a granola marketed as Whole30, for example, is by taking the label off, pouring it in my hand or on my yogurt or in milk or whatever I’m doing it and then asking myself if I enjoyed that experience or if that granola did what I needed it to do. I’m not focused on what the label says unless it’s to see what’s in the food and use that as brain and body knowledge and then move on.
Example: a Whole30 “approved” granola usually has lots of nuts and seeds in it with some maple syrup and no grains. If I think that product tastes yummy then I know that (usually) for my personal satisfaction, I have to have a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat + some micronutrient like fruit or veg to be physically full and satisfied and have enough energy to get me through whatever I need to do. That granola only really has substantial amounts of fat and protein from all the nuts so I can find a grain product like a cereal in the cabinet or some banana to chop up and throw with my yogurt parfait to make it more balanced for me. OR Maybe I ate a carb heavy meal earlier and I really just want some protein and fat- that granola fits the bill!
I hesitate to write about this because so often people turn to Intuitive Eating while healing their body from disordered eating and thinking of incorporating a food that was used during that disordered time maybe for external reasons could cause some confusion and stress around food and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. What I’m trying to do is work through my own thought process about food and the two spheres I have to be involved in- one sphere I chose (non-diet/IE/HAES) and one sphere that I did not choose (school where I don’t get to control what I’m taught- I know I’m also not a sponge and I don’t have to soak in everything I’m taught but you know what I mean (post on that later)).
So- if a food tastes really good to you or satisfies you and it also somehow aligns with diet culture, I think encourage you to think of nutrition as one big great area rather than this black and white divide. The beauty of intuitive eating is getting back in tune with your body and it’s such an empowering experience to be able to choose food from an internal perspective or in the case of this blog post being able to acknowledge that the food you chose may have some external meaning but you don’t have to internalize that or eat it for those reasons. You can eat the food because it is pleasurable for you!
Let me know in the comments if you have had some similar revelations, or not, on your intuitive eating journey!