By Rachel Rood
A common response I often hear when people find out that I’m a dietitian is: “you must eat so healthy! And I feel like I do, but probably not in the way that they are thinking. I love fresh fruit, a good quinoa salad and grilled fish, and I also enjoy french fries, ice cream and brownies. I strongly believe that all foods can fit in the definition of a “healthy” diet, which boils down to the basic nutrition principles of balance, variety and moderation.
Too many people are at war with food, which is perpetuated by media, news, well-intended medical professionals and the diet industry. It doesn’t matter if it’s packaged as “clean eating” paleo, gluten-free or calorie counting; all diets result in restriction and self-deprivation which can often lead to an eating disorder. Or for many individuals, they are trapped in a world of “disordered eating” that may look like chronic restrictive eating, self-denial which may be interspersed with emotional overeating or bingeing; and always followed with extreme guilt and self-loathing.At Avalon Hills we promote the Intuitive Eating philosophy. Being an Intuitive eater means that you “reject the diet mentality”, eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full and ultimately “Make Peace with Food”.
Professionally and personally, I have found that Intuitive Eating is consistent with health, and more importantly, promotes a healthy relationship with food. Multiple studies have demonstrated that Intuitive Eaters eat a diversity of foods, are optimistic, have better self-esteem, and have healthier body weights without internalizing the thin ideal (Tribole, 2009).
So how do you go about making peace with food? In the book Intuitive Eating we learn that the key is Unconditional Permission to Eat.
Remove labels of good foods and bad foods. One donut won’t make you unhealthy, just like one salad won’t make you healthy. A “healthy” diet encompasses the big picture of your intake over time. To continue to make peace with food, try the following steps outlined in the book:
- Pay attention to foods that appeal to you and make a list of them.
- Put a check by the foods you actually do eat, then circle remaining foods that you’ve been restricting.
- Give yourself permission to eat one forbidden food from you list, then go to the store and buy it, or order it at a restaurant.
- Check in with yourself to see if the food tastes as good as you imagined. If you find that you really like it, continue to give yourself permission to buy or order it.
- Make sure that you keep enough of the food in your kitchen so that you know it will be there if you want it. Or, if that seems too scary, go to a restaurant and order the particular food as often as you like.
Making Peace With Food, is just one principle in the Intuitive Eating process, and although it might seem a little frightening, you may find that it is freeing to let go of the fear and guilt that can come with eating when you’re stuck in the diet mentality.
One of my favorite moments was eating a snack with a young 12-year-old client that was about to discharge to home. We were enjoying strawberry shortcake and she exclaimed “this is delicious! Why would anyone not want to eat this?”
So “Stop the food fight, call a truce”, and instead of doing the latest fad “30 day challenge” that invariably ends in failure and disappointment, read Intuitive Eating and try it – you just might like it.