- By Ellie Gauthier, nutritionist
Demystifying intuitive eating
When we talk about food, we are all concerned: eating gives us energy, gives us pleasure and brings us together. Adequate and sufficient nutrition is vital for our body to perform its basic functions and for us to be able to practice the activities we enjoy. Moreover, the body is well made: it is equipped with internal regulators, namely the signals of hunger and satiety, 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 valued more, and many of us are willing to diet to achieve a desired figure. We are therefore immersed in a world tainted by the culture of diets: 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 food that make us happy, we maintain a certain obsession for these foods that we forbid ourselves. . Food cravings can then occur: the body tries to return to its natural weight. You will have understood: the culture of diets can thus generate a feeling of failure and have a considerable impact on our mental health.
It's there that intuitive eating makes sense! Conceived in 1995 by two American nutritionists, intuitive eating is a benevolent approach which aims to reject the culture of diets and which has been increasingly publicized on social networks in recent years. It is a way of eating that promotes listening to 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 sportsman or just moving for fun, there are many benefits to breaking away from diet culture. Through this article, I would like to dispel four myths about intuitive eating with you in order to make it easier for you to understand them. Who knows, you might realize that you are already an intuitive eater. Let's go!
1. “Intuitive eating is letting go”
Fake! Although it can be perceived that way, intuitive eating is more thoughtful than impulsive. In fact, it is more about putting all foods on the same pedestal. Remember: restriction fuels the desire to eat forbidden foods. When we break free 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 related to one principles of intuitive eating which is to "respect your body".
Take the test for yourself: if you crave chips, serve yourself a portion and you'll likely see your craving dissipate. Help yourself to more portions later in the day and on subsequent days. Observe how you feel. Do crisps give you energy or on the contrary, do they make you feel more tired? Do they cause you digestive problems? Do you still want to eat so many? You may find that “letting go” is harder than you think. Your body tends to rebalance itself and make you crave foods that will make it feel good. In short, it's all about balance!
2. “Intuitive eating makes you gain weight”
Generally speaking, this is wrong! Intuitive eating makes us tend towards our natural long-term weight, that is to say the weight that we have maintained the longest in our life by having healthy lifestyle habits. One study even showed that intuitive eating is associated with lower body mass index in the general population. However, it is possible for a person who has been on diets and who weighs less than their natural weight to gain weight when they start eating without restriction again.
Oh, and by the way...
Weight is influenced by factors we control, such as diet and physical activity, but mostly by factors we don't 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 results in 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 intended for healthy people who already have basic knowledge of healthy eating and who have economic access to it. In 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 signals of hunger and satiety by eating more slowly, for example.
4. "Intuitive eating is not suitable for sportsmen and athletes"
On the contrary! The sportsman or athlete must be able to modulate his portions according to his signals of hunger and satiety. Indeed, if he decides to rely only on factors external to him, such as following a food plan or consuming fixed amounts of macronutrients every day, he will inevitably 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 between 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 benevolent approach. I will discuss with you various topics of interest in nutrition, such as sports nutrition, vegetarian diets, and much more!
See you soon! ☺