Wednesday, October 20

The Ridiculous Notion of Intuitive Eating

For those who may not be familiar with the term, Intuitive Eating is the notion of trusting your body to tell you when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat.  Intuitive Eating would sound like this: “I just eat until I feel full” or “I only eat when I feel hungry” or “I approach food with common sense.”
Often, Intuitive Eating is described as the opposite of dieting because it doesn’t require you track food or calories.  It’s based on the idea that if we are connected to our internal cues, then it is more difficult for us to be triggered by external forces.  So, you’re out for coffee with a friend and you don’t even glance at the pastries behind the glass; you’re not hungry.  You’re eating your favorite pizza for dinner and stop after one slice; you’re feeling full.  It’s Halloween and there’s a large bowl of your favorite candy sitting by your front door; no big deal.  It’s intuitive.
I need you to know the last sentence of that paragraph was dripping with sarcasm.  If you read each of those real life circumstances and thought they sounded like a nice fantasy, then you’re on the same track I am.
Intuitive Eating doesn’t equip you to handle life, just gives you a set of yes/no parameters around eating: am I hungry?  Intuitive Eating doesn’t give you tools to work with because it doesn’t take into consideration that hunger may not be the only chemical driver affecting our decisions.  When you understand the physical function of the body, you’ll realize that hunger is just a chemical reaction (ghrelin).  When we feel full, that’s a different chemical reaction (leptin).  There are chemical reactions separate to hunger and fullness (dopamine and opioids) that cause us to seek out foods because they make us feel good.
Intuitive Eating doesn’t work because your body and your brain are chemically and behaviorally conditioned.  It is easy to confuse the signals our body is giving us (for example, when I’m mildly thirsty, it feels like hunger to me).  Even if I was able to perfectly interpret signals of hunger and fullness in my body, I would begin to identify different kinds of hunger.  Who hasn’t sat down to eat a large dinner and then “made room” for dessert afterward?  If you just answered negatively to that question, let’s talk again after Thanksgiving.
If eating was intuitive, then the US wouldn’t be facing an obesity epidemic.  Have you ever tried eating intuitively?  Have you had any experience with differentiating the kinds of hunger you experience?  What do you think?


Camille said...

I guess I have tried to think, "Am I REALLY hungry?" but sometimes my emotions win over the real answer anyway. So having healthy food around and routines in place is important. I'm still working on that part!

Raegun said...

This is really interesting - thanks for sharing!!

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