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Dieting culture has left many people somewhat perplexed. Between detox diets and other food restrictions, it can be hard to learn what’s normal for you. Might intuitive eating be the solution?

What is intuitive eating?

Losing weight, followed by bingeing, then starting all over again in a few weeks or months. Who hasn’t fallen into this vicious circle common to dieting? In addition to harming your health, not to mention your morale, diets often require a lot of effort to produce results. Two American nutritionists exposed this dangerous spiral in their 1995 book on the principles of intuitive eating. Designed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, their approach aims to regulate body weight long-term by adopting a compassionate approach to eating and eliminating all notions of guilt associated with food. They recommend paying attention to physiological signs of fullness and learning to listen to your emotions instead of simply following dieting dictates. This principle was translated into the book De la culture des diètes à l’alimentation intuitive by nutritionist Karine Gravel. While the expert does not promise readers they will lose weight, intuitive eating will still contribute to such a goal by leading people to question their reasons for continuing to eat beyond the point at which they feel full.

Who needs this book?

Intuitive eating is aimed at anyone who’s tried to lose weight by dieting or has developed a toxic relationship with food. In her book, Karine Gravel estimates that close to half (45%) of Quebecers try to lose weight at least twice a year, while the overwhelming majority of those who make such an attempt regain all the weight they lost in the months or years following the diet. While women are particularly prone to falling for the siren call of dieting culture, men are also susceptible. More and more of them are adopting unhealthy behaviours when it comes to eating. Some choose to skip meals. Others prefer excessive training in order to compensate for every extra calorie they’ve eaten.

Why adopt this model?

Intuitive eating is recommended by many nutritionists as a replacement for traditional dieting since it’s a model that encourages you to listen to your body. This method thereby reduces the risk of losing control and overeating. Curtailing your food obsessions enables you to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, in addition to promoting better mental stability. People who embrace this way of eating usually feel like they’ve been freed from their food obsessions because they’ve stopped counting calories. Intuitive eating also avoids the undesirable consequences related to restrictive dieting, such as the yo-yo effect. This happens after losing weight too quickly, which inevitably leads to regaining weight just as fast. Through the promotion of a positive body image, intuitive eating will also increase your self-esteem and contribute to a better quality of life.

How to start?

Those interested in trying this approach should receive guidance from a nutritionist, but nothing is stopping you from starting to incorporate some of this model’s basic ideas into your everyday life. Here are a few tips for developing a more balanced relationship with food.

Avoid labelling food

According to the principles of intuitive eating, you must change your perceptions of certain foods, whether positive or negative. Eat what you feel like eating and pay attention to the sensation of feeling full or having had enough.

Take time out to eat

Another recommendation is to take time to eat seated at a table, enjoying your meal, and focusing your attention on every bite. This technique allows you to connect your bodily sensations to the food in order to be attentive to the signals that are being sent.

Question yourself before eating

Some people have a hard time telling the difference between hunger and other emotions, such as stress, for example. This is why experts recommend that you question yourself whenever you feel like eating something. Intuitive eating can destabilize those who are accustomed to categorizing their food or counting calories. But with guidance and perseverance, you’ll eventually make peace with your body and liberate yourself from the pains of overly strict dieting.