The final principle of Intuitive Eating is gentle nutrition.
To be clear, these principles don’t necessarily follow any particular order. Everyone I’ve ever worked with has specific areas where they need more or less work. You don’t typically start with principle number 1 and simply work your way through them in order. In fact, we typically bounce back and forth as needed.
However, there is a reason gentle nutrition is number 10.
Diet culture and traditional approaches to “healthy eating” tend to prioritize the nutrition part of the equation first (i.e. rules):
- “Cut out processed foods.”
- “Half your plate should be veggies.”
- “Make sure to get your ‘5 a day’ of veggies.”
- “Eat X amount of protein per lb of body weight.”
- “Make sure to get X grams of fiber per day.”
- “Cut out the sweets/fast food.”
To be clear, these recommendations aren’t bad. They are based on nutrition research that has looked into the nutrient needs of the human body.
However, I can’t say I’ve ever met a person who struggles with their eating whose underlying issue with food boils down to any of these things.
When you do the work of learning to listen to your body and tune in to the cues it gives you related to satisfaction, hunger, satiety, fullness, general feelings of wellbeing, etc. eventually the tendency is to eat a variety of foods and those foods tend to align more or less with the nutrition guidelines as a whole.
Think about it. When do you feel best? When you’ve had a weekend of eating nothing but pizza, burgers, fries, fast food, and desserts beyond fullness OR when you have a variety of foods including vegetables, lean meat, fruit, whole grains, legumes, AND some ice cream and a couple slices of pizza, mostly eating to gentle fullness?
Remember, Intuitive Eating is about LISTENING to and HONORING those signals that our bodies give us.
So, nutrition principles definitely have a place. But, if we’re listening to our bodies, it’s quite likely the nutrition part will fall into place without all the rules and restrictions.
Starting with the nutrition principles tends to distract us from the real issues at the root of our struggles.