Tired of having to follow some strict dietary regimen? Tired of having to weigh your food, or buy weird special foods because your dietary plan says you must do so? Tired of weighing yourself constantly and feeling disappointed because you’re not meeting your weight-loss goals?
Meet “intuitive eating.”
It seems to be the latest “new” approach to eating. As a recent article about the concept in The Atlantic puts it, the idea is to “encourage followers to work on their relationship with food without worrying about their weight, and to reject the notions of virtue and sin that have underpinned cultural ideas about eating since time immemorial.” Intuitive eating teaches that weight loss isn’t the top priority, and the cycle of losing weight and gaining it back is harmful. And here’s the key point: “Eat what you want, with no rules about what to eat, how much of it, or when. Intuitive eating has 10 tenets, but the most well-known one is that no foods are off limits, and that there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” food.”
So how is that supposed to work, exactly? One underlying theory of intuitive eating is that there is a strong psychological component to eating. The notion is that people are attracted to the forbidden fruit — or in this case, perhaps, the forbidden ice cream — so saying that something is off limits just makes it seem all that more irresistible. People who switch to intuitive eating sometimes binge on their favorite guilty pleasure that had been strictly outlawed, but advocates of the approach say they ultimately strike a balance with food that is healthy and sustainable. With all of the mystique and the calorie-counting and guilt stripped away, the intuitive eaters do what people traditionally used to do: they eat when they’re hungry, and don’t eat when they aren’t. And they spend a lot less on diet books, and scales, and special foods that strict diets require.
Does intuitive eating make sense? I don’t know, honestly — but I do think that our notions of food seem to have gotten out of whack. There are so many health issues associated with obesity that avoiding obesity obviously should be a lifelong goal, and if you are looking to lose a few pounds — or more than a few — a diet can help to kick start the cycle of loss that gets you to your desired range. In my case, going low-carb for a few months a few years ago was an important step toward feeling healthier. But you can’t stay on diets forever, and at some point cycling over to a more sustainable approach to food and eating has to happen.
Who’d have thought that, with all of the diets and food advice out there, human beings might get back to the simple concept of eating when you’re hungry?