Intuitive Eating: A Concept That Makes Its Way
What is intuitive eating? It is nothing but a physiological, normal diet. A food in which we eat when we are hungry, we do not eat when we are not hungry, we stop when we are no longer hungry, and where we choose our food according to our preference of the moment. Eating in this way should result in our weight decreasing until stabilized at the equilibrium weight.
Intuitive and reflex eating
Does this not seem logical and rational? And yet, this goes against all our preconceptions of food and the discourse held by public authorities and nutritionists. Are we not told that we must eat at a fixed time, that we must not eat between meals, even if we are hungry, that we must choose our food according to rational criteria and not According to their dietary preferences, that the quantities must be determined by dietary rules and not by what one feels? In short, it is necessary to eat with his head, using his reason: this is what is called reflexive or reasoned nourishment.
Are we not also told that we need to control our weight and make it within a range of body mass index that should bring us the best health and life expectancy? The notion of equilibrium weight, which is commonly accepted by the scientific community, is thus evacuated. In short, we are asked, as far as weight is concerned, to enter the mold and ignore our nature. We start from the idea that we can make the weight we want, that all this is only a matter of will, while scientific studies on the regulation of weight show the opposite.
What is known about weight regulation?
The mechanisms of control of food intake and weight are becoming better known. The hunger-satiety system is under the control of the hypothalamus and many neuromediators playing a role have been identified. What has been called the “hedonic system” that involves neurohormones such as dopamine, endogenous opioids, endocannabinoids, motivates and demotivates the eater in turn . One eats normally for pleasure and what is called “specific sensory satiation” corresponds to the end of the pleasure brought by a determined food. It then naturally stops consuming it.
We also know that specific appetites point us to foods containing the nutrients our bodies need at a given moment. We find good what our bodies ask us to eat!
How to organize to eat intuitively?
Eating in an intuitive way, therefore, means that our food behavior control mechanisms can work best, so that our weight is regulated, that it comes back and stabilizes at the equilibrium weight.
In order for this to work, one must stop eating distractedly, mechanically, without paying attention to what is going on in one’s mouth and body. We must, on the contrary, be very attentive, first of all to our hunger, since hunger is the signal that leads us to eat; We choose as far as possible the foods which seem to us most likely to bring us pleasure of taste ; Then they are consumed with as much attention as possible, in such a way that they bring us maximum enjoyment of taste; Then when the pleasure of taste is about to disappear, then one stops eating, satisfied.
To be able to eat in this way , carefully, certain material and psychological conditions are necessary. First of all it is necessary to have sufficient time, and to be in sufficient comfort conditions . Eating at table, with cutlery, in a user-friendly way, usually allows. To be able to appreciate one’s food, one must also be in emotional calm. Eating in good humor, in serenity, is also part of our food traditions.
Relearning intuitive eating
But, as we have more or less lost sight of this traditional way of eating, we must now relearn it.
Most people who seek to control their weight and eating habits are hardly able to identify their feelings of hunger, satiety, and their specific appetites. They will then have to recover these sensations, for example through food exercises intended for this purpose. They will also have to devote a certain number of foods that they like very much, but which they consider as “magnifying” . Indeed, these foods usually cause guilt when eaten and this guilt prevents the perception of satiation and leads to endless eating.
Many perturbed eaters are emotional eaters who eat to soothe their emotions. Work to increase emotional tolerance will then be necessary to enable them to eat intuitively.
The Mindfulness approach to eating in an intuitive mode
The mindfulness approach advocates a “full consciousness” diet with a particular attention to its feelings of hunger, to the pleasure provided by food, to the sensations of satiation . Mindfulness techniques also aim to give emotions and painful thoughts generating desires to eat the possibility of calming themselves without exaggerated food intake. Finally, certain exercises of full consciousness make it possible to become better aware of his body, to accept it better , to no longer see him as an enemy.
The concept of intuitive feeding begins to trigger more and more exploratory work in order to evaluate the effects of such a conception of food on dietary choices, quantities consumed, weight evolution.
It seems logical to think that respect for the food sensations, the physiology and the psychology of the food act should lead to stabilization by weight at equilibrium weight, on physical and psychological well-being.
This is indeed the case in the literature on the subject. The introduction of intuitive and conscious feeding in the studies carried out on this subject allows a significant improvement in feeding behavior , with decreased or discontinued dietary compulsions, abandonment of privative diets, Emotional eating, psychological improvement with decreased depression, anxiety, improved self-esteem and quality of life. But is this type of approach sufficient to allow weight loss ? On this point, the studies seem contradictory. It seems to us that these differences, according to the studies, are due to the techniques and procedures involved. In order for the weight to be reduced to the equilibrium weight, work must not only focus attentively on its food sensations, but also, at the same time, on emotional issues . This is not always the case and this could explain some failures.
For our part, we focus our work on these three axes: the abandonment of the cognitive restriction and the implementation of an intuitive diet, the increase of the emotional tolerance, the improvement of its Relationship to the body .
As we see, we approach the problem of weight and feeding behavior in a fundamentally different logic than that of voluntarist control. And it is precisely because one begins to eat with respect for one’s body, one’s physiology, in the consideration of one’s emotional states, that one can hope for lasting results. Food control and diets are like a form of war against oneself, while intuitive food is, on the contrary, a form of beneficent appeasement.