What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is based on 10 principles to help you find freedom from food and reject the diet mentality. Ultimately, the goal is to make peace with your food and your body and in by doing so, find so much more joy and freedom. Some of the principles include rejecting diet mentality, honoring your hunger, respect your fullness, discover satisfaction, honoring your feelings without food, respecting your body and moving for joy.
Why Intuitive Eating?
For me, intuitive eating doesn’t mean I don’t care about my health or my patient’s health. In fact, it’s just the opposite – I care even deeper about the full spectrum of health – mental, emotional, and physical. To focus on a single aspect of health like nutrition without considering how the food we eat impacts connections and relationships is only looking at a part of the equation. Food is so much more than fuel and if we spent less time analyzing, criticizing, and judging what’s on our plates, it allows us the opportunity to spend more time truly living and showing up for our lives. To focus on the things and people that matter most. It allows us to find more joy.
I get why diets and diet mentality may be tempting. They can offer quick fixes and a solution to a “problem.” However, the problem is not your weight or your food. The problem is the diet mentality itself. Restriction of any kind – whether it’s a fear of gaining weight with carbohydrates so we limit or a skipping of meals meals because we ate a large meal previously or the worst yet in my opinion, settling for low fat/sugar free/less than satisfying alternatives instead of respecting our hunger and cravings and consuming whatever it is that we truly desire. Positive feelings are a form of power and if we’re not moving in that direction, then what the heck are we even doing?
Vegan and Intuitive Eating
When we talk about intuitive eating, we talk about eating all sorts of foods without restriction. So some of you have asked, well, what about intuitive eating while eating vegan? As to many people, vegan can seem like a restrictive way of eating (which is what we avoid in intuitive eating).
A vegan lifestyle is one that avoids animal based products and animal foods. People choose to be vegan for many reasons including decreasing the environmental impact, improving health, and animal welfare. There tends to be a moral component to being vegan and eating a vegan diet. Just as people who follow a Kosher way of living can follow intuitive eating principles, so can vegans. The same is true for Muslim eating practices and intuitive eating. These eating practices are deeply meaningful and are far from eating practices with diet undertones including “eat this not that” or “avoid calories with this”
To many vegans, myself included, animals and animal based foods are not food. I know this might sound crazy to you if this is not your way of thinking, but animals are just not part of the deal. It’s next to near impossible for me to look at any piece of meat and not think about the animal. I have a visceral reaction that has been known to result in tears at dinner tables. These tears are full of empathy and compassion for the animal and it’s inconceivable to consume whatever it may be – meat, cheese, dairy, etc – none of it “feels” like food for my body. Now, I realize this is the way I’m wired and that not everyone is the same but generally speaking, most vegetarians and vegans have similar “not food” response to animal products.
If you can relate and you eat vegan, vegetarian, or predominately plant-based from a lifestyle perspective, intuitive eating is a perfect compliment. Here’s why:
- Intuitive eating and plant-based eating can be a way for you to respect your body
- With things like cashew based cheese sauces and rich coconut milk curries, vegan eating can be incredibly satisfying providing that creamy mouthfeel like other high fat foods provide without involving animals
- Vegan eating is not restrictive in the same way that restricting food groups is. Vegan is not a food group. You can still find protein in foods like beans, legumes, tofu/tempeh. You’ll consume grains like rice, pasta, barley, oats. Plus you’ll be consuming nutrient dense fats in foods like nuts, seeds, avocados. Plus, of course lots of fruits and vegetables are consumed in a vegan lifestyle. There is no restriction with that especially with all the vegan and plant-based alternatives available.
When vegan and intuitive eating are not aligned with each other:
- When vegan eating is used as a diet to lose weight. I’ve seen people lose weight while eating vegan, but to go into vegan eating with the intention to lose weight is not aligned with intuitive eating. Now, if you notice that you feel better eating more plants, then eat more plants. That’s intuitive eating.
- When vegan eating is used as a scapegoat for fearful eating. Cheese, ice cream, cakes, desserts, fried foods, nuts, and nut butters all tend to be on the common”fear foods” list. Meaning, eat ____ and I’ll gain weight. Eat ___ and I’ll get cellulite. There are too many calories/carbs in _____; I can’t eat that. Stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or you shouldn’t have a particular food, there’s a strong likelihood it will build up deprivation feelings followed at some point with guilt if you do it. Challenge these unreasonable rules dieting has created – there are so many other wonderful things to do with your time than allow your precious mind to be preoccupied with diet culture.
- When you follow a vegan or predominately plant-based way of living, and you consume something with let’s say honey, milk, ghee, butter, cheese or some other animal product that you don’t feel right about eating but you ate it unknowingly and start to feel negative emotions. Check in with why those emotions are there (this may require some work) – are you feeling guilty because you ate animal products at a restaurant and call yourself a vegan? Does this feel like it’s derailing you? First, extend yourself grace and extend those around grace. You are human and you are doing the best you can and we hope others around us are doing the best they can. You will be ok if you ate some ghee. You will be ok if you consumed honey. The world will still continue on and it’s up to you to decide why you’re choosing to be vegan. If you notice diet mentality thoughts come in, than perhaps it’s time to evaluate why you’re choosing to eat more plant-based in the first place.
Veganism, vegetarianism, plant-based living and intuitive eating can work together. Making peace with food and learning to love the body you’re in with respect while choosing a compassionate way of living is absolutely possible. If you have questions about eating plant-based while following intuitive eating principles to feel good in your body, comment below or message me.