What is Intuitive Eating?

What is Intuitive Eating?

What is Intuitive Eating?

Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat.

Evelyn Tribole

By now you will have heard me prattling on about diet culture and how horrific it is, but what is the alternative? It’s so difficult to think of being happy in yourself and with food if you aren’t on a diet. Well I’m here to tell you there is an alternative – Intuitive Eating.

You may have heard me talk about Intuitive Eating in social media posts or if you’ve spoken to me in real life, or you may not have heard of it before. Maybe once you have read this you’ll realise that I talk a lot of the principles of Intuitive Eating but not necessarily use the name regularly. That’s how it should be I think, because I believe eating should be intuitive, and it shouldn’t take over every other thought throughout the day. You shouldn’t think of it like ‘Ooh I’m eating intuitively today’ but more as a natural way of living and something that eventually just happens so that you can enjoy other things in life without worrying about food.

So what is it? Let me explain….

Flat Lay of Delicious Breakfast with Berries

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to eating and your relationship with food. It’s about finding a way to ditch all the beliefs you have gathered over the years from all those diets you have tried, and finding a way to eat freely.

It’s about shaking off all those self critical thoughts and finding a way to love yourself as you are. It’s about knowing that your weight really doesn’t matter.

Sounds great and impossible all at the same time right? I know, totally understand, but I promise it is doable. I’m living proof, amongst many others.

 

The absolute queens of Intuitive Eating are Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. They are the creators of this programme and are the underpinning of several other people’s programmes, such as Laura Thomas and the London Centre For Intuitive Eating, and The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner. Such wonderful people doing amazing work in trying to kick diet culture to the kerb for once and for all.

Getting into Intuitive Eating and allowing the process to really work involves going through what are called the 10 principles. These are 10 steps which help you to understand and work through various beliefs and patterns that you have collected through your life and helping you to get to a place where no food is out of bounds. They are about removing obstacles and raising awareness. Those principles are:

1. Rejecting diet mentality

Letting go of all those rules that have been ingrained in you around food and understanding that you can let go, you will not lose control. It helps you to understand how bad diets are for us.

2. Honouring hunger

Helping you to understand what hunger is, and helping your body to understand that there will always be food to eat. Maybe you don’t even recognise hunger right now, or maybe you swing from starving hungry to uncomfortably full, but this principle will help with that.

3. Making peace with food

Wouldn’t you love to stop wrestling with food? To have unconditional permission to eat anything and everything? This principle walks you through this and helps you deal with the feelings that come up. It helps you realise that you can trust yourself around food.

4. Challenging the food police

OMG, those voices in your head that tell you off when you’ve had a few biscuits, or some cake, or a whole pizza followed by a curry, rice, chips, and all the trimmings!!! Those voices are the food police, and they’re horrible to live with. They never say anything nice, and are always super critical. You can stop that though and learn to be kinder to yourself.

5. Discovering satisfaction

By this point you’re ready to start appreciating the joy and satisfaction in eating.

6. Feeling your fullness

This is about listening to the hunger and fullness signals and understanding when you have feel you have eaten enough. Enough meaning the amount that you feel satisfied from, not the amount you think you should eat. This isn’t about restriction, it’s about understanding when you are comfortably full and knowing that you can always eat more later if you feel hungry again. That’s not to say you’ll never overeat ever again, but it will become an enjoyable choice rather than from mindless eating.

7. Coping with emotions

Understanding emotional eating, restriction, and loss of control. We all do it, it won’t go away completely, but you’ll recognise it and have some tools to be able to deal with the emotion rather than diving straight into the food cupboard.

8. Respecting your body

You are unique and special and this is about learning to love that, whatever your shape or size.

9. Movement

Finding ways to be a little more active that make you feel good, not going all out killing yourself in the gym if that’s not your bag. I wrote a blog post about this which you can read here.

10. Health through gentle nutrition

Once you’ve found more peace with your eating and your body you can start to consider the health benefits of foods. It’s about learning to eat nutritious food, but also that it won’t ruin your health to have a snack, a meal, a drink that you fancy that isn’t that nutritious.

This is definitely a process that you will need to focus on, and some of it may even bring some thoughts forward that you didn’t realise you’d buried, but that’s kinda the point – if you keep eating to push feelings down you’ll never escape diet culture. Or you may find that you breeze through it because everyone is different. Whichever your journey you will come out the other end with a much better understanding of your eating habits, feeling freer and like you can handle food more calmly, Whatever path this takes you down you can be sure that the path is a gentle one and the programme is full of kindness and understanding. You’ll probably be surprised at how quickly you get on board with it and change your eating patterns. Intuitive Eating really can free you from diet culture. You’ll be loving your body and feel good about eating whatever the hell you like in no time 😉

Ok, I’m in, what next?

This is definitely one to get some proper guidance with. I don’t mean you have to pay the big bucks for therapists (although you can if that helps you) but do get the Intuitive Eating book and work through it principle by principle. While I’m here to motivate and cheer you on the book is without a doubt the starting point. I’ve popped the links on my ‘Recommended’ page for you.

I wish you all the best. I can’t wait for you to find your food freedom.

Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet⁠. 

Please note:  Links to items available to purchase are affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission from your purchase. However, these items have been chosen because I love and trust them, and I feel that they would benefit other people, not because I may earn a couple of quid! You are welcome of course to source them elsewhere, but if you purchase them through my link I will be super grateful.

 

Hiding food

Hiding food

Hiding food

The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.

Calvin Trillin

Picture the scene – you have a family of fussy eaters. Someone doesn’t like carrots, someone doesn’t like courgette, someone doesn’t like onion……. making cooked meals is a nightmare because you’re trying to get some good veggies and some extra vitamins and minerals into these people and they’re just not having it. Well now is the time to get sneaky my friend. There are some very easy ways to hide food in other foods!

Now before we get into this please note that this is only acceptable if meant with good intention and the other diners do not have food intolerances or allergies. 

There are plenty of foods that as standalone foods aren’t all that great, let’s be honest. I don’t rate courgette as a veg on its own. I’m not a fan of the texture, and the taste is very bland. But it’s these two factors that make it perfect for hiding. If you’re doing something like a spaghetti bolognese get that courgette chopped up real small and in with the mixture it goes. By the time you’ve cooked the sauce down there’s no courgette to be seen. Throw it in a stew too, it makes a great thickener. While you’re at it, throw in some peppers, some celery, some spinach or some kale. All these foods will take on a completely different taste and texture when used as ingredients rather than side dishes and salads. 

Carrots are a little harder to hide, but it’s still possible. Again, chopped up small it’ll go in a sauce like the bolognese or a ragu. What about making a smoothie and throwing in some grated carrot? It gives it a natural sweetness. 

Onion can be chopped down super fine. Once you’ve thrown that in a cottage pie, a lasagne, an omelette, a quiche, or a burger you’ll never know it’s there. Obviously onion has a distinctive flavour so if you really don’t like it then you need to pair it with some other strong flavours.

Cauliflower causing problems? Chop up small and mix some of that into a tomato sauce with the other goodies to pack it out. The flavour will be well hidden. Get it into an enchilada mix and the spices will cover that up.

There are some great sweet recipes too. Beetroot in brownies, avocado in cakes, sweet potato in apple pie. I’m not even kidding. With some creativity who knows where you can sneak those extra vitamins and minerals in. Have you tried avocado in a smoothie? It’s fantastic. Creamy and delicious. 

Lasagna on White Ceramic Plate

Remember also that sometimes just cooking things differently can change the flavours. Roasting carrots with some honey is a whole different world to steamed carrots. Baking cauliflower in a glorious cheesy sauce is so much more tempting than some boiled florets.

So there’s some ideas for you. Not only do you get to use up some leftovers that you’ve got knocking around but you’re helping people to stay healthy at the same time so go forth and hide that veg! Give things a try. Cooking should be fun so there’s no need to stress over it. If they don’t work out it’s ok, you won’t do them again, but you never know unless you try.

I’d love to hear what you do with your fruit and veg so please do share your ideas.

Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet⁠ and never give anyone else food or drink that you do not 100% know is safe for them. 

 

What I eat in a day

What I eat in a day

What I eat in a day

You were born an original work of art. Stay original.
Suzy Kassem

Do you wanna know what I eat in a day? I’m not telling! Sorry! I know there are plenty of people who will share what they eat in a day, but it’s not actually helpful to people. Quite the opposite actually. These people can be on social media, in your friendship groups, a random person selling meal plans on the internet…… anyone who basically tells you what they eat in a day. For the purpose of this post let’s just call them influencers.

For people who are struggling with their eating habits or their body image it can be very triggering. It can bring up all kinds of feelings about their own eating habits because they compare their days. Common thoughts include:

 

 ‘I’m not eating well enough’

‘I’m not eating enough’
‘I’m eating too much’
‘I’m not eating the right type of food’
‘My macro balance is all wrong’
‘I’m eating too many carbs’
‘I’m eating too much fat’
‘I’ll end up looking like them if I eat like them’ (which of course can be a negative or a positive thought)

…… oh so many possible thoughts that may run riot in their head.

Woman Holding Spoon and Fork With Blackberries on Plate Beside Blue Ceramic Mug on White Wooden Table

The reality is that the way that the influencer’s food reacts with their body is different to how it might react with yours or mine. Each person’s needs are individual because there are so many affecting factors. We all have different caloric needs. We may have different intolerances and allergies to take into account. We all move differently and have varying activity levels, and that is before we take into consideration personal food preferences. What about our ability to use that food?

Our financial situations are all different so the influencer may have chosen more costly brand names, organic foods, rarer foods, or local specialities. What if your budget doesn’t allow for those foods, or they’re not available to you?

What about your ability to actually do something with that food once you have it? Are you a skilled home cook or can you just about cobble together some beans on toast? (Which are very nutritious by the way!). There’s no shame in not being able to cook fancy foods, or even not wanting to try. We all have our own ways in the kitchen.

My point is, you may not get the best out of the ingredients even if you could have them, so there are many different factors which will impact on whether or not that influencer’s meals for the day are right for you. 

Plus, what fuels and satisfies one person well will not be right for another. What if you cannot stomach another chicken, rice and broccoli? What if the thought of another dry crispbread makes you feel ill? What if you just don’t like cottage cheese? What if you have the salad and you’re still hungry? Here’s the answer – eat the stuff you like, don’t eat the stuff you don’t like, and if you’re hungry then eat!

Table of plated Food

There is no point in trying to copy what someone else’s meal plan. Remember, these ‘what I eat in a day’ posts are often just part of a highlights reel. I suspect the people who do their ‘what I eat in a day’ were feeling particularly inspired and ‘healthy’ that day and that’s why they chose to send it out for everyone to see.

What they’re not sharing are the foods they supposedly never eat (which of course they cave to and eat every now and then), the snacks they forgot to write down, the bag of crisps they ate while cooking a meal, and the leftovers they had off their children’s plates when clearing up after dinner. The day before won’t have looked so ‘perfect’, and tomorrow probably won’t either.

You will only see what they want you to see, not their total diet.

So, I will share meals and recipes with you for sure. I’ll give you some tasty options which you might like to try. A new way to get some added fibre in to your diet perhaps, or a gorgeous pudding that everyone needs in their life. That’s inspiration, not a meal plan. Take the bits you like and ignore the bits you don’t fancy. Enjoy putting food together yourself, not just copying someone else’s. Your body is individual, your needs are individual, and your food should be individual too.

Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet⁠.

 

The battle of the spuds – white potato vs sweet potato

The battle of the spuds – white potato vs sweet potato

The battle of the spuds – white potato vs sweet potato

What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow

A.A. Milne

Ohhhh potatoes. I love potatoes, in all forms, shapes and sizes. Jacket, mashed, boiled, sautéed, roasted, chipped….. So good! White potatoes and sweet potatoes, I love them all.  It’s often thought that sweet potato is better for you than other white potatoes. It seems to be the go to potato for those trying to improve their health, lose weight, reduce cards. For many reasons the sweet potato is seen to be the better of the two. Is that really the case though?

Both are highly nutritious. They have similar calories at around 90 calories per 100g and (maybe surprisingly) they also have very similar carbohydrate, fat and protein content. So where are the differences?

With skins on the sweet potato wins the fibre competition hands down, with around 50% more fibre than the white potato. Fibre is really important for digestive health, keeping things moving, feeding our good gut bacteria, and helping to protect us against nasty diseases. In the UK we should be aiming for 30g per day so the skin on sweet potato is a good place to start.

In the vitamin stakes, the sweet potato completely mashes the white potato with its really high vitamin A content. Vitamin A is essential for good immunity, maintaining good eyesight, and contributes to healthy skin and hair. 100g of sweet potato provides 107% of your daily recommended intake, while the white potato provides just 0.1%. Quite the difference hey!

It also provides more of vitamins C and B6, which are great for healthy skin, bones, blood and overall cell health.

White potato marginally wins the minerals contest though, It has better potassium levels, which we need for muscle contraction, nerve function, heart health and the regulating of blood pressure.

Roast potatoes
Sweet potato slices

There can be some differences in how the potatoes affect your blood sugar levels, with sweet potatoes on the whole causing less of a spike.

This is good because it means it is being digested more slowly, providing you with energy over a longer period. However, this isn’t gospel truth across the board. It varies widely dependant on the type of potato and how it is cooked.

If you leave the skin on there is less of an impact on blood sugar, whereas in comparison if you peeled, boiled and mashed the potatoes the impact is much higher because it is more quickly digested.

 

So which one wins? I don’t know that there is a clear winner here but if I HAD to choose one over the other here my preference would probably be the sweet potato. I think instead of saying one is better than the other we should say that both have benefits and have a place in a well-balanced diet. More to the point, which one do you like the most? That one is the winner, surely?

Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet⁠.

Although the post makes reference to meeting the levels of vitamin A in the diet, there are safe upper limits for the intake and it is not advisable to take supplements and also eat foods high in vitamin A. Please take a look at the page from the NHS which gives guidance on this: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a.

 

There’s no such thing as bad food

There’s no such thing as bad food

There’s no such thing as bad food

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.

Erma Bombeck

How many times have you heard someone say they can’t eat something because they’re on a diet and it’s ‘bad for them’? It’s so sad. This way of thinking has been around for a long time but I think it’s getting more pronounced, especially with the appearance of ‘clean’ eating. What a nasty term that is – but more about that in another blog post! The reality is that there really is no bad food, unless you have an allergy or intolerance. Even then the food isn’t ‘bad’, it’s just not something your body could tolerate so you can’t really eat it. Other than that everything can be enjoyed. Every food has a place in your diet.  

Let’s talk about cake. Why shouldn’t you have a slice of birthday cake if everyone else is celebrating? Does it make you happy to avoid it when everyone else is having a slice? No, probably not. Will that slice of cake do a whole heap of damage to your body, your weight, or your mental health? No, it will not. ⁠The ingredients of a cake are usually based around flour, eggs, butter, sugar, some flavourings, and then the glorious filling. Oh my life, how I love cake!! Are those ingredients bad? No. Are they each full of nutrients and energy that the body can use? Yes. Do they suddenly become ‘bad’ when combined and baked? No!

Not convinced yet? Ok, let’s break some of the ingredients down to explain it. Flour is a source of protein, vitamins, fibre, and carbohydrates, all necessary for your body to function well. Eggs are a wonderful source of protein, fats, B vitamins, vitamin D, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium. Butter is a great source of vitamins A along with vitamins E, B12 and K. Also, calcium, phosphorus, and other B vitamins, and some fatty acids that have been shown to benefit health.

‘But sugar is soooooo bad for you!’ Nope, wrong. Table sugar is actually a great source of energy. Our body’s primary energy source is glucose. Sugar is a disaccharide made up of only fructose and glucose, so it doesn’t take an awful lot for the body to break it down into its constituent parts and get that quick energy burst it might be looking for. 

Canva - Delicious Slice of Red Velvet Cake

Sugar really is about as close as you can get to providing fuel for your body. Do I need to go on? Probably not. I’ve made my point. It’s been long engrained in us that cake is ‘bad’, but actually you can now see that there are some great things to come out of that lovely slice of victoria sponge. (Here’s a recipe by the way, just in case you’re now motivated to make one!)

Just in case I haven’t sold you on this yet, let’s do another. How about ice cream? If you have a craving for ice cream on a hot day will it make you happy to not have one? No of course it won’t. Will having an ice cream create lasting problems for your body, cause massive weight gains, or negatively affect your mental health? No, of course not. ⁠What will actually happen is you will deprive yourself and trigger a fixation on ice cream. It will be all you think about for a while. Nothing will quite hit the spot. Maybe you’ll eat a stack of other foods to try to curb that craving, or maybe later you’ll eat several ice creams, or a big tub of it. That’s because that’s what restriction does. This is the binge-restrict cycle. If you actually let yourself go and have that ice cream what will happen? You’ll eat ice cream, you’ll feel refreshed from the heat, you’ll have some pleasure in your day, you won’t spend the rest of the day wishing you’d had one, and guess what – you won’t have suddenly expanded your waist line (not that that would be a problem anyway). 

What if you released your restriction and have a slice of cake, or a second if you fancy it? Having an ice cream, and maybe another one later if you want it. That’s all ok.

The problems only arise when our diet is made up largely of these items and you have too few nutrient dense foods in your diet. Then there is likely to be a negative impact on health and wellbeing, and not because the one food is ‘bad’ but because our bodies need the things you’re not giving it enough of. ⁠

In actual fact, the restriction you are putting on yourself will have a more negative impact than good. Saying no and being so strict makes you feel bad, makes you sad, and ultimately leads to later binges of the restricted items.⁠

Ice Cream on Cone With Gray Metallic Holder Photo

So here is the message for a healthy, happy relationship with food – eat it. If you stop restricting and start allowing yourself to eat anything you want you will almost certainly find that after a while those foods actually don’t hold that much power over you. The drive to eat them won’t be so loud because you’ve given yourself permission to eat it. You’ll have them when you want them, and other times you’ll have other, more nutritious foods. If you feel like you’re needing some more of the nutritious stuff then have it, but you don’t need to remove the other stuff in order to do that. You can have both! Your body knows what it’s doing, and once this becomes a way of life you will instinctively know what you need from your food, and you’ll realise that your overall balance of nutrients over time is perfectly fine.

Be kind to yourself, enjoy eating. There is no need for guilt. Know that every food has a value, and if you shake off those food rules you can love food so much more.

 

Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet⁠. 

Do carrots really help you see in the dark?

Do carrots really help you see in the dark?

Do carrots really help you see in the dark?

I usually eat four or five raw carrots with my meat, and that is all. I must be part rabbit; I never get bored of raw carrots.

Marilyn Monroe

The old adage says to eat plenty of carrots and you will see better in the dark. But why is that?⁠

Vitamins often have other names, and this one is also known as retinal. Your body needs retinal in order to synthesis rhodopsin, the pigment needed by the eyes to be able to see in dim light. Not enough vitamin A in your diet and you risk developing a condition called nyctalopia, aka night blindness!⁠

That’s not all that vitamin A is good for though. It is also very important for good development, a healthy immune system and healthy skin.⁠

The average adult female requires 0.6mg and adult male requires 0.7mg per day, and this is easily found in a well-balanced diet. Good sources include oily fish, milk and cheese, liver, and foods containing beta-carotene. These are yellow, red and green vegetables (for example, those carrots we were talking about, red peppers, and spinach) and yellow fruits (such as mango and apricots)⁠.

So if carrots are a good source of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body, and vitamin A is needed for good vision in dim light, that old wives’ tale certainly does have some truth to it⁠.

This week the #triviatuesday question on Instagram asked which vitamin supposedly helps you to see in the dark. The correct answer was vitamin A.⁠

Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet⁠.

There are safe upper limits for the intake of vitamin A. It is not advisable to take supplements and also eat foods high in vitamin A. Please take a look at the page from the NHS in the links below which gives guidance on this.