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The day will be seared into my brain forever…

I was sitting in a class called “Survey of the Field” during my Freshman year at University of Vermont. In this class, various dietitians from different parts of the field came in to talk to us about their careers in order to expose us to the different options within the field. 

On this particular day, the speaker stood in front of the room and introduced herself as an Intuitive Eating Dietitian. I had never heard those words in that order before. 

Intuitive eating.”

My whole body had a response.

At the end of her presentation, she recommended the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch if we wanted to learn more. I wasted no time. On the walk back from class that day I stopped at the library in search of this book. I took it back to my tiny dorm room and climbed up into my lofted bed. I couldn’t stop reading it. 

Nothing had ever felt so true.

I felt so seen.

From the day I picked up that book, a fire was lit in me. 

Once I personally experienced  the deep feeling of alignment that intuitive eating brought me, I felt a strong calling to help set others free from diet culture as well.

I talk about intuitive eating across my content all the time. But I have yet to formally teach you about the 10 principles of the intuitive eating framework.  Since I know not everyone enjoys reading (or has the time to read), I decided to bring you this 10 week blog-post-style crash course on the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating.

For the next 10 weeks my intern,Ally, will be taking over my blog to teach you about each principle of intuitive eating. Each week, a new blogpost will go live summarizing the key elements of the principle while also giving you actionable steps to bring the principle into your life. To make sure you don’t miss any posts from this series, click here to subscribe to my weekly newsletter.  

Take it away, Ally!

Defining the Principle:

Unlike diets, intuitive eating isn’t a plan you have to follow. Making peace with food and your body takes patience, which is why intuitive eating is broken down into digestible principles.  Before you begin, it is common to fear that giving up your food rules will lead you to somehow lose control over food, especially if you’ve been dieting and trying to shrink your body for years. 

Rejecting the Diet Mentality (principle 1 of Intuitive Eating) is about understanding and accepting that dieting is harmful and unhelpful to the mind, body, and soul.

According to the current body of research on the long-term effects of dieting, 95% of people who lose weight on diets regain all the weight (and often even more) within 5 years.

Mann T. et al (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. Am Psychologist. 62(3):220-233.

Ultimately, diet culture profits off of making you feel insecure and guilty for not having the “willpower” or “self-control” to stick to these plans. The trap of the dieting cycle leaves you  feeling as though you’ll only find happiness and fulfillment in a thin body. By rejecting this mindset, you can work towards listening to your own intuition and living a life that doesn’t revolve around exterior metrics.

 “If dieting is the problem, how can it be part of the solution?”

-pg 72 of Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

When diets fail, we’re told to start another diet in hopes of that new plan finally allowing us to feel good about ourselves. Yet, none of these diets are different from the next- whether its Weight Watchers or a “lifestyle switch” of intermittent fasting, you’ll only find yourself in a deeper hole of guilt and resentment with each new diet.

Sometimes, diets are easy to recognize- think Keto, Weight Watchers, Juice Cleanses. However, as the diet industry has caught onto the reality that the public is starting to reject overt diets, they’ve had to get sneakier with their messaging, claiming things like “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.”

Throughout high school, I went through several phases of counting my calories/macros on MyFitnessPal in an effort to lose weight. In my mind, this wasn’t dieting, as I could have any foods I wanted. Yet, tracking every bite of food I ate and opting for the low-calorie, unsatisfying options (hello powdered peanut butter and rice cakes!) was undoubtedly a form of restriction that was harmful to my mental and physical health. Dieting at such a young age made me feel as though I couldn’t trust my body and my own internal cues about what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat.

I felt as though I needed to punish myself for not looking like the influencers I saw on Instagram and Tiktok. On top of these pressures, the dieting mindset was not only normalized but praised by many of the people in my life. As a college student who strives to be an intuitive eater, I now understand that no external app or diet knows what type of fuel my body needs- letting go of these diet rules was a necessary first step for me to start trusting my body and inturn become an intuitive eater. 

When old habits and negative thoughts pop back into my mind, I’m able to recognize that they don’t serve me. No one’s perfect- I’m still working to unlearn all the harmful diet beliefs that have been ingrained in me over the years.  Below, I’ll share some actionable steps for how you can remove dieting tools from your life.

Putting This Principle Into Action:

When I began the rediscovery of Intuitive Eating, I started by checking in with myself and asking what I truly needed. I realized that I was feeling drained, my confidence was lacking, and I was spending too much time thinking about food. This motivated me to commit to becoming aware of why I was choosing the foods I ate throughout the day. Even for just a brief moment before eating, consider pausing and asking yourself- what is my motivation behind choosing this food? Is it because I’m genuinely craving it or is it because it’s something I believe I have to eat according to the rules of diet culture?

As an example from my own life, I was recently at my school’s sandwich shop for lunch with a few friends. I stop at this cafe a few times each week, and almost always order a veggie hummus wrap. While I was in line, I realized that I’d never ordered a sandwich on bread from this cafe before. Although I love wraps, avoiding the bread options was coming from the diet culture belief that bread was somehow “worse” for me than a wrap. I decided to challenge that subconscious residual diet culture “rule” by trying my usual veggie hummus sandwich on ciabatta bread, and felt satisfied with my choice. 

When we become aware of where restriction lies in our everyday habits and self-talk, it’s easier to adopt a mindset of self compassion. From here, we can take actionable steps towards removing the tools of dieting from our lives, such as unfollowing diet culture accounts on social media, throwing out the scale, deleting calorie tracking apps, and setting up boundaries with loved ones who subscribe to diet culture. Being an intuitive eater in a diet culture world can be tricky. That’s why Leah created this free comprehensive guide on navigating diet talk in relationships. Click here to grab your free copy of  this guide.

Next week I’ll be giving you an overview of the second Intuitive Eating Principle, Honor Your Hunger. To make sure you don’t miss any posts from this series, click here to subscribe to Leah’s weekly newsletter. 

Did you hear the news? We launched a podcast here at Leah Kern Nutrition! Shoulders Down Podcast is a podcast designed to teach you how to harness your intuition to govern not just how you eat but also how you live.  If you are seeking further resources to support you on your Intuitive Eating journey, click here to check us out. 

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