One difficult thing about starting down the Intuitive Eating path is explaining it to others. Many of my clients have expressed feeling like a salmon swimming upstream in that they feel they are doing something that is counter to what they have done most of their lives (dieting) and against the tide of what seemingly everyone else is doing (dieting) and advising (dieting).
Learning how to talk to others about your Intuitive Eating journey can not only establish some much-needed boundaries and spread the word of this powerful non-diet approach, but it can also serve to reinforce your own confidence as you continue shifting your allegiance away from external dieting factors and toward your internal wisdom.
1. Interrupt the momentum
Whether someone comments about your menu choice or suddenly you’re surrounded by people engaging in body bashing, dieting speak, or fat talk, you can choose to interrupt the momentum. By simply not participating, you will consciously NOT FUEL the type of discourse that relies on self-denigrating input from all parties. It’s likely that someone will notice your silence and either change the subject or ask you about it.
You can also interrupt the momentum by speaking out. Sharing that you don’t subscribe to this aggressive approach to your body can be scary but also empowering. And it can be earth-shattering to those who have never heard such things before. Some of my clients have had success with just a few strategically placed lines such as:
- “I’m taking a different approach that makes my wellness and happiness more important than my weight, and I’ve never felt better.”
- “Did you know that dieting is the best predictor of weight gain? I’ve given up dieting and am learning to listen to my body.”
- “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to just stop hating our bodies and fighting against them? Dieting has never done anything good for me so I’m trying something different.”
- “I’ve realized that talking like this only makes me feel worse about myself and my body. I’m just not doing it anymore.”
2. Ask friends and family for the support you need
If you’ve ever dieted before, you might have enlisted the watchful eyes and “helpful” advice of friends and family to keep you in line when you cheated, faced temptation, or wanted to give up on a diet that was causing you grief. Now that you are taking a different approach to eating and treating your body with respect, you might have to let them know that those particular services are no longer needed.
Our loved ones only want what’s best for us, but they don’t always know what that is. Whether because we used to ask them for one kind of support and now need a totally different kind, or because they face their own eating and body-related challenges, friends and family need specific guidance on how best to support you once you’ve decided to become an Intuitive Eater.
Here are some examples based on role playing I’ve done with clients and actual conversations that have worked for them:
- On others commenting about food:
- “I’m learning to listen to my body to tell me what, when, and how much to eat. It would be so helpful to me if you would trust that my body knows what’s best and not comment on my choices.”
- “I’m learning that there’s no such thing as good and bad foods and that thinking about food in that way only contributes to harmful black-and-white dieting behavior. When we’re together, would you consider keeping that type of comment to a minimum?”
- On others commenting on your body or weight:
- “I understand that you’re trying to be helpful but your comments about my body really hurt my feelings. I’m learning to respect my body and treat it kindly and it would be so helpful to me if you would do the same. Do you think you could help me in this way?”
- “I’m taking a different a approach that places my wellness and happiness above the number on the scale. It feels really great to treat myself in this way but it’s a big change and not always easy. Do you think you could support me by not making comments about my weight or body?”
3. Explain what Intuitive Eating is
Taking a non-diet approach is a strange concept for many people. You can’t blame them for not automatically getting it. By taking the time to explain what Intuitive Eating is, you not only further your own understanding of this approach, but you might be helping others discover this much kinder way of relating to food and their bodies.
You can start by explaining that Intuitive Eating is a scientifically proven non-diet approach that involves learning to eat for primarily physical reasons, learning how to deal with emotions without food, and rejecting the notion of good and bad foods.
If that seems to pique their interest, you might want to take it to the next level and share the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating. Here they are with brief commentary from me.
- Reject the Diet Mentality: Stop all diets and dieting behaviors, including the hope for a better diet in the future. Recognize that diets have failed you, not the other way around.
- Honor Your Hunger: Pay attention to your biological hunger and feed your body with adequate energy and carbs. Not responding to hunger can trigger a primal drive to overeat. This is the first step in learning to trust your body.
- Make Peace with Food: Stop fighting with food and give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Beliefs about foods being good or bad and what you should or shouldn’t eat can lead to intense feelings of deprivation, uncontrollable cravings, and binges.
- Challenge the Food Police: Reject the idea that you are good or bad depending on what and how much you eat. This includes setting aside all the “helpful” nutrition knowledge to get back in touch with your individual body.
- Respect Your Fullness: Pay attention to the subtle signals that indicate you are no longer hungry. Stay connected to the body (taste, texture, temperature, pleasure) while eating and learn to stop when you are comfortably full.
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor: Create an environment that allows eating to be pleasurable and allow yourself to eat what you want. You might find that it takes much less food to feel you’ve had “enough.”
- Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food: Learn to identify what you are feeling in the moment, whether it is physical or emotional hunger, and find ways to meet emotional needs without food.
- Respect Your Body: Accept that your body size and shape are products of genetics and environment. Try to stop comparing your body with that of other people (including yourself 10 years ago).
- Exercise – Feel the Difference: Find ways of being active that are pleasurable to you. Focus on how it feels to move your body rather than how many calories you are burning. Connect with how movement makes your body feel, both in the short term and the longer term (HINT: losing weight isn’t a great long-term motivator as it turns out).
- Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition: Choose foods that you enjoy and that make you feel satisfied and energized. Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect in order for your body to be healthy. What you eat consistently over time matters more than one snack, one meal, or one day of eating.