A New Year is approaching and I’ve been asked if intuitive eating is a natural detox detox diet. It’s an interesting question and I will try to answer it in this blog post.
It’s that time when most of us make some sort of resolution. Popular ones are to eat more healthily, lose weight, or exercise more.
This often involves going on a diet of some sort but it’s well known that both New Year’s resolutions and diets do not last long. There are many diets to choose from and some of the most popular ones are the Paleo diet, the Low Carb Diet, the Clean Eating Diet and a Detox Diet.
If you’ve been reading my blog or emails for any length of time you will know that I don’t advise doing any sort of restrictive detox in January if it’s winter where you live. In fact, I don’t advise a restrictive detox diet at all.
Modern detox is all about supplying the body with the foods that contain the nutrients needed by the detox system. When you avoid a food group like wheat and dairy you REPLACE it with another nutritious food.
Eating more healthily is an entirely different matter. It’s always best to start to eat a more nutritious diet before you follow any sort of detox plan. The nutrients will help to replenish deficiencies that develop over time if you’ve been eating a not so healthy diet and help prepare your body for a detox.
Intuitive eating can fit this bill.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating was developed by dietician Evelyn Tribole and nutrition therapist Elyse Resh. It teaches people to create a healthier relationship between their minds, bodies, and the food they eat.
Intuitive eating is often called “mindful eating” or the “anti-diet”. It’s an approach to eating where you really listen to your body and pay attention to the sometimes subtle signs that it sends. It involves knowing what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat to stay healthy.
The majority of people pay very little attention to the ingredients in the food they eat and how it impacts their immediate and long-term health.
The principles of intuitive eating include:
1. Rejecting the Diet Mentality
How many times have you dieted and how many diets have you tried? It’s estimated that by the time a woman is 45 years old, she’s dieted 61 times.
The diet mentality will tell you to cut your calories, to eliminate specific foods, and they’ll require you to count, measure, and track everything you put into your mouth.
Intuitive eating asks you to forget all about this approach and never “diet” again.
Instead, you’ll start paying attention to what foods make you feel healthy, strong, and energetic. You’ll start eating when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
2. Recognizing Hunger
There are many signs that your body gives you about the food that you put into it. For example, you might get a headache when you drink wine or you might get bloated when you have dairy.
These signs are valuable because they tell you what you’re eating isn’t agreeing with your unique body.
Hunger is another sign. How often do you actually wait until you experience hunger before you eat? How often do you find yourself ignoring your hunger signs until you’re so famished that you eat the closest and most convenient option, which is usually junk food?
Paying attention to your body and becoming aware of the early signs of hunger help you begin to recognize food as the solution rather than the enemy.
3. Learning To Recognize Fullness
How often do you find yourself leaving the table feeling like you’ve eaten too much?
We just talked about ignoring hunger signals. When you do this your blood sugar drops dramatically and your body needs fuel to function.
All of a sudden the fastest calories feel like the best calories. Fast calories often contain a lot of sugar. It might be a starchy carb like a bag of chips or a handful of cookies. You’re so hungry that you consume ten times what you really wanted or needed and then you’re overstuffed.
Mindless eating also causes problems. It’s easy to eat too much when you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing. Learning to recognize fullness helps you stop eating before you feel awful. Balancing signs of fullness with signs of hunger is half the challenge. Master these two skills and intuitive eating will become second nature.
4. Letting Go Of Emotional Eating
What do you eat when you’re stressed out? What about when you’re sad? Do you go straight for a bag of chips or a tub of ice cream? Sugary foods and/or salty foods are often the foods people choose at these times.
When you focus on your emotions and let them rule your choices, you’re not paying attention to what your body is telling you. Learn to be more aware of your emotions and how they impact your behavior.
You’ll be able to recognize your emotions for what they are. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel them. Emotions are signals that other things are going on in your life. However, they shouldn’t be part of your food making process.
Recommended reading: Are You An Emotional Eater?
6. Enjoying Your Food
Food should be fuel for your body but it’s also more than that. It’s part of your culture. It’s a part of how we celebrate, spend time with friends and family, and it’s often how we connect to one another.
Intuitive eating is about more than being aware of what your body wants and needs, it’s also about appreciating food and enjoying it.
We spend so much time feeling bad about what we eat that it ruins the relationship with food. It becomes the enemy rather than the life giving fuel that it is.
7. Ignoring The Food Police
Do you get confused about what you should eat or should not eat? First it’s don’t eat fat now fat is alright (albeit the healthy fats). It used to be count your calories now calorie counting is out. We hear that meat causes bowel ancer but the Paleo diet says meat is fine to eat (as long as it’s grass fed).
And the food police aren’t just external voices telling you what you can and cannot eat. You have your very own internal food police as well. This is the voice that tells you you’ve been good so you can have a cookie or you’ve been bad so you have to run an extra mile today.
This voice is negative and it’s often quite dumb. Food isn’t a reward and exercise isn’t a punishment. Start ignoring these negative voices inside your head.
Recommended reading: Eat Fat Lose Fat Detox Diet
How often do you hear someone say, “I’m gonna have to work off that meal.”? Or “I’m going to have to…. (fill in the blank)… to make up for eating that ….(fill in the blank)….”?
It happens all the time. People have a punishment/reward relationship with exercise and food. Both should be pleasurable and part of how you take care of yourself. If exercise is a punishment, a chore, and something that you do because you should, then it’s not the right exercise for you.
Your body was designed to move. It wasn’t meant to sit at a desk all day or on a couch or in a car. It is meant to move. Walk, jog, roller skate, dance, jump, swim, do whatever you want to do that feels good and makes you smile. If walking is your thing, then you’ll be glad to know that walking is one of the best exercises that you can do.
Benefits of Intuitive Eating
The benefits of intuitive eating are substantial and they’re backed by story after story of people who have found a new relationship with food and their body.
This relationship and approach leads to:
- Weight loss
- Weight control
- Improved health
- Better sleep
- More energy
- Less stress about food, more happiness
- No more diets!
Sounds pretty good, right? Let’s talk about how you can begin to eat intuitively and say goodbye to dieting forever.
Getting Started with Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating changes lives. It reframes how you think about food, how you feel, and how you live your life.
Getting started is an exciting time. It can be filled with a bit of anxiety because you’re challenging your beliefs and habits. So let’s start simply and begin at the beginning.
Step One: Checking In With Your Body
The first and fundamental component of eating intuitively is to eat when you’re hungry and to eat until you’re full. You want to learn to become aware of your body. What does it want and need and when does it need it?
Start asking questions. Consider checking in with your body on an hourly basis.
Ask yourself, am I hungry? Learn to recognize what hunger feels like. It can take some time to get used to this feeling. Most people wait until they’re famished or they just eat by the clock. Start learning your hunger signals. And honor them by eating when you feel them.
Ask yourself, “Am I beginning to feel full?” It takes your body a full 20 minutes to send this message. If you gobble down your food, you’re not going to get the signal until long after you’ve finished eating. This means that you may miss the signs. So part of learning to assess fullness is to slow down when you’re eating.
Start asking yourself why you’re craving a food or avoiding a food. Awareness is as much mental as it is physical. It’s important to learn your triggers. We talked about emotional eating earlier. Emotions and your mental state help you make decisions about your food.
When you find yourself craving a snack, ask yourself why you’re craving it. There’s power in knowing that you want a cookie because you’re stressed. You can then make an educated decision about that cookie. You might have it. You might not but at least you’re eating with awareness.
As you go through your day and you find yourself thinking about food or craving a particular food, ask yourself why you want it. You’ll be amazed at some of the answers you uncover.
Step Two: Stock Your Shelves
Take alook through your pantry, cupboards, and refrigerator. Consider removing the items that you want to cut back on. If you can’t bear to throw them away just yet put them somewhere out of sight. They’ll be less tempting to you and you’ll have to be intentional when you eat them.
Then, stock your home with healthy options. Remember the right food supplies the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that keep you healthy and prevent disease.
Start looking for delicious recipes and tasty foods. Remember that eating is supposed to be enjoyable. It can take time to enjoy healthy foods if you’ve been used to eating a lot of junk or highly processed foods.
Don’t give up at the first hurdle. I remember hating millet and buckwheat when I first tasted them but in time I could not understand what I disliked about them.
Step Three: Find Alternatives
There will be challenges to your intuitive eating process. There will be times when stress, fatigue, and pressure from the outside world will influence your eating choices. This is okay. It’s a learning process.
The goal is to begin to identify alternatives for these challenges. Remember that alternatives can be anything that works for you. If you eat unconsciously when you’re stressed, you might find that listening to a song or looking at a funny video does the trick.
It’s important to understand that intuitive eating is a process. It’s about relaxing a bit and learning to feed your body the way it needs to be fed. Instead of listening to the outside world and your negative and limiting thoughts about food and your body, you listen to your body and respect all that it does and will do for you.
Your body is amazing and it can show you how to eat right for you. Eating relies on a better mind-body connection. This helps most people to make good food choices more often than not. If you’ve already tried other diets and they haven’t worked then give intuitive eating a try. Most diets rarely address the emotional side of dieting.
So to answer the question is Intuitive Eating a natural detox diet, by understanding how food makes you feel you may decide that you are better off not eating wheat. You may find that dairy does not agree with you. You will certainly find that you feel better when you cut back or cut out foods that contain a lot of refined sugar.
Recommended reading: The Sugar Detox Diet Revisited
By understanding more about yourself and food and make better food choices you will be supplying your body with the nutrients that your body needs for optimum detox function. If you eventually decide that you still need to follow a specific detox diet plan to try to improve a condition that has not resolved with intuitive eating you will already be half way there. You will have no problem increasing some foods or replacing some foods with others that should be better for your body. It’s not about deprivation but about eating the right foods for your body.