Is There a Difference Between Intuitive Eating and Eating for Health?

photo-1532597540419-b176991847e8So here’s the thing. Lately, I’ve been feeling like crap. I could blame it on turning 50, but in the big picture, 50 isn’t the problem. I’ve been feeling fatigued, achey, foggy, and every joint in my body is sore. Of course, I did what we should never do and googled it only to find out I could have a myriad of auto-immune diseases – reading the details of each one as my pain and fatalistic beliefs took over. So instead of keeping myself awake at night visualizing a painful aging process, I hauled my ass to the doc’s for a chat.

Did I mentioned I love my doctor. She’s young, she’s energetic, she’s active, and she is all about lifestyle first; medications later. So she asked about my diet, my activity level, and my drinking (in a kind and non-judgemental manner). Now, as a health promotion educator I read everything I could get my hands on about diet and health. I have a keen understanding about what foods cause and prevent inflammation and how diet can have a negative effect on pain, brain fog, and fatigue.

Since establishing this blog and working as a counsellor in disordered eating and negative body image, I have experienced some pretty severe cognitive dissonance (you know the kind…when you KNOW you should stop watching Grey’s Anatomy after the 5th episode, but you know there are so many more just waiting for you to enjoy).  I was torn between eating for health and eating based on the “health at every size” / “intuitive eating” approach.  I know we should avoid food restriction and outlawing certain foods because they are “bad”, but I also know that a diet high in sugar can have negative effects on our health. I know that refined carbohydrates like breads, pastas, and rice have inflammatory effects while a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, and whole proteins can do wonders for energy levels, cognitive health, and reduce joint pain. So what is an eater to do?

Taking a step back and thinking critically, I understand that the intuitive eating approach is about allowing our bodies to decide what we need nutritionally in the moment.  I also understand that our bodies will reach a state of internal homeostasis (balance) in foods that do us good and foods that are fun.  But what if eating a bag a chips or drinking that wine makes us feel achey, groggy, and ill? I guess it would be the same as someone who can’t process dairy….you just avoid dairy. It’s important to understand how our bodies react and feel after eating certain foods and to pay attention to that for future food choices. For me, I will check out this anti-inflammatory way of eating to see if it does make a positive difference.

At the same time, we have to be aware of how restriction of foods (i.e. the highly processed stuff) can lead us back into a disordered relationship with food.  It’s okay to enjoy wine on a Friday night or share a pizza with friends. I will continue to celebrate nachos and freshly baked buns, but will do so while I’m in tune with how I feel in my body.

What about you? Where is the line drawn between function and disfunction?



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