Monday, September 27, 2010

No Title (aka Intuitive Eating), Part 3

"What about healthy eating," you ask? Can you actually listen to your body and eat healthily?
Parents may think that allowing their children to eat whenever and whatever they want is a recipe for obese children who follow a candy and snack food-based kids’ diet. Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A. in their book Intuitive Eating (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003) cite the landmark study by Leann Birch, Ph.D. who discovered that preschoolers have an “innate ability to regulate their eating according to what their bodies need for growth."

Although an examination of individual meals consumed by the study’s preschoolers seemed less than ideal, over time the children took in adequate nutrition. “Birch notes that ‘parents’ attempts to control their child’s eating were reported more often by obese adults than by adults of normal weight.’”

Read more at Suite101: Can Obese Children Give Up Compulsive Eating for a Healthy Diet?
Although the above quote concerns children, I think it applies to us too. Many people have developed such a fear of food, such a disconnect, that they can no longer allow themselves to eat any amount of anything outside a prescribed list of allowed foods. I know that that's the way it works for many of you and I'm not here to convince you otherwise. However, even a calorie counter like the wonderful and successful Sean Anderson, realized at the very beginning of his weight loss odyssey that limiting his food intake to "good" foods was not going to be long-term winning strategy for him. The interesting thing is how Sean's food preferences have changed over the past two years, becoming more and more balanced and--dare I say--"healthy". Though not a classic intuitive eater, Sean has clearly integrated some of the principles that I am outlining here into what is unquestionably a winning strategy for himself and others.

Geneen Roth's new book, "Women, Food and God", has been making the rounds recently in the intuitive eating universe. I have not read it, nor do I intend to. Personally, I have no interest in linking eating and weight management to spirituality. That's just me. I have, however, read Paul McKenna's book, "I Can Make You Thin", which is, oddly enough, a skinny little book that you can read in a few hours. It also comes with a visualization CD.

What I like about McKenna is that he doesn't get particularly "Psychology Today", touchy-feeling about his approach. Follow the simple rules, that's it. No, not every one has stellar results, but lots do. Here's a link to the site where readers give their impression of the book and its results.

One of the things that McKenna stresses that is very much in line with virtually every other weight loss approach is that "moving more" is a good thing. This has nothing to do with intuitive eating, but it's a great adjunct. Listening to the McKenna CD really changed my attitude towards exercise. Unfortunately, in my personal case, my desire to move is equally matched by my inability to do so. But you know that already (laughing through the tears)! I think I might be going the surgery route sooner rather than later...

Now, let's take a deep breath: In conclusion...

I seriously doubt many readers will get on the IE bandwagon and guess what?: that was not my intention with these posts. I simply wanted to counterbalance the misinformation that I have been reading recently. That's all.

Now, I'm off the drink a couple of glasses of water--a habit that I initially adopted thanks to Paul McKenna.


  1. I like Paul McKenna, too!
    I like NLP - and hypnosis...
    Wake-y, wake-y!

  2. I think a lot of people don't trust themselves due to their history of disordered eating and that's why they stick to rigid lists. I, of course, do not. I eat everything, but in small portions and while counting calories. I think the absolutism you see is driven by (understandable) fear of ones own impulses. People either lack insight into the fact that they have a sick relationship with food that can be healed or refuse to believe that they are capable of rehabilitating it. That's okay if it is what they want, but clearly rigid approaches don't work for everyone, and work for very few in the long run.

    Personally, I had a donut and latte today (a rare treat, but there was an unusual opportunity to sample something from an organic, econfriendly bakery with unique offerings). I ate fewer calories today than normal (about 1400). Allowing yourself some flexibility doesn't mean that you will always lose control, but people can't accept that because they believe they can't change. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  3. SFG: I really couldn't have said it better...and it took me three posts!

  4. Yeah. What SFG said. :)

    Seriously, though, I find it interesting that people recovering from anorexia are often prescribed a food plan (at least in the early stages of recovery, say, the first few years) because their intuition seems to tell them to eat much less than they should. Of course, it is their disordered mind. I look at my own overeating compulsion in a similar way. A few years ago I lost about 100 lbs with intuitive eating (and therapy). Several stressful life events intervened and I regained at least 60 lbs over the next 4 years. I really could have benefitted from some clear caloric boundaries! Now I'm restricting calories and carbs, and doing gentle exercises, and losing quite nicely, while only being deprived of a few things, namely: sore feet, sore back, indigestion, high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety and depression. :)


  5. Ummmm. It dawned on me that my comment could be interpreted as flip or even contrarian. I actually believe that most successful maintainers (after losing large amounts of weight) adopt a combination of IE and boundaries. Even if the boundaries consists mostly of a weekly weigh in. It was only after listening carefully to my body, for instance, that I decided to limit carbs, mostly grains. I feel much better and my weight loss is much more rewarding.

    Thanks again for inspiring an interesting discussion!

  6. I'm starting to think that intuitive eating, like all useful truths, is something you need to dig out of the ground yourself. You can't just have it plop on your head from above and start doing it. The way Sean did it was to budget himself and naturally arrive at the idea of eating better on his own. He didn't start with intuitive eating, but that's where he ended up. It's the endpoint, not the beginning; you can't START there.

    There's no such thing as a Received Truth, really. You either get the dirt under your nails from digging it out of the ground yourself, or it doesn't count.

  7. I really didn't want to read Women Food and God at first, either, for the same reason. I thought it might be extremely religious and maybe try to bend me to somebody else's idea of what god is. Not interested. No can do. But after my kid's godmother read it and recommended it knowing my religious views better than anybody, I gave in. Afterall, she's partially responsible for my kid's religious upbringing so I need to know what she knows or something like that.

    Anyway, it is about individual spirituality, and how what each person believes about themselves and about the world is reflected in our relationships with food. A different way of looking at the whole intuitive eating thing . . . worth skimming through from the library at least. Just one piece of the puzzle for me, but an important one for sure :)

  8. Interesting series of posts.

    I'm quite interested in normal/mindful/intuitive eating because it's the vision I have for myself for maintenance - being at peace with food, settling at a healthy weight.

    I'm not convinced I can actually LOSE weight with IE - but I also think these kinds of changes are wickedly hard and require a lot of practice. I started working on one aspect this summer (leave something uneaten) - its still part of my weekly goals, still a challenge - but getting a bit easier with practice & attention.

    A few years back I went to a diet doctor (MD) thinking I would go ahead and start some kind of shake meal-replacement thing, and instead I happened upon the doctor I dubbed "Dr Hope" on my blog (whole series about it : )

    She really made me think about HOW I was eating. Ever since I'd say more of my effort goes into the HOW aspect than into the WHAT aspect. I know WHAT to eat to lose weight. I don't know HOW to eat to maintain it, nor HOW to eat in a normal way. It's a lot of learning to think-while-you-eat instead of just hoovering it down - but quite rewarding & I think a good long-term strategy.

    Will be interesting to see where this takes us both...

  9. I don't believe in getting rid of whole food groups. I do limit them though...especially white flour and sugar. it helps to cure cravings.

  10. Thank you for the tip about Paul McKenna's book. It sounds well worth reading. I like the idea of visualization. It's a powerful tool. Enjoyed your series.

  11. Thanks for all the excellent comments!


  12. I have been out of the bloggersphere for some weeks - and came back today to read your three posts about IE. I have long been a fan of Paul McKenna even tho I find it hard to stick to his 4 rules. but thanks to Paul' Change your life in 7 days' I got my life back together 4 years ago. I know the problem isn't in his programme - its in me that I am not following the programme.

    Thank you for these 3 postings that have reminded me not only why I am trying to follow Paul's programme - but for reminding me why I shoudl keep in touch with bloggers - because they have interesting and helpful things to say

  13. Thanks a lot - I just bought McKenna's book, caused my son a mild panic when I put the CD in the car stereo to preview it...
    "Mom, QUIT THAT! Do it when you get home!"
    I was only kidding when I asked him to watch out for the turns!
    Seriously, I've admired Geneen Roth's writing ever since her 1st book came out ('87? <- nope, '82, I had to look it up), but her approach to intuitive eating hasn't done a damn thing for me personally.