As Maya Angelou once said: “Eating is so intimate. It's very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you're inviting a person into your life.”
Our lives are so punctuated with reasons for sustenance – be they celebratory, comforting or commiseration-based – that the concept of food, as a whole, is more a cultural cornerstone than a means of survival.
So, is it any wonder, that our relationship to what is, in its simplest form, fuel, now plays such a central role in defining who we are?
As a child of the nineties, I grew up in a time when It-girl anorexia made headlines and Barbie had a workout video, signalling to me that slim figures were currency and food was to be as feared as it was curated.
Combatting the deep-rooted diet culture that's become commonplace at dinner tables globally is intuitive eating; a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals.
Essentially, it’s the opposite of a traditional diet. It doesn’t impose guidelines about what to avoid and what or when to eat. Instead, it teaches that you are the best person — the only person — to make those choices.
The process aims to promote a healthy attitude toward food and body image, by simply encouraging the idea that you should eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
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An uncomplicated method, sure, but also something intrinsic to health that most children aren't taught.
To eat intuitively, you may need to relearn how to trust your body. In order to do that, you need to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger:
- Physical hunger. This biological urge tells you to replenish nutrients. It builds gradually and has different signals, such as a growling stomach, fatigue, or irritability. It becomes satisfied when you eat any food.
- Emotional hunger. This is driven by emotional need. Sadness, loneliness, and boredom are some of the feelings that can create cravings for food, often comfort foods. Eating at these times often causes guilt, anxiety and self-loathing.
Intuitive eating has 10 principles, but the most well-known one is that no foods are off limits and that there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” food, encouraging less self-judgement and more self-compassion.
In that way, intuitive eating is just about as grassroots as a food ideology can get. Not to mention, refreshing.
Research has also found that methods such as this one can improve body image in young women, something not to be snubbed considering the growing rate of eating disorders and anxiety in young women.
Main image by @pixiegeldof