Intuitive eating principle 10, honour your health, gentle nutrition, is about introducing nutrition in a non-scary way.
We don’t talk about nutrition an awful lot when we do intuitive eating because the focus is about the relationship with food and how it feels in your body, but at some point to think about nutrition and the variety of foods that you are eating is a good idea.
Gentle nutrition is the very last of the principles of intuitive eating because it’s so important to get a really good understanding of principles 1-9 first. It’s important that you’ve made peace with food and your body, and then you can think about the food itself in a more neutral way.
It’s hard to find a balance nutritionally when you’re dieting. There is either no focus at all on the nutrition, or an overwhelming focus on it. Let’s look at nutrition through the eyes of an intuitive eater instead.
It is not about bringing restriction back and removing things to start introducing nutrition. It is more about adding things in and maximising the value of the food that you’re eating rather than taking things away.
You can’t enjoy food if you’re worried about what’s in it. If you’re constantly thinking about the calories or the nutrient content of food, you can’t enjoy it.
The enjoyment plays a big part in how well we eat. So if you’re bogged down with all the nitty gritty of food, then you’re not going to have that enjoyment, and you actually run the risk of entering eating disorder territory by placing too much value on the nutritional content of the food.
We’re looking for balance. A nice mix of consideration for what we’re eating, but not to the degree that it starts to dictate what you do and do not eat.
Remember also that we eat meals, we eat combinations of foods. We don’t eat single nutrients. We don’t just eat a plate of carbs or a plate of fat or a plate of protein. There’s always more than one nutrient at play at any given time.
You have to consider everything as a whole and then when you look at everything as a whole, you can see what kind of balance you want rather than blaming one nutritional value, or one nutrient, for changes in weight or the way your body functions.
A food doesn’t instantly create health issues, in the same way that you don’t suddenly have nutrient deficiency if you have a day where you have no vegetables.
We’re not all of a sudden going to create health problems if you have a day of what you feel is unhealthy eating.
It’s balance over time that matters.
To consider gentle nutrition from an intuitive perspective, the focus will still be on how the food feels in your body.
Protein is known to be very satisfying. It keeps your hunger at bay for a little bit longer than some of the other foods. But if that food doesn’t feel good to you to eat, then it’s no good eating too much of it.
Carbs. If eating a plate for the carbs makes you feel good and gives you energy and revitalises you, that’s awesome. But for me, I know that I can’t have a plate of jacket potato at lunchtime because I know that it makes me want to go to sleep in the afternoon. It just doesn’t suit me.
Sugar (I know it’s a carb!) may make you feel energised, or may make you feel jittery, anxious, or a bit headachey.
So you have to get a feel for what nutrients are good for you in your body, and in what quantities.
Intuitive eating studies have proven that intuitive eaters have a better overall range of nutrients. This is because when you stop restricting certain foods, you allow space for all nutrients, for all food groups, and your body gets into tune and you start to understand what it needs at any time. And because you’re eating in response to your body, you are getting a wider range of foods in and a wider range of nutrients in.
So actually, even if you don’t consider the nutrients you are eating, by intuitively eating you can be reassured that you’re still going to have a nice balance of food once your initial honeymoon period of eating settles down.
To consider gentle nutrition is important because there’s so much that it can do for you, even just basic functionality, energy regulation, digestion, you know, there’s so much that good nutrition can do for you, but you need to play around with it and feel it for yourself.
To summarise, gentle nutrition is being able to feel more comfortable in not worrying about your nutrition, and that to think about nutrition doesn’t have to look like you starting to bring restriction in again.
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