Understanding Gentle Nutrition
If you're not familiar with the concept, honoring your health through "gentle nutrition" is the 10th and final principle of Intuitive Eating according to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. They outline the principle in their book with this quote below: "Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts."
Someone asked me recently, "should I just ignore what I know about nutrition to live and eat more intuitively?"
The short answer? No.
However, there is a lot of work to be done (or undone) first, before we can get to the gentle nutrition part. Since most of us find intuitive eating after years of dieting, food restriction, food obsession, anxiety, and pursing an unattainable perfection, we have to break free from those mindsets first.
Gentle nutrition will not work if we are still trying to control the size of our bodies. If we haven't gone through the first part of the process, it can become another diet or means of restriction. So what do we do first?
First, you NEED to give yourself the permission to eat any food at any time. Food needs to become just what it is. Food. Nothing more, nothing less. No moral value attached to either a kale salad or a cupcake. This can be a long process for some. That is 100% okay. It's more important to work through that (for as long as you need) and come out on the other side as a normal eater.
So, say you've been giving yourself permission to eat all foods for some time now. You have a nice relationship with food, and it doesn't give you anxiety to eat certain foods. You eat your meal, enjoy it, and move on with your life. Congratulations! You're likely ready for the last part of intuitive eating. Honoring your health.
It's important that we pay attention and learn from our food. We should take notice of how a certain food makes us feel. Do you eat something, get a quick burst of energy then crash and feel hungry less than 30 minutes later? How did that feel? How does it feel to eat something and feel satisfied, have a clear head and feel comfortably full for a while? Feel different? Better? Those are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself.
Does this then mean we should ONLY eat one or the other, 100% of the time? No, but make a conscious decision about which you're going to eat at what time. You have the power to choose.
The nutrition content of foods can explain how certain meals make us feel. Lots of components play a role. Fiber, protein, sugar, water content, fat, etc. So which foods will honor our health? A lot of research shows us that there are many health benefits from eating whole, real foods. So, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, high quality protein sources (whether from meat, or plant sources) and unsaturated oils. I think most of us know this information already. We just have to know it objectively, without seeing it through the lens of diet culture.
I think one thing that can be helpful at this stage is to try a lot of different recipes and flavor combinations, to see what you actually enjoy. Try new things, get some new cookbooks and experiment! There are some seriously talented chefs, cooks and bloggers out there coming up with unique recipes that incorporate nutritious foods that taste amazing! Have fun with it.
As fun as it can be at that stage, I know it can also be a confusing and uncomfortable process when you're actually going through the process. If you're struggling on your own, please reach out! I'd love to talk with you about how I can help you to continue in your journey.
So be kind to yourself and eat something fun today, friends! See you back here Thursday!